Beyond all the visible and internal differences that put up walls between us, here is one certainty that holds all of us messy humans together – the very messy human experience. The power of consciousness grants us both some ups and downs. And with the ability to be aware of yourself, as well as your abilities, you get to also question yourself and everything that made you into who you are.
Naturally, such power leads to dread, doubts, and the occasional positive voice of reason.
In reality, it’s very hard to be objective and sincere with yourself. We all have this one image we constantly try to perform but get cut short, leaving us with more negativity than anything else. Call it a bad acting performance in front of the biggest Upper East Side names on Broadway, a complete nightmare!
The problem seems to originate from the idea that confidence equals perfection.
“Confident folks are simply…perfect”.
That couldn’t be further from the truth. A man who is confident isn’t perfect, he is confident because he doesn’t mind NOT being perfect. Insecure individuals chase surface-level perfection, while real hustlers chase inner happiness and satisfaction. It’s a big difference that’s hard to spot.
But what causes such a disturbance of the mind? Why are our thoughts full of these imposters? Well, before we answer the How, let’s discuss the What:
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome (IS) is a completely biased and inner experience, where the individual who’s affected concludes they are, quite plainly, a fraud. They have this slightly irrational belief that others’ perception of them is far greater than it meets the eye.
To put it into perspective, it’s like worrying your cover as a double-agent would be revealed at any given moment. It’s this lightly paranoid state of mind, or imposter syndrome anxiety, where you feel as if all eyes are focused on you and your web of inconcrete “lies”.
Except in most cases, there is no double-agent, there is no secrecy, nor is there a Scooby-Do “Mask Off” finale. In most cases, there’s just you – completely and utterly loved and cherished for more than one valid reason, that seems to be awfully “contaminated” in your own head.
It’s important to note that most of these “imposter thoughts” are based on complex anxiety, rather than concrete facts.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, it’s hard to be objective when you are the subject of your own mind’s observation. But surely there is hope we’ll get to be the captain of this ship sooner than later. And this is where we want to make that stormy sea attempt.
Scouting For Symptoms
Since we were additionally granted the power of individualism, IS might show itself differently in various kinds of people. But here are some main self-handicapping symptoms to look out for:
- Excessive lack of self-confidence
- Lack of trust in one’s abilities and instincts
- Regular comparison to others
- Feelings of incompetence
- Heavy feelings of regret and dwelling
- Illogical worries about the future
- Negative thoughts and reassurances
And to add to the list, here are some more major red flags…
- A tendency of overachieving
- Ruining your own success
- Having extremely high expectations
- Calling your achievements a result of “luck” instead of skills
And obviously, many, many more… Now, if you’ve managed to find yourself in most of these, odds are you might be suffering from this rusty mental prison of sorts.
Other than the painfully obvious struggles IS folks have, the biggest problem with Imposter Syndrome is its steel-minded mental jury. In other words, no matter how good you do in life, no accomplishment will be proof enough to change the awful sentencing you’ve given yourself.
You – the innocently accused, your inner voice – the harsh prosecutors and jury, and you again – the tired but somewhat determined state lawyer who, in most cases, would just settle for lower sentencing with less prison time. But no, we don’t want any prison time here. We want a bar-free mind completely free of its abusive chains. Before we dive deep into the coping philosophy of it all, let’s try to identify this mind parasite to know how to get rid of it.
What Types of “Imposters” Are There?
Since the Imposter Syndrome shows itself through a plethora of faces and characteristics, here are 5 we’ve been able to recognize and “treat”:
1. The “Perfectionist“
True to its God-given name, the perfectionist wants things to be…Perfect. And since life doesn’t offer such a mode of experience, these folks tend to get disappointed extremely fast. In turn, their lives revolve around a hectic chase of the impossible, all while never feeling “good enough” in anything that they do.
2. The “Limitless” Man
Similar to the movie “Limitless”, this IS type wants their brain and body to be at a staggering 100% at all times. Yet another sci-fi mode life just did not offer. And as you can imagine, this too results in utter disappointment and sadness with one’s non-superhero and very human abilities.
