How To Know If You Have Impostor Syndrome

Do you have “impostor syndrome”?


Growing up, I always thought that I knew how things were going to go in my life. I would graduate high school and go to college. I would graduate college and get a job in my industry. I would excel in my career, meet the man I was going to marry, get married, have kids, etc., etc.

As we get older, most of us realize that life doesn’t always happen the way we thought or expect it to. We adapt. For some of us, however, this is not an option and we wind up well…perplexed. You end up not knowing where you belong or what to do next. You start feeling inadequate in your everyday life or your job and confused about your place in the world. If any of this sounds familiar to you, you just might have impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome can have many different symptoms such as:

·         Perfectionism

·         Undermining one’s achievements

·         Having a fear of failure

·         Discounting any praise given to you by others

These are just some of the symptoms but there are many more. It’s not quite known exactly how one gets impostor syndrome but it was first identified in 1978 by 2 psychological researchers studying a group of high-achieving female academics who felt they were inadequate despite their outstanding educational and professional accomplishments.

Throughout their research and others who came after them, it was found that impostor syndrome is not a gendered specific circumstance. Men are just as easily susceptible to succumb to impostor syndrome as women. Also, the majority of the recipients of impostor syndrome were of a minority race.

These subjects had a hard time internalizing their own accomplishments, they would minimize their successes to anyone who tried to praise them, they would complain of a fear of being “found out” that they were really frauds in their careers, education, etc. Unfortunately, or fortunately, whichever way you look at it, this issue is extremely common, especially with the younger population (think millennials and Gen Z). It was recorded that at least 70% of people will experience impostor syndrome at least once in their lifetime.

Why does this happen? I’m no doctor, so I can only guess and give my opinion from someone who has struggled with this. For me, I feel that my impostor syndrome comes from the overwhelming need to be successful and great at everything I do and that is just not possible. I just won’t be great at everything I do and that’s something I will have to deal with. I also am a perfectionist and if things aren’t going the way I want them to go, I tend to shut down or not finish whatever project I’m working on. I’m sure there are some other factors in play here, but like I said I am not a therapist or claim to be one.

What has helped me to slowly overcome these feelings is speaking to someone who knows how to deal with these type of emotional thoughts (i.e. a counselor), creating a support system for myself that surrounds me with positive people who truly care for me and know my strengths and weaknesses so that when I start going into that dark place of self-doubt, they are immediately there to lift me up and remind me that I am worthy of my success.

I hope this helps in some way. As entrepreneurs and freelancers especially, it’s really hard to not criticize yourself constantly. Like, “what am I doing?” “I have no business trying to start my own company.” “I should just quit now.” Those negative thoughts aren’t doing anybody any good and can lead to even more negative issues such as anxiety, depression, etc.  

If you’re concerned that you might have impostor syndrome, feel free to take this online test that I found at The Muse. Depending on your results, if you have a high level of impostor syndrome, please seek out a mental health professional. Life is a lot better when you are able to appreciate yourself fully including your accomplishments.

Until Next Time, 

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