My graduation from graduate school had finally arrived. After two years of hard work, sleepless nights and obsessing over assignments, I was going to cross the stage and join many others as we felt a strong sense of relief and accomplishment, knowing that we have crossed the finish line.
As with most graduations, there were many speeches being made by a variety of guest speakers. One of the guest speakers told us to raise our hand if at any point of our graduate program, we felt like we did not belong there or had doubted ourselves along the way.
I noticed that nearly every hand was raised. We all looked around the stadium and laughed, but it was a very defining moment.
I started to ponder the effects of imposter syndrome and why it is so common even in those who have accomplished their goals?
Imposter syndrome, also known as imposter phenomenon, involves an individual facing unfounded feelings of self-doubt and incompetence. It can be experienced by an individual regardless of race, gender, age, class, or accomplishments.
Dr. Valerie Young, who co-founded Imposter Syndrome Institute, coined five ‘types’ of imposter syndrome. They include the perfectionist, the superwoman/man, the soloist, the natural genius, and the expert.
· The perfectionist is someone who constantly believes that they could have done better at something, especially if they perceive themselves as being anything less than perfect.
· The superwoman/man is someone who believes that they are a fraud if they cannot be the hardest worker or reach the highest levels of achievement possible. They may often try to juggle many roles at one time.
· The soloist involves a person being reluctant to feel like they have accomplished something if they had to ask for help to achieve it.
· The natural genius is characterized by someone who measures their success by how quickly and easily they can get a task done.For them, having to learn a new skill may come across as a failure.
· The expert is characterized by a person who has the expectation that they should know everything and when they are faced with a lack of knowledge on a concept, they feel like a fraud.
One assumption that many people make about imposter syndrome is believing that it will dissipate if more accomplishments or goals are achieved. Sadly, this is not always the case.
Imposter syndrome can leave you feeling empty and constantly craving the next project, work goal or accomplishment. It can also lead to a drop in performance at work and increased depression and anxiety.
How many people struggle with imposter syndrome?
An estimated 25 - 30 percent of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome, where 70 percent of adults may experience it at least once in their lives. It is helpful to keep in mind that although the experience is normal, you can work towards overcoming it.
Below are a few tips that may help.
Acknowledge that you are struggling with imposter syndrome
Once you’ve done this, familiarize yourself with the signs. The first step is to accept that this is something you are facing but can also conquer.
Develop a healthy response to failure
This will allow you to come to terms with the fact that you will fail at some point, but the reaction you have to that failure will determine your outlook going forward. Having the ability to separate your feelings from facts can make a difference.
Celebrate your successes
Know that there are no accomplishments that are too small. Acknowledge that it takes effort and motivation to achieve the goals you have set out for yourself.
Although you may feel like you are an imposter, are you really? It is you after all and no one can be better at being you, than you.