Imposter Syndrome: A bad habit, or psychological problem?  

What is Imposter Syndrome?  

Impostor syndrome, also known as perceived fraudulence, refers to a personal internal experience of believing that you are undeserving of your achievements and not as competent as others perceive you to be.  

 Impostor syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of job, social status and gender. It is often experienced in higher numbers by high-achieving individuals. 

 Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome 

 If you think that you may be suffering with imposter syndrome, check out the list below to see if you have experienced any of these common imposter syndrome symptoms: 

  • Self-doubt 
  • Self-sabotage 
  • Overachieving  
  • An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills 
  • Attributing your success to external factors 
  • Fear that you won’t live up to expectations 
  • Setting super challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short 
  • Berating your performance 
Imposter Syndrome Doesn’t Exist  

You may have heard this before; you may have not, but I’m here to tell you that imposter syndrome doesn’t exist. I know, you’re thinking Tony what are you talking about?!? But hear me out.  

It’s a state of mind. It isn’t a mental illness. This phenomenon is experienced equally by men and women and frequently coexists with depression and anxiety.  

 We do not HAVE imposter syndrome; we DO imposter syndrome. Don’t understand? Let me explain further with a little analogy.  

Life always follows a simple recipe. If you want to bake a fruit cake, the recipe might be: 

  1. Put some eggs, flour and sugar in a bowl and mix 
  2. Add some dried fruit 
  3. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees for 20 minutes 

Now, let’s change step two to be: 

  • add some chocolate 

Suddenly you don’t have a fruit cake anymore, you have a chocolate cake. Life is like baking a cake. If you change the recipe, you get a different result. But Tony, how does baking a cake relate to imposter syndrome? Don’t worry, I’m getting there!  

The Imposter Syndrome Recipe  

Here is a typical recipe that people follow around imposter syndrome: 

  1. They look at their own achievements or station in life.
  2. Then tell themselves a story. This story will usually be something like: 
  3. “I don’t DESERVE what I’ve achieved.” 
  4. “Other people are far more DESERVING than I am…” 
  5. “I’m not actually very good and I’ve somehow fooled people into thinking I’m talented when in fact I’m pretty rubbish at what I do…” 
  6. Then, repeat steps one and two repeatedly for an undetermined amount of time in a detrimental cycle.  

The result of this recipe is feeling pretty down about yourself. For some, people experience symptoms for a limited time, such as in the first few weeks of a new job. For others, their symptoms can be lifelong. 

In severe cases, it can lead to mental health problems and cause people to not achieve as much as they could in life. IT LIMITS. 

Everything at step two is a story. These are beliefs and these are what trigger imposter syndrome. How can you determine the difference between a belief and a fact?  

The Difference Between a Belief and Fact 

A fact: Cannot be argued with. No one can hold a different opinion. 

For example: If you mix yellow and blue paint you get green paint. That is a fact and can be independently verified. No one can hold a different opinion. 

A belief: Is something that CAN be argued against.  

For example: I could never learn to speak Russian. That is a belief, an opinion, or a conclusion that we have drawn about our own abilities. 

If we tell ourselves the story that we don’t measure up, repeatedly, we end up feeling pretty awful about ourselves. There are NO exceptions to this. So, what can you do? 

Change The Recipe, Change the Story.  

You NEED to change the story. Let’s say this. What if I change step two of the Imposter Syndrome recipe and tell myself one of these stories?  

  • I am incredibly fortunate to have achieved what I have done in my life. Life is a series of good and bad breaks – I have had some good ones. Thank you, God / the universe/ life, / for the hand you have dealt me.  
  • I am so lucky that people see what I have done and choose to give me rank or reward for it. I am going to live up to it. How can I use it to help other people? 
  • I have got here through luck as much as talent (this one may be true), so now, I’m going to work extremely hard on increasing my skill set to live up to what I have.  

When you change the story, you change the recipe, and you change the result. People say ‘but Tony, you don’t understand. It’s not my fault that I talk to myself in this way, it’s just the way I’m wired, or it’s because my parents raised me with incredibly high expectations of myself.’ 

Consider this…what if that were not true? What if telling yourself this story was NOT a permanent character trait. What if it were simply a habit that you need to quit? It may take a little effort, breaking any habit is difficult. but you can create a new positive habit. 

So what if your parents taught you to have really high expectations? That was their reality, their beliefs, their values. You have a choice whether to live by them or to create your own rules. Create YOUR reality, YOUR beliefs and YOUR values. Learn to live your life for yourself, no one else.  

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome  

 Is it as easy as I say? No, not really. What I’m talking about here is that if you want to overcome imposter syndrome, it is ESSENTIAL that you change your outlook. It’s not usually a 5-minute job and takes effort, determination and dedication but it can be done. Nothing is set in stone, people change their mind all the time.  

The simplest thing to do is nothing. To keep using the same old recipe but you know the old saying “if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got.” Nothing will change unless you do, you are the KEY to your own LIFE. 

How is this ‘imposter syndrome’ affecting your life? What is it stopping you from doing? What is it giving you in your life that you don’t want? What is it stopping you from getting that you do want? Now magnify those things. How will life be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years if you don’t change something? 

How to stop Imposter Syndrome  

As soon as the pain of not changing becomes bigger than the inconvenience of doing something about it, then you will figure out how to change your outlook. People are very resourceful like that.  

As soon as you change your outlook then your imposter syndrome will disappear in a puff of smoke. It never really existed in the first place. Your own mentality and outlook on life will have the ultimate effect on how your life pans out. Give yourself the best start. 

Do YOU have imposter syndrome? Are you looking to overcome it and make your NEW recipe? Let’s have a conversion today. I offer Stress & Anxiety Solutions and Personal Coaching for people who want more out of life.  

I guarantee 100% iron-clad confidentiality right from our very first contact and I will do whatever it takes to protect your anonymity. Give me a call on 07905 495202 or email me here.  

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