Understanding and Eradicating Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel like you do not belong? If so, you are in the same boat as countless people worldwide. Whether within a circle of friends, a career setting, or simply existing in a public space, feelings of being outcast or inadequate are common. 

In Valerie Young’s book, “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It,” she assesses imposter syndrome and the negative effects it has on society. Imposter syndrome can cause significant damage, from anxiety to an inability to savor success to a paralyzing belief that one can’t succeed or continue in their profession.

Young opened my eyes to the five different kinds of “imposters” – the perfectionist, the natural genius, the soloist, the expert, and the superhero. Each of these categories exemplifies feelings of anxiety, insecurities, and dread that render them effectively unable to participate sustainably and productively in their position. However, properly evaluating these concepts is the first step in overcoming this syndrome and understanding that you belong in every room just as much as the person next to you. 

It’s crucial to identify and deconstruct these concepts to reach your maximum potential, including: 

  • The perfectionist. This person needs everything to be perfectly in order, or they feel like a failure.
  • The natural genius. This person picks up skills quickly and with little effort, and when they aren’t acquired fast, they feel ashamed. 
  • The soloist: This person is a maverick and believes they can handle everything without anyone’s support and are insufficient if they require assistance. 
  • The expert: This person needs to learn everything and have all the answers regarding a certain topic, or they feel fraudulent otherwise. 
  • The superhero: This person pushes themselves to go above and beyond and associates their worth with success in their roles. 

Determining which “imposter” you are, along with your feelings, values, and how you attribute success in your life, will aid in the breaking down of false ideologies and harmful beliefs. It’s important to acknowledge and accept your feelings in order to separate them from facts and reframe your negative thoughts. Know that you are not alone and that the challenges you face, whether external or internal, are shared by many peers and people from all walks of life. 

Building a support network of supportive people who believe in your abilities is also a great way to keep yourself on track. This can encourage you to celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small, and recognize the inherent value you provide regardless of false feelings of inadequacy. While imposter syndrome can be a part of developing a professional identity, it doesn’t have to be. Don’t make perfection the goal – make your mission to exemplify positivity instead. 

Allow yourself to feel but never dwell, and surround yourself with a community of people who lift you up. After adopting a positive mindset and being kinder to yourself and your path in life, the world may start to feel like you belong in it after all. 

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