How to Stop Feeling Like A Fraud
Have you ever once felt so concerned by what people will think when they discover that you are a fraud?
You have not committed any criminal act or engaged in intentional deception, and yet, here you are feeling sorry for your inadequacy, and feeling apologetic to others over something you think you are, and feeling worried about being exposed.
It doesn’t even matter where you are or what you’ve accomplished sometimes. The nasty feeling that seems to make us believe that we’re betraying people around us and ‘keeping up appearances,’ seems to creep up on just about everyone at one time or another.
It can happen at work while needlessly comparing ourselves to other people or feeling incompetent at our jobs.
This horrid feeling can happen to anybody, but impostor syndrome has been shown to be more prevalent amongst people considered to be high achievers.
It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the population (that’s more than half of humanity) experience a feeling of fraudulence at some point in their lives.
We normally don’t go around parading our feelings, announcing to everyone that we feel that we are fake.
In fact, it’s something most people conceal (unless they are asked or made to feel safe enough to confide about it) and that’s what can make it a little tricky to address.
Feeling like an impostor exists alongside feelings of guilt, worry, anxiety, shame, and potentially other negative emotions that hinder us in life.
We often hear good advice like, “be authentic,” “be yourself,” and “be true to who you are,” but this doesn’t make sense to a person with impostor syndrome. There are many ways to help someone beat their feelings of impostorism, but it always starts with awareness.
A person who seems unaware of what they’re feeling and who seems blatantly accepting of this mindset and behavior would be challenging to help.
If you or someone you know is going through Impostor Syndrome, take heart. Here are actions you can undertake to help alleviate the uneasy anxiety behind the feelings of impostor phenomenon.
Talk About It
Whether it’s you or somebody you know going through impostor syndrome, start the healing process by talking about it. If you’re the one who needs help, seek the counsel of a good friend or a health professional if you can’t find someone to trust enough with your sentiments.
If somebody you know has opened up to you, lend an ear to understand the person.
People who experience impostor phenomenon have a tendency to isolate themselves, especially emotionally, due to anxiety and the constant worry of being exposed and called out as a fraud.
But you cannot properly address something that is not acknowledged, right? So this is step one (after becoming self-aware of it, of course).
The impostor phenomenon became known as such as a result of research by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970’s. In more recent studies, impostor phenomenon is not classified as a mental health disorder, but a psychological phenomenon that is triggered by some external circumstances.
Overcoming it entails some knowledge and understanding of what impostorism really is. This knowledge will help alleviate some of the fear and unnecessary worry that may come with the awareness that the phenomenon affects you. With education comes increased objectivity.
This will empower you to address your mindset consciously, and monitor and reflect on your behaviors and emotional responses.
Challenge Negative Thoughts
Feelings of impostorism will be triggered and exacerbated by negative thoughts. Make it a point to mindfully monitor your inner voice and examine your thought patterns.
Challenge your thoughts. Are they rational? Whose voice is behind them?
If your self-talk is supporting the conviction that you’re never good enough, correct that. If you start comparing yourself with others, stop. If you keep aiming for perfection, let go of perfectionism and appreciate your efforts more.
Challenging negative thought patterns is vital to overcoming impostor syndrome.
Document for Posterity and Accountability
People going through impostor syndrome may find it difficult to fully distinguish reality from perception. In order to address that, it’s helpful to find and hold onto tangible evidence of your own accomplishments and successes that help verify reality for you in moments of doubt.
Impostor phenomenon makes it very difficult to acknowledge and accept your own accomplishments and achievements.
Balance this by consistently documenting, for the sake of posterity and accountability, just how far you’ve come to remind yourself of the truth of what you have done.
Some people experience impostorism because they have not yet come to terms with the fact that they can be so powerful in their own right.
You are capable, and more often than not, you are even stronger than you think. You need to start from that belief, and just in case nobody has ever told you yet, truly, you’re a force to be reckoned with.