Have you ever experienced a feeling of not belonging somewhere? Like your colleagues or friends will realize you are a fraud and don’t deserve your accomplishments? This feeling is known as impostor syndrome. It is also referred to as the impostor phenomenon.
In this article, we will explain what impostor syndrome is and why so many millennials experience it.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the mentality that you have only succeeded due to luck and not because of your qualifications or hard work. This syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. In their discovery, they noted that women were majorly and uniquely affected by impostor syndrome.
Over time, research has shown that both genders experience impostor feelings. In fact, Pauline Rose published another paper acknowledging that the syndrome is not limited to the female gender. Today, this syndrome can apply to anyone that cannot internalize and appreciate their success.
Valerie Young, an impostor syndrome expert that authored The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, discovered the following patterns in people with impostor feelings.
Perfectionists set very high expectations for themselves and will still feel like failures even when they meet 99% of their goals. A slight mistake can make them question their credibility and competence.
Experts are those that feel they must know everything before starting a project. They continuously look for new details and will undergo training to improve their skills. These people won’t apply for a job if they feel that they don’t meet all the job requirements. Similarly, they might be hesitant to speak up in a meeting or ask a question in class because they are afraid of looking stupid.
The other pattern observed by Valarie is the natural genius. In most cases, a natural genius has to work hard to accomplish something; they will automatically think they are not good enough. These people are used to efficiently doing things, and whenever they struggle in anything, their brain tells them they are impostors.
Ways Millennials Can Overcome Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome can be a difficult feeling to overcome. However, here are some of the ways you can overcome the syndrome.
- Break the silence: The feeling of shame can stop a lot of people from speaking up. Knowing that you are not alone and that you can get help can be tremendously freeing.
- Separate feelings from facts: The idea of feeling stupid is common and happens to everyone from time to time. Don’t let that feeling make you think that you are stupid.
- Identify when to feel fraudulent: When you have a sense of belonging, you feel confident. When you find yourself in a room when you are older or younger than most, you will naturally feel that you don’t fit in. Besides, if you are the first person to achieve something, e.g., the first woman of color to become president, you might feel added pressure to succeed. Instead of beating yourself to the feeling that you might not be successful, recognize that it a normal response to be criticized in your new position.
- Think about the positive: The good thing about being a perfectionist is that you deeply care about your work quality. The motive is striving for success when it matters, but don’t be hard on yourself when inevitable mistakes occur.
- Develop a healthy response to failure: When you fail, you have another opportunity to start again. Instead of regretting after failing, do what sports players do when their team is losing. Pick yourself up and start over again.
- Rewrite the rules: If you have set misguided rules like never asking for help or you must always know the answer, then you should rewrite them. Keep in mind that you are not perfect, and it is okay to be wrong sometimes. Never hesitate to ask for help whenever necessary.
- Develop a new script: Be very cautious of what’s happening in your mind whenever you are in a situation that triggers the impostor feelings. This is like your internal script. For example, instead of thinking, “they are going to find out I’m stupid,” think of “I might not know the answer to this but I’m smart enough to research about it and get the correct answer.” Similarly, instead of looking around a room and thinking, ” Oh no, everyone here is older and brilliant,” go with “Wow, everyone here is experienced, I’m really going to learn a lot from them!”
- Visualize success: Apply the mentality of professional athletes. Spend time picturing yourself calmly asking a question in class or making a successful presentation. This is better than picturing impending disaster and will help defeat your fears.
- Always reward yourself: You need to break the cycle of continually seeking and dismissing validation from others. Instead, learn to pat yourself on the back for anything you do exceptionally.
- Fake your way to success: Don’t wait until to feel confident to start putting yourself in the limelight. Courage comes from being a risk-taker. Start by changing your behavior, then allow the confidence to grow always.
How to Avoid the Negativity of Impostor Syndrome
Discussed below are some of the ways you can avoid the negativity of Impostor syndrome.
- Create a list: You should make a list of things that show you are qualified for your serving position. If you are having trouble with this, ask yourself what evidence exists that you are less qualified for the job. What makes you think that you are less qualified for the job? If there is none, build your confidence and believe that you are good at what you do.
- Be positive about yourself: Research shows that a simple act of being positive about yourself can significantly change how you perceive yourself. Don’t look down on yourself and do things that boost your self-esteem.
- Own your accomplishments: Instead of thinking that you accomplished your success out of luck, believe that you worked hard for everything and deserve what you have accomplished. Own your success by forbidding yourself from falling back. Say these words out loud: “I am proud of my success.”
- Visualize success: You need to visualize how you will handle a situation before it occurs. This tactic is taught to military recruits, teaching them visualizing how to handle a situation before it encountering it.
Impostor syndrome can be a significant setback to your life. Failure to handle it successfully can affect your life significantly. Use the methods discussed here to avoid its impacts and influence on your life.