Feel Like a Fraud? You May Have Imposter Syndrome

imposter syndrome

We all have times in our life when we feel like a fake.  Maybe we feel ill-equipped, not good enough, or have a fear of being exposed.  This is called Imposter Syndrome.  Imposter Syndrome is an inability to see your own accomplishments and successes, and instead fear that others will see through you.  People with Imposter Syndrome are often high-achievers who don’t believe their successes in life are due to their hard work, intelligence, creativity, or natural talents.  Instead, they fear that the accomplishments are only due to luck or circumstance.

Imposter Syndrome is grounded in inadequacy.  For example, I can give you the perfect example of Imposter Syndrome since I am writing this blog.  While writing, I may start questioning myself.  Who am I to think I am an expert on this topic?  Will people see right through me?  Will they believe the things that I write?  Am I a good enough writer to convey the points I want to get across? Do I really know what I’m talking about?  What if this blog is a complete flop?

If any of that sounds familiar to you, you may have Imposter Syndrome.  Often Imposter Syndrome is grounded in a shame core.  Deep down, you may not feel good enough.  You may feel you don’t compare or measure up to others.  You may feel inherently flawed or like something is wrong with you.  To cope with how you feel on the inside, you may project to have it all together on the outside.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

There are certain types of people who are more likely to experience Imposter Syndrome.  If you struggle with perfectionism at all, you probably also experience Imposter Syndrome.  Perfectionists are high-achievers, goal-oriented, and like to feel in control.  When they have failed or even perceive that they have failed, they often experience shame.  They feel worthless, inadequate, and useless.  They feel like they are not good enough, and are a fraud.  Perfectionists fear that others will see right through their imperfections or mistakes.

People who are intelligent may also struggle with Imposter Syndrome.  Smart people tend to expect that they are smart all the time.  So when they struggle or actually have to work at it, it may trigger a lot of self-doubt and shame.  When they experience a failure or a setback, they may feel their confidence take a big hit.  They may avoid tasks that they are not sure that they can accomplish, just to avoid the possibility of failure.  Their biggest fear is that someone else is smarter than them, or that others can see they are not as smart as they seem.

Another type of person who may experience Imposter Syndrome is a superhuman.  Superhumans have unrealistic expectations of themselves.  They believe they prove their worth by “doing”.  Superhumans actually have a lot of insecurities deep down and fear that they are not as worthy as the people around them.  To compensate, they will do crazy things to prove themselves.  They are called superhumans because they overachieve, expect perfection, and will bite off more than they can chew just to prove they can.

People who are experts may also struggle with Imposter Syndrome.  If you are considered an expert in your field, how does it feel when you do not know the answer to a problem or a question?   A lot of shame is probably triggered.  People who have a lot of expertise or knowledge in a particular field fear that others may challenge them, question them, or bring up something they don’t know.  Then, others will be able to see right through them and know that they are fake or a fraud.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

If you find yourself in any of the above examples, you probably struggle sometimes with Imposter Syndrome.  Here are some ways to overcome it, so that you don’t feel like you put on a front for others.

If you struggle with Imposter Syndrome, you need to work to increase your confidence.  So much of our inner voice impacts what we actually accomplish.  Learn to take care of you, and build yourself up.  Practice saying daily affirmations and shut down your inner critic.

Try to remember your accomplishments.  This isn’t meant to make you a proud person, but rather to remind you to be humble.  Think about the hard work, long hours, and commitment it took to get to where you are.  It didn’t happen by accident.  Allow yourself to recall and remember the sacrifices you’ve made.

We all mess up.  We are all human.  Learn to give yourself grace when you make a mistake.  No one is perfect, and to expect perfectionism from yourself is not realistic.  When you make a mistake, admit it, be humble, and ask for help if need be.  Remind your inner critic that being perfect is just not going to happen.  Forgive yourself when you do mess up.

Sometimes you have to do just “good enough”.  For the perfectionists, overachievers, and superhuman types, this is a hard concept to grasp.  What this means is that sometimes you can’t do it all.  Sometimes you may need to say no, set boundaries, or not over-extend yourself to accomplish the goal.  Sometimes you just have to give “good enough” effort and be okay with it.

When you have negative thoughts about yourself or your abilities, it’s important to re-frame those thoughts.  Take that negative thought, flip it around, and find something positive about it.  If you find yourself feeling inadequate about a project at work, remind yourself about other projects you have done well in the past, and recall that you had the ability and talent to do it well.

If you find yourself stuck in Imposter Syndrome, and unable to get out, please reach out for help!  It may be important to process through your shame, perfectionism, and confidence issues.

Written by Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW

*Christy Fogg, MSW, LCSW is a licensed therapist at Journey to Joy Counseling. Christy enjoys doing marriage/couples counseling, individual counseling, premarital counseling. She also provides family counseling, teen and adolescent counseling.

Journey to Joy Counseling serves the Indianapolis area, including Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield.