Impostor Syndrome: What It Is, Who Gets It, How To Deal With it

Published December 10th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Erik Rivera
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera
Updated Date: Jun 14th, 2022

What is imposter syndrome | Symptoms | Different types | Development of Imposter Syndrome | Treatment | Prevention

Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that affects people who are unable to internalize their accomplishments.

It has been found that imposter syndrome can have negative consequences for those who have it as well as the people around them by having feelings of inadequacy and irrational beliefs about themselves.

This article will answer your questions about imposter syndrome, including what impostor syndrome is, how you develop impostor syndrome, and more.

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor phenomenon is a syndrome in which people doubt their accomplishments and feel like they are impostors, despite evidence to the contrary.

People with impostor syndrome often feel like they are not smart or talented enough, and that they will be exposed as frauds at any moment.

They may also fear being rejected or ridiculed by others.

It is natural to feel like you don't deserve what you have, or that someone else could do your job better than you but impostor syndrome goes well beyond these feelings of occasional insecurity.

People with impostor syndrome are convinced they're frauds and are just waiting to be "found out."

They worry about being exposed as a "fake" at any moment, despite evidence of their success, based on either an external judgment or their own high standards.

It's worth noting that impostor syndrome isn't the same thing as low self-esteem; it's more accurate to say imposter syndrome sufferers have overly high expectations for themselves which can lead them to question their competence even when they've done well in the past.

What are the symptoms of impostor syndrome?

People with impostor feelings often experience symptoms like chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

They may also feel tired all the time or become easily overwhelmed at work or in social situations.

It can be hard to recognize because impostor symptoms are not always obvious when someone is struggling; many people who suffer from impostor syndrome try their best to cover up their feelings and appear confident which does not accurately portray their mental health or impostor beliefs.

What are the different types of impostor syndrome?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to impostor syndrome because it can manifest in many different ways.

Some people with imposter syndrome may feel like they're faking it all the time, while others may only have the experience of feeling imposter syndrome in certain areas of their lives (e.g., work but not personal relationships).

There are also different types of impostor syndrome based on your race, occupation, or gender differences.

For example, the prevalence of impostor syndