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Career Launchpad

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is defined as a structure, usually psychological, where one doubts their success and has a constant fear of being revealed as a “fraud”. Those experiencing this tend to think that their success is a result of luck and not hard work; and that they tricked people into perceiving them as smarter than they actually are. This syndrome is not limited to any gender.

What Does Imposter Syndrome Feel Like?

Do you find yourself asking questions like “what gives me the right to be here?”

Do you feel like you don’t belong even when all signs say otherwise? Do you feel like a fraud, even in your area of expertise and worry about getting found out? 

What Are the Types of Impostor Syndrome?

  • The Expert

How does it manifest?: Do you ever feel like you did not deserve the job you were doing and you were about to get exposed for being incompetent? Have you ever seen a great job description but were too afraid to apply because you didn’t check all the boxes in the description? This might be where you fall.

Solution: It is human not to know everything. Do not let this cripple you and prevent you from using the skills you actually have to do great. Make an effort to fill the skill gaps you have on the job while strengthening the areas you are already very good at. Allow yourself to learn and make mistakes.

  • The Super(wo)man

How does it manifest?: do you find yourself pushing past your limits and sacrificing other important aspects of your life for your work? The super(wo)man goes above and beyond to mask the fact that they feel like a fraud among their teammates. If you are obsessing about work and failure even outside the workplace, you might be experiencing this type of impostor syndrome.

Solution: Find ways to constantly validate yourself. This means that whenever you lack validation from others, you won’t beat yourself up over being a “failure”. Find a hobby outside the workplace to engage your thoughts and work on achieving self-awareness.

  • The Perfectionist

How does it manifest?: The setting of extreme goals for oneself, sometimes even unattainable goals and then struggling with feelings of failure once the goals are not met. Do you do this? Do you have trouble delegating because others cannot “do it perfectly” and end up with a pile of undone work? You belong to this group. 

Solution: Actively recognize how far you have come – you may have failed in the past but failure is inevitable. Learn how to let go, delegate and get more work done. You might learn a thing or two! Every time you do not succeed, take the lesson from the experience. Introspect and make self-awareness a mission in order to understand how to set more realistic goals for yourself.

  • The Natural Genius

How does it manifest?: Are you hesitant in accepting help from others? Would you rather not try something new, than try it and fail? When a natural genius has to apply a lot of time and effort into a task, they naturally assume they are not good at it and give up. 

You may be experiencing impostor syndrome in this case.

Solution: Accept that you cannot be good at everything. You are human. Do not run from challenges, take them as growth opportunities and face them head-on after all, what is the worst that can happen? Allow yourself to be a beginner and celebrate the good outcomes of something new.

  • The Rugged Individualist

How does it manifest?: Are you afraid to ask for help because you think it makes you look weak? People in this group view seeking help as a sign of weakness and think that not knowing makes them frauds.

Solution: You have had to learn everything you know up until now, asking for help is not a reflection on your skills. Asking for help saves time and admitting that you need help is a vital survival skill. You are not weak for needing a little hand-holding every now and then.

How Can You Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome is not very difficult if you put in the work. Introspection and self awareness are the first steps towards winning the fight against Impostor Syndrome. Other steps include:

Acknowledge the feelings as they appear – it is easier to solve a problem if you are aware it exists. Record the pattern of these thoughts, find out what triggers them and then proceed to work on rewiring your thoughts.

Rewire your thought process – take a more positive approach towards your trigger thoughts. Instead of branding yourself a failure because of one mistake, consider reminding yourself that failure is normal and the best way to learn.

Vent to your peers or a therapist – discussing these feelings helps you understand that you are not alone and learn from each other healthy coping mechanisms for the same.

Rationalize your thoughts  – during a time of overthinking, take a step back and write down your thoughts. Consider the logic in all the statements and reframe them into more practical thoughts – “I failed once, but I am not a failure.”

Change your approach towards failure – instead of thinking of failure as a bad thing, how about you take it as a learning opportunity? This will help in releasing the burden of beating oneself up during low moments.

Be kinder to yourself – you are human. You are not perfect. You are bound to make mistakes along the way and you will be required to forgive yourself and take the lessons from the experience with kindness. When you do things right, reward yourself and recognize the effort you put into it.

Remember that you are not alone – you are not going through this alone. Do not beat yourself up over it. Reach out to a qualified professional if these feelings of failure get too overwhelming.

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