You may have recognized a voice that constantly tells you that you are a fraud who does not deserve your professional success and that at some point someone will discover that you really have no idea what you are doing or what you are talking about. Imposter syndrome occurs with people who are very successful in what they do, but somehow are not able to accept that this success was achieved through their work and effort, but tend to attribute it to happy circumstances or completely devalue their work. (“It’s nothing special”).
Mostly, these people find it difficult to accept compliments, they have the impression that they do not deserve their success and that at some point someone will “discover” them. The term “Impostor syndrome” was introduced in 1978 by clinical psychologists Paulina R. Klans and Susan A. Imes. There are even different types of “imposters” when we talk about this syndrome, and the author and expert in this field, Valerie Young, has written more on this topic.
I recognized this syndrome in myself even during my studies, and only in the last few years, with the help of Mindfulness and Self-compassion, I learned to recognize when and in what situations a black cloud of negative thoughts and re-examinations related to my own competencies appear above my head questioning my knowledge, and waiting for someone to “discover” me.
I share with you a few suggestions that help me personally to deal more easily with my imposter syndrome on a daily basis:
Mindfulness – Awareness of your “imposter”
Although it seems simple, it often takes a long time to notice your own thoughts that go in the direction of doubting and devaluing your own success. Pay attention to your own thoughts in situations when you receive a compliment, promotion, recognition… Pay attention to:
Internal dialogue: What do you say to yourself? What thoughts do you have? Are those thoughts true about you? Pay attention to the reality of your thoughts and what may be the tendency of your imposter syndrome to find proof that something is not good enough, valuable, important… Maybe these thoughts are often accompanied by certain feelings or bodily sensations? Notice when they occur and in what exact situations?
Your reactions: How do you behave in these situations, what do you do? Do you give gratitude for receiving the compliment or do you show everyone that you think you don’t deserve it perhaps through humor, diminishing importance or in some other way?
If you experience feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy, or diminished recognition, observe how this happens and recognize what reality is and what your imposter syndrome is.
Self-compassion – Conversation with an inner voice
In this context, the exercise of inner critic from the practice of mindful self-compassion (self-compassion) helped me a lot – this helps me in relation to the inner critic, which is a similar spirit that can be applied to the imposter’s syndrome.
Often when I’m faced with thoughts of doubt, questioning, and diminishing self-worth I have an honest conversation with my inner voice, and the questions I ask myself that help me silence the impact of that voice are:
What are the facts that speak of my success – results, time invested, achievements, achieved goals?
What facts, evidence, say that I didn’t do something well enough?
What do I need to hear that will be encouraging and supportive whenever I face a re-examination of my success?
Humanity as part of self-compassion – Awareness that many struggles with a similar challenge
Share with others your experiences regarding your struggle with imposter syndrome! A large number of people face the same challenge, and it is easier for many when they can share it with others and somehow together feel a kind of solidarity and support because we are going through the same things. Read about successful and famous people who have faced this syndrome just like you.
You are definitely not alone in this story, and when you see that others are overwhelmed by the feeling of inadequacy, doubt, and fear that they will be “discovered”, and for example, in your eyes, they are role models, then it will be easier for you to believe and appreciate your own success.