Have you ever felt like an outsider? have you ever succeeded at something but felt that it was because of others and not you? Do you feel like you are constantly putting on an act and that you are fake?
If you can relate to the above-asked questions and often see yourself as an outsider, a fraud and a fake, chances are that you probably suffer from Imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, though not recognized by the DSM V (Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) as a clinical disorder, is a syndrome that has been found to be very common and frequently occurring in most people across the globe. It has been reported that 70% of people tend to feel like an imposter at least once in their lifetime, this shows how common this disorder is. Anyone and everyone can undergo imposter syndrome, however, studies have shown that it is especially prominent among people with underrepresented identities. Hence, minority groups and people who belong to the LGBT community are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome as compared to others. Studies have also shown that though people of all genders go through it, it is more prevalent among females.
What’s the possible cause of Imposter syndrome?
There are multiple reasons why one may get imposter syndrome. One of its causes could be their family upbringing since the family dynamic and parenting style, especially those characterized by control or overprotectiveness, can deeply influence the thought processes of the individual. The Individual’s work or school performance may get affected due to the feeling of an increase in pressure to achieve success, and a lack of experience can trigger feelings of inadequacy. Another causal factor is personality. those with low self-efficacy may be more prone to looking at themselves in a negative light.
People with imposter syndrome often tend to disregard their successes and believe that it’s because of external factors that they succeeded and not because of themselves. They also tend to feel relieved instead of feeling proud when they succeed in anything. These individuals set up high expectations for themselves and go through extreme levels of disappointment when they are unable to live up to those expectations. People with this syndrome fear that they will never be able to live up to other people (an expectation of them) and often sabotage their own successes. They always feel like they are frauds and are constantly afraid that others around them will soon realize that they are putting on an act. People with imposter syndrome also tend to assume that they are the only ones who are going through it and that nobody else gets this feeling, however, this is not true. Many people around the world tend to undergo this feeling of unworthiness at least once in their lifetime. Imposter syndrome has also been found to go hand in hand with perfectionism. Those who seek perfection, tend to be more susceptible to this condition. Individuals suffering from imposter syndrome are often obsessed to achieve perfection in whatever task they do. It rarely happens that they ask for help as they feel that doing so would make others think that they are not good enough which would lead to their disappointment. The desire for perfectionism often causes these individuals to constantly put off their work and delay it due to the fear of not being able to do it perfectly and meet the high standards of others and the ones they have set for themselves. The perfectionist attitude also makes these individuals spend more time on a task than required to do it properly.
There is more than one type of Imposter syndrome
Imposter Syndrome has also been found to have a high frequency of occurrence among high achievers and is accompanied by feelings of extreme anxiety and guilt. This stress and anxiety can further develop into mental disorders like depression and certain anxiety disorders. People undergoing imposter syndrome are constantly worried that they are not doing enough to meet the expectations of those around them as well as their own expectations This can put them at risk of developing anxiety issues. It has been found that there are five types of imposter syndrome and that everyone experiences imposter syndrome differently. The five types of imposter syndrome are classifies the sufferers into following five groups: perfectionists; natural genius; rugged individuals; experts; and superheroes.
Perfectionism is a huge indicator of one’s feeling of Imposterism and people with this kind of imposter syndrome strive to attain perfection in everything they do. The failure to achieve perfection even if by a small margin appears to them as a major failure.
Natural Genius kind of imposter syndrome is generally felt by those people who feel that they should be able to do every task perfectly at the first attempt and if they fail to do so, they feel like others would see them as frauds. for example, if a person with imposter syndrome is not able to play a musical instrument on their very first try then they feel embarrassed because they disappointed the people who thought that he/she was a very good musician.
In the rugged individual type, people struggle to seek help even when they desperately need it as they feel that getting help with a task invalidates their contribution or shows they lack the basic skill set.
Then we have the Experts who feel that they need to hoard knowledge and should know everything. If these people are ever in a position where they do not know something then they feel like a fraud.
And finally, we have the superhero type. These are individuals who suffer from a superhero kind of imposter syndrome. these people tend to push themselves harder than everyone around them in order to prove that they are not a fraud.
As we can see from the above, those undergoing imposter s syndrome tend to have extremely high standards of expectation and they also tend to have an overwhelming need to succeed in all aspects of life. However, this can often lead to burnout and can be extremely detrimental to one’s mental health.
While imposter Syndrome can lead to stifling to many, for some people it can also lead to a certain level of motivation. However, this motivation usually tends to come at a cost of experiencing constant anxiety. It is important that there is enough awareness about imposter syndrome so that help can be provided to those who need it. Because it is not a clinically recognized disorder, not many people know of it. However, it is important that more and more awareness is spread about this since it is faced by a large population, and also because many studies have found that there is a very high correlation between imposter syndrome and mental disorders like anxiety and depression.
A person with imposter syndrome carries a high burden of stress which often causes him/her extreme burnout. It is important for those suffering from imposter syndrome to know that their feeling of being a fraud has no truth to it and that there are many others who feel the same way about their worthiness as they do. If you think you are suffering from imposter syndrome then it is suggested that you seek help before it leads to a much more serious mental health issue.