Imposter syndrome: The cycle and how to overcome it

Kayley Hardiman

Imposter syndrome is something we have all heard of but probably don’t know much about.

Imposter syndrome is a social anxiety disorder and the term was first given a name in the 1970s. Put simply, an individual who experiences this will suffer from feelings of inadequacy and believe that they are not as worthy or as good at something as others. It can affect anyone whatever their social status, skill level, age, etc.

The symptoms of imposter syndrome are self-doubt, overachieving, sabotaging your own success, fear of not living up to expectations and setting extremely high goals. Although it is not a recognised disorder it is very common and around 70 per cent of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome throughout their life.

No one is more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome than another person but certain factors can contribute to it, particularly a new change in someone’s life such as starting college or a new job, having a baby etc.

To stop imposter syndrome, it is essential for the person suffering from it to be self-critical and reflect on their behaviour and attitude. They should ask themselves questions like “what core beliefs do I hold about myself?”, “do I feel I deserve love as I am?” and “do I need to be perfect to get others’ approval?”

We know that certain factors can contribute to the more general experience of imposter syndrome. We also know that entering a new role can trigger impostor syndrome. For example, starting college or university might leave you feeling as though you don’t belong and are not capable.

There are many things that people can do to stop themselves experiencing imposter syndrome such as talking to others about how they are feeling. This will lift the burden on you and you will feel less alone after talking to someone you trust.

Reduce your time spent on social media and stop comparing yourself to others. It’s easy to fall into a never-ending cycle of this when you just look at other people’s successes. Make sure to take stock of your own achievements, both big and small and allow yourself time to be proud of what you have done.

It’s important to question whether your thoughts are rational or not and to practice self-care. Take time out to exercise and meditate when under stress. It is also important to relax and continue to enjoy your hobbies and interests.

Kayley Hardiman 

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