At one time or another, many people who have had some level of success run up against the imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
Basically, it is a feeling of inadequacy or a sense that you are a fraud. These feelings can persist even when there is clear evidence that contradicts them.
People suffering from imposter syndrome don’t internally recognize their achievements despite the fact that many of these people have truly remarkable accomplishments in their repertoire.
Imposter syndrome makes people feel like they are fakes and that they don’t deserve success or some of the rewards that come with that success. They feel that they have somehow deceived others and will one day be “found out.” Instead of recognizing their own strengths and hard work, they tend to attribute their success more to luck or other external reasons.
Yes, this is related to internal locus and external locus of control. If your internal locus of control is too weak or distorted, you begin to believe that you are responsible for the mistakes or failures in your life but not responsible for the amazing accomplishments that you have achieved. The corollary of this is that you feel undeserving – a fraud.
As with study skills, part of the solution or at least mitigation, to the imposter syndrome is to “rethink.” In other words, you need to examine the facts and evidence and then rewrite your mental program.
We tend to think and rethink and think and rethink building pathways that become ingrained almost like ruts in our brain. These can be very helpful for quick access but they can have the opposite effect of reinforcing false beliefs and keeping us trapped by feelings of doubt which can lead to despondency, panic, and depression.
You need to break these false pathways and direct your brain to create new ones that are based on solid evidence. While you might not be responsible and deserving of every good thing that happens to you, there are reasons to believe that you do, in fact, have some control. You are not doing well solely from luck!
Rephrase your internal messaging
“Not everyone got an A in this class, so it was not that easy or only luck.”
“I studied and self-tested so that brought some benefits.”
“I’m getting this promotion at work because I attend all meetings, provide feedback, and treat my coworkers with respect. I deserve it based on performance.”
These messages are more positive and based on facts. I’m not suggesting that you overinflate your own importance or become pompous, but give yourself credit where credit is due.
You don’t have to do all this on your own. Talk about your feelings with others that you can trust. Verbalizing your feelings and thoughts can help you assess them more objectively. Also, others might be able to provide an outside perspective that helps you recognize that there is value in your efforts and skill set.
At times, feelings of being an imposter can be initiated or aggravated when you have made a mistake or suffered a failure. In these cases, take a step back and evaluate the situation in context. Again, involve others whenever possible. Analyze what happened including all the factors – not just you and your performance. Most of the time, you will find that there were multiple causes for any given failure.
If it still looks like the failure was essentially your fault, see this as a learning opportunity to do better in the future. A mistake or failure might also be used to help others avoid the same mistakes.
Being proactive will go a long way in building feelings of self-worth and avoiding the imposter syndrome.