Impostor syndrome in psychology: what is it and how to get rid of it

Most likely, everyone at least once in his life came to the conclusion that he is not competent enough in what he does. Often there is a feeling that achievements and praise are undeserved. Naturally, sometimes there are very real reasons for such conclusions. But if there are no objective reasons, and the above value judgments turn into a chronic neurotic reaction, there is every reason to talk about the “impostor syndrome”.

About the syndrome

For the first time, two psychotherapists started talking about this phenomenon , who published a scientific work in 1978 called “The Impostor Phenomenon among Successful Women.” The basis was the thesis that the majority of women who objectively achieved a lot did not perceive their achievements, moreover, they were inclined to claim that they were some kind of scammers.

And after this work saw the world, other scientists paid attention to this phenomenon. At that time, several key theses appeared, which were formed by various scientists.

So, Cynthia Katz suggested that the “impostor syndrome” is a certain emotional reaction of our subconscious, which arises in connection with the need to realize something important and meaningful.

Other scientists saw cognitive distortions in the phenomenon. There was also a hypothesis that the “impostor syndrome” can develop only in people who are already prone to various kinds of neurotic disorders.

When does the syndrome appear?

There are many situations when a person may feel like a fraud (in one way or another). However, there are a few typical ones:

– A person is promoted. As a result, he finds himself in a position without having the necessary qualifications. Realizing this, a person is terribly afraid of the fact that others will notice it over time. At the same time, a promotion is perceived as luck or an accident, but not as a real merit.
– Again – appointment to a new, higher position. But at the same time, assessing the qualifications and other characteristics, such personnel changes are well deserved. But a person suffers because of leaving the comfort zone in which he was before. Therefore, over time, when enough time has passed for adaptation, negative feelings can pass. – Educated erudite people who have reached certain levels of awareness may also consider themselves scammers. But at the same time, they soberly assess the situation and can cope with emotions. This syndrome is also characteristic of those who have high intelligence – moreover, most often the syndrome manifests itself in the acute feeling that everything achieved was much easier than the people around. – A person suffering from cognitive distortions loses the ability to correctly assess their achievements. Against this background, certain neurotic reactions develop.

But only the last case, described above, is, according to scientists, a manifestation of the “impostor syndrome”. After all, only in this case we are talking about pathology.

To simplify as much as possible, the impostor syndrome manifests itself when a person, having real competence, knowledge and experience, in every possible way denies this and calls into question his own role in what has been achieved.

Many, not fully understanding the concept, argue that there is nothing critical in this. Indeed, in most cases, such a critical assessment can even become an additional incentive to develop and improve skills and abilities. We will not argue: indeed, there is a grain of truth in this. But the criticality of the situation lies in the fact that a person, regardless of the work done, still cannot achieve a state of satisfaction. As a result, this results in emotional instability, depression, and also interferes with professional activities, prevents a person from developing in various fields, and personal life also suffers significantly.

Signs of impostor syndrome

So the danger of the syndrome is quite real. This is important to understand. But in order to recognize in a timely manner, you must first familiarize yourself with the signs. First, let’s look at the main signs that manifest a chain reaction.

The main sign is that a person in every possible way devalues any achievements and reduces his own strength to zero. To simplify, then as a justification for such a dismissive attitude lies the opinion that all achievements are accidental, but not the result of efforts.

From this follows the next sign – the constant feeling that a person is not in his place, takes a position that he does not deserve.

As a result, all this translates into the fear that he will be exposed by others. There is an obsessive thought that soon others will see incompetence.

The signs that are more or less manifested in this syndrome are hypersensitivity to any critical statements, as well as the desire to do everything perfectly, which sometimes interferes with the process and flows into procrastination. Also, a person puts forward too high, and sometimes completely impossible, requirements for himself. There is anxiety at the thought that the implemented project can lead to success.

Often people suffer from feelings of guilt, for which there is no real reason. Due to the above reasons, a lack of desire to do something, unwillingness to take the initiative, fear of new tasks can also manifest itself.

Plunging into the world of constant fears and artificial restrictions, a person deprives himself of the opportunity to develop, he is ready to refuse really profitable offers, because he considers himself unworthy of it. And even in the case when the case is crowned with success, a person too exaggerates the role of external factors, reducing to zero his participation in this process.

In the early stages, when the syndrome is just emerging, the symptoms appear quite weakly. Therefore, a person practically does not feel discomfort in everyday life. But over time, the symptoms manifest themselves more strongly, creating barriers even when performing ordinary tasks. In addition, it can cause an acute state of depression. If you do not work out the problem, a person will partially or completely lose his ability to work, and there will also be problems with socialization.

You should not think that mental disorders lead to the development of the syndrome, we are talking about cognitive distortions. But the basis of such a phenomenon is exclusively psychological.

How to get rid of the syndrome

If you understand that the syndrome has a strong enough effect on your life and interferes with your full functioning, plunges you into a state of psychological discomfort and stress, you need to contact a qualified psychologist. In some cases, the participation of a psychotherapist and drug therapy is necessary (but this is only in severe cases that have been neglected for a long time).

If you have learned to live with this syndrome and do not feel the negative impact, this does not prevent you from working and interacting with others, we only recommend correcting some principles. Still, you need several consultations with a specialist to direct the energy in the right direction.

The following tips will help you get rid of the syndrome:

– Every time you encounter manifestations of the syndrome, analyze the sensations and emotions. You will see that they have no objective reasons. It is the awareness of irrationality that is one of the important steps towards the beginning of a new life.
Don’t take every mistake as a catastrophe and failure. Criticism, if justified, is also not something negative. Learn to draw conclusions and improve performance. – Select for yourself a circle of people whose opinion you trust. If you have any questions about how truthfully you perceive yourself and your work, contact them for help. – Critically, but objectively, assess what knowledge you lack or, perhaps, you need to improve this or that skill. Pay more attention to learning new disciplines.
– If it is so important for you to feel like a professional, regularly pay attention to self-development. So you will stay in good shape and direct destructive attitudes in a positive direction. Under no circumstances should you compare yourself to other people. Don’t compete with others, compete with yourself. – Periodically still prove to yourself that you are competent in what you do. You can gradually increase the level of tasks, get out of your comfort zone and fight fears.

To learn more about how to stay motivated and self-motivated if you’re experiencing “Imposter Syndrome”, read specialized literature and ask about the experiences of people who have already succeeded.

If you understand that you are unable to cope on your own, contact the experts. They will gladly help you deal with emotions and your feelings.

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