The Impostor syndrome

The Impostor syndrome


The Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved. They attribute their success to other elements than their internal value such as luck or the help of others for example. They often think people view them as more intelligent, more valuable than they actually are and are in constant fear of being judged and assessed.

It is important to understand that those experiencing the impostor syndrome are usually perfectionists. They are very demanding with themselves and have a hard time doing things without being anything other than an expert on the subject. They are usually high performers with very high, almost unattainable standards which explains why they often feel insecure because they tend to compare themselves and their work and accomplishments with some kind of theoretical unreal ideal. They are usually paralyzed at the simple thought of failing or just making a mistake. A simple mistake usually brings on the thought that they are worthless and they feel guilty and good for nothing.

If you suffer from this syndrome, you have probably formed the previously explained belief, that you do not deserve your successes. And if you have this belief, you will constantly look for “reinforcements” of this belief in your environment. Indeed, you will notice and remember the things that confirm this belief and forget or ignore the things that contradict it.

Therefore, a way to fight the Impostor syndrome resides in trying to put the spotlight on all those experiences, things in your environment that tend to infirm your belief that you do not deserve your success. This will result, small step by small step, in changing your belief from “I don”t deserve my accomplishments” to “I deserve my accomplishments”, your brain will then naturally look for reinforcements of that new belief and the virtuous cycle will be on 😊

I hear you thinking, “ok but how do I achieve that? How do I change a belief so deeply rooted?”

1/ Know the syndrome: The first step is to understand how the Impostor syndrome works. The simple knowledge that the reinforcement of a belief is a cognitive bias and that it is a normal tendency of the brain helps distancing yourself from your belief.

2/ Cling to facts: Start by writing down everything that you have accomplished during your life or over the last years. Then, on a daily basis, write down all your accomplishments of the day, everything that you have done well, that you are proud of or that you have received positive feedback for. This will help you detach from your impostor belief that is linked to emotions and help you focus on facts.

3/ Fake it until you make it: the impostor syndrome is particularly strong when you start a new job, new task or any kind of new challenge. When you start doubting yourself and having ideas like “I can’t make it”, “I’m not competent”, “I have never done this”, focus on actions, start doing, working. You will quickly realize that you are actually able. Once you get results, positive feedback etc. you will acquire positive experience and gain confidence.

4/ Change your unconscious rules: The impostor syndrome is supported by unconscious rules such as:

“I must be strong”

“I should always know the answer”

“I shouldn’t need to ask for help”

“It must be perfect”

To tone down these rules, you need to change them and find new ones. Allow yourself to not know, to ask for help and accept that things are not perfect.