The Imposter Syndrome

The Imposter Syndrome

Coined in 1970’s by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, the Imposter Phenomenon, commonly known as the imposter syndrome, affects 70% of people at one point or another. Although mostly associated with women, the imposter symptoms are also experienced by men.

The Imposter Syndrome can usually present itself by the following thoughts and feelings:

  • Believing or feeling that others have an overinflated view of you and your competency
  • You worry that you will eventually get discovered and others will be let down
  • You have qualifications, experience or skill, but do not consider these accurate measures of your ability
  • You greatly exaggerate the potential consequences of any mistakes you make
  • You downplay your own accomplishments and attribute them to external forces like luck

There are 5 types of imposter syndrome types:

  1. The perfectionist

    The perfectionist always wants things to go “perfectly”, potentially trying to control situations, and worrying about “how” something is done. Obsessing about any slight error or mishap, considering it a failure, ultimately leading to feelings of shame and guilt.

  2. The expert

    The expert needs to know everything and feels less than otherwise. They are highly concerned with “what” and “how much” they know or can do. If they feel they do not have the knowledge or enough understanding of something, they begin to experience the feeling of being a failure.

  3. The soloist

    The soloist, has difficulty accepting help from others. They feel that they should be able to do it on their own, and if they accept help, they interpret it as a sign of their own weakness and failure.

  4. The natural genius

    The natural genius expects to accomplish everything perfectly and quickly. They may doubt themselves and feel ashamed if something is difficult or if they can’t accomplish it on their first try.

  5. The Super Man / The Super Woman

    The super woman or man, judges themselves based on how much they can do for others. They need to be a good father/mother, son, partner, boss, brother, and/or friend, etc. They tend to be workaholics and don’t engage in self care. If they can’t fulfil the role exactly the way they believe they should, they feel like a failure.

The Imposter Syndrome tends to present itself in times of transition, when you may be starting a new job, or taking on a new role or promotion at work. More women endorse this experience likely as a result of traditional gender roles and stereotypes. Because women may feel conflicted by society’s expectations of them, it is sometimes harder to own their success. If you would like to take a self test to see how you score, you can do so at Psychtest.

Checking in with yourself about the root of your anxiety can help identify if this is something you are struggling with. One of the ways to deal with the imposter syndrome is to use cognitive behavioral therapy techniques such as reframing and replacing negative thoughts. If you feel like you need help with the symptoms described above, give us a call to schedule an appointment. Our therapists specialize in working with young and middle aged adults who are struggling from self esteem related issues.


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