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Breaking Free from Self-Doubt: How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Breaking Free from Self-Doubt

A recent survey with 2,004 respondents found that 52 percent of young adults in the United States have often or always felt anxious. Some were depressed and experienced feelings of loneliness.

These negative feelings have various causes, and one of them could be imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome can make you feel inadequate, no matter how successful you are. Moreover, dealing with this behavioral phenomenon can be exhausting, which affects your daily life. How do you overcome it to prevent it from impacting your personal growth?

Defining Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome, or IS, is a behavioral phenomenon referring to self-doubt regardless of success. Individuals with IS typically don’t recognize their achievements due to the fear of being revealed as a fraud.

This phenomenon involves the imposter cycle, which has five types: perfectionism, super-heroism, atychiphobia, denial of competence and capability, and achievemephobia.

  • Perfectionism: Setting unrealistic standards due to “needing to be the best”.
  • Super-heroism: Over-preparing for tasks to appear more capable.
  • Atychiphobia: A fear of failure.
  • Denial of competence and capability: Relating achievements to random chances despite objective proof of accomplishments.
  • Achievemephobia: A fear of success due to fear of higher expectations or an increase in workload.

Imposter syndrome’s prevalence is unknown despite being a common research topic. Moreover, no formal medical definition exists.

How Does Imposter Syndrome Hinder Your Self-Growth and Success?

Family environment, prejudice, social pressures, and responsibilities are some of the usual causes of imposter syndrome. One theory explains that IS is possibly rooted in families that value achievements above anything.

Here’s how it can hinder your self-growth and success.

Low Self-Esteem and Confidence

Since imposter syndrome makes you doubt yourself, this can reduce your self-esteem and confidence. These feelings of inadequacy may stop you from striving more because you perceive you’re not good enough.

Low self-esteem and confidence can also make you seek approval or validation from others. Rather than trusting your judgment, you value other people’s opinions more. You’re often worried about how they perceive you and your opinions.

Other potential effects of low self-esteem and confidence include:

  • Negative comparisons and self-talk
  • People pleasing
  • Doubting compliments
  • A lack of boundaries

Feelings of Burnout or a Loss of Passion

Many individuals with IS are often high achievers. As a high-achiever, you may overwork, avoid new responsibilities, or fear speaking up and retaliation. These behaviors may make you lose your passion or feel burned out.

A loss of passion might result in feelings of emptiness. For instance, if you’ve loved painting since childhood, it no longer fulfills you due to imposter syndrome. You’re losing your passion for painting because you feel you’re not a good painter or won’t be successful as one.

Reduced Sense of Psychological Safety

A sense of psychological safety means you feel safe speaking up without fearing retaliation, pressure, or other negative repercussions. This sense of safety ensures an environment that encourages you to share ideas without fear of offending your loved ones and work colleagues.

However, imposter syndrome might reduce your psychological safety. It means you don’t feel safe sharing feedback, asking questions, and acknowledging mistakes due to fear of judgment, affecting your trust, communication, and interpersonal relationships.

Unhealthy Lifestyle

If you’re a perfectionist, you may overwork to compensate for your perceived lack of skills. Overworking may lead to an unhealthy lifestyle that causes the following:

  • Forgetting meals
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Reduced work-life balance
  • A lack of social life

These effects can impede your ability to focus at work and home, leading to physical injuries, oversight, missed deadlines, and forgetfulness.

doubting Yourself

Tips for Combatting Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming imposter syndrome doesn’t happen overnight. Here are a few tips that might help you manage your destructive feelings and break free from self-doubt:

Focus on the present

Downplaying current achievements might mean you worry about failing in the future. You may say your success was just “luck” or “good timing.”

Focusing on the present helps you mitigate this problem by letting you focus on the reality of the situation. Suppose your boss puts you in charge of a project you feel you aren’t good enough to lead.

Rather than worrying you might sabotage the task, acknowledge the reality: your boss trusts and believes in your skills. At the same time, treat this project as an opportunity to nurture your experience, like enhancing your leadership skills.

Try to Be Kind to Yourself

Compassion for others is one thing, but self-compassion is another.

Self-compassion is our ability to be kind to ourselves, mainly when things go wrong. This kindness involves talking to yourself positively like you would with a friend who needs emotional support.

For instance, you didn’t get the job you applied for. With imposter syndrome, you might feel you’re not good enough or think of what you did wrong in the interview. However, with self-compassion, you affirm that you did your best and that your skills will still be valuable for other applications.

Celebrate Your Hard Work

We often focus on the results that we forget to honor the process. With imposter syndrome, you might feel you’re boastful for acknowledging your hard work. But celebrating yourself helps you break free from the cycle of self-doubt.

Celebrating yourself means sharing your learnings and how they helped you achieve success. Not only does this acknowledge your hard work, but it also inspires others to be their best selves. The more you show yourself, the more people appreciate your knowledge, skills, and insights.

Embrace the Negative Feelings

Getting rid of imposter syndrome isn’t easy, especially if you’ve had it for long. Whenever the self-doubt kicks in, try to relax and acknowledge the feeling.

Acknowledging your feelings helps you start the healing process. It helps you assess the situation and identify your triggers. This way, you’ll know how to address these triggers the next time.

Take It Easy

Breaking free from imposter syndrome can take time, but it doesn’t have to hold you back. You can still build your personal and professional growth while overcoming doubts about yourself.

Take it easy by taking breaks, destressing, and remembering that mistakes don’t define who you are. After all, not everyone is perfect. Even the most successful people were once in the same position as you are.