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  • Writer's picturegaelle Chatenet

Ending Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is the one problem most of my patients share, regardless of what other things we might be working on together.

It comes with a persistent feeling of inadequacy, self-doubt, and fear that people will find out you are a fraud, even though there is evidence to the contrary.

When people have imposter syndrome, they feel that their achievements are undeserved and that eventually the world will find out about it and that their lack of skills and competences will be exposed.

Imposter syndrome can affect individuals of any gender, age or profession.

Types of Imposter Syndrome include:

- The expert: They are convinced they need to know everything before they can be deemed competent. They are constantly studying and seeking new information and knowledge but never reach a level where they feel satisfied with their own expertise, even though everyone else recognizes them as highly knowledgeable in their field.

- The natural genius: These people think the reason they are succeeding is solely due to their innate intelligence rather than their hard work and it is thus impossible for them to take credit for their achievements. They fear that if they have to put in efforts or face challenges, their lack of ability will be revealed.

- The perfectionist: They set very high standards and try to achieve perfection. They are never able to achieve their own, impossibly high expectations. Thus, setting themselves up for disappointment and dissatisfaction each time.

- The soloist: They refuse to ask for help or support, thinking that doing so will reveal their perceived incompetence and inadequacy. They strive to accomplish everything on their own, thus overwhelming themselves and putting themselves through unnecessary struggles. When they end up putting themselves in situations where they cannot cope, they will see it as confirming their own inadequacy.

Impostor syndrome can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, low self-esteem and reluctance to personal and professional growth.

People with Impostor syndrome will minimalize their achievements, refuse to accept praise or recognition that they see as undeserved and sometimes, even refuse promotions or challenges for fear of being exposed as incompetent.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome requires several techniques combining self-reflection, change of mindset, and seeking help from a professional.

Here are some techniques that you can try on your own:

- Recognize and acknowledge your accomplishments:

Take a pen and paper and write down the answers to these questions:

- What is your biggest achievement and the one you are most proud of?

- What is the biggest change you have made positively in your life?

- Which of your abilities are you the most proud of?

As you read what you wrote, take the time to fully relive the moments of success and acknowledge the positive feelings that come with the memories. Really anchor these feelings.

- Normalize and share your feelings: this works for any kind of bad/unpleasant feelings you might be having: talk about them to people around you and you will notice not only that they aren’t shameful or something to hide, they are normal and pretty common! Realizing that others share these feelings can be a great source of reassurance and support.

- Set realistic expectations: Accept once and for all that perfection does not exist and that making mistakes and/or asking for help does not in anyway hinder your competence or worth. Appreciate your progress and your smaller successes instead of aiming at flawlessness.

- Celebrate your strengths and skills: Understand and validate what makes you special. What qualities and knowledge you have that are useful and bring extra value to what you do. Instead of focusing on the qualities of others that you might feel you are lacking, look at the ones that are your own and how they can be best used.

- Seek support and mentorship: A coach or a therapist can help you more deeply with this issue if you feel that the above are not enough. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome takes some time and effort but doing so will also relieve you from limiting beliefs and enable you to achieve your full potential.

And remember: if you are not making any mistakes, you are probably making the biggest mistake of all!

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