3. The “Child Prodigy”
These types are the wannabe Shirley Temples of the bunch, wanting nothing more than to be the best at everything and accomplish it all on the first try. But more than anything, they want to be “natural” geniuses that were just born to “change the world”, without lifting a finger. Are we seeing a pattern here yet?
4. The “Profesional”
The professional or as we like to imagine him, the old and ever so wise historian and philosopher, at least a wannabe one, that always strives for knowledge outside of the known universe. For this type, no understanding or knowledge of theirs is good or wide enough, yet again resulting in utter discouragement.
5. The “Lone Wolf”
The Dan “Lonely Boy” Humphrey of the bunch – wants all the success and zero help. These types will never say yes to a helping hand, let alone ask for one. They are set on accomplishing everything on their own, so they won’t have to trust someone or share the credit!
Now that we have our main “protagonists” all set up, let’s shift our focus to…
Identifying Imposter Syndrome
Symptoms or not, IS is sometimes tricky to track down and get rid of, especially when a person has never even heard of this diagnosis. So, in order to fix this issue, we first have to identify the cause, as well as the issue itself.
Considering that around 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lifetime, this is nothing to be ashamed of! But since it is considered to be a mental disorder, treatment and therapy are the very best option in every case.
If you or a loved one feel like you might be suffering from IS, try answering the following questions:
- Do you always downplay your skills or success?
- Do you frequently ask yourself whether or not you’re worthy of what you have in life?
- Do you have a hard time taking constructive criticism?
- Do you often feel like people are going to find out you have been a “fraud” this entire time?
The list of indicators obviously goes on, but these 4 questions might help you get started on the right track.
“I felt, what gives me the right to be here?” – said one PhD clinical psychology student at The New School in New York City.
The truth is, Imposter Syndrome doesn’t choose its victims based on some specifics and characteristics. This can happen to anyone, even when they seem like they have it all from an outsider’s perspective.
Let this be a reminder to always try and treat people with kindness. We truly never know what’s going on behind closed doors, when all people have is themselves. Just because someone seems successful and happy, doesn’t mean they don’t have mind imposters, convincing them otherwise.
How to Beat Imposter Syndrome?
Outside of therapy, there are a number of things we can do to make life easier and more manageable. Imposter syndrome is no joke, and it can do some serious damage to your self-perception and overall mental health.
To help yourself get past some of these toxic thought loops and social anxiety, this “exercise” requires you to dissect your feelings and trace them back to the root cause. This is how to fight imposter syndrome! You will need a separate notebook, as well as a pen. You can type it on your phone too, but we highly recommend the good old fashioned pen and paper, for sincerity.
Write down everything you feel on a daily. Especially if you are going through a very emotional or hard time.
Furthermore, keep your notebook close to you. Write down healthy reminders, positivity notes, and reasons for self-love. People with IS are so fixated on negative thought loops that the positive ones never seem to get their turn under the spotlight. Writing them down and keeping them in your head is a step in the right direction.
- Work on your skills and talents. To avoid excessive doubts and any future downplays, try giving that energy to something much more productive – yourself! After a while, the better you become in your industry, the less you’ll need to “fact-check” yourself every other hour.
- Take social media breaks. As much as we’ve gained with our beloved Instagrams and Twitters of the web, it seems as though we’ve lost far more. It’s no secret that social media tends to be awfully bad for folks with self-esteem and comparison issues – as most things on social media are, perfect…Or at least they appear to be. Being more present in real life is much harder than it looks. After all, the inner is much harder to satisfy from the physical and outer!
- Keep pushing forward. We know how hard it gets to effortlessly live everyday life when your mental health looks somewhat of a haunted house, filled with angry ghosts and traumatic flashbacks. Whenever you feel extremely beaten down, ask yourself this: Do you prefer the pain of your current situation or the pain of change and growth? We believe most of us would rather take the ladder…
In the end, try to remember that self-doubt usually awakes individuals who already have some kind of success they may doubt and dwell on. Our lack of confidence and self-love has in no means disabled our hopes and dreams for the future, as we never truly know what kind of lemons life will deal us next.
At the end of the day, life is so much bigger than surface-level “success” and the heavy chest feeling that comes with it. Life truly is a one-of-a-kind phenomenon that should never be taken for granted, let alone downplayed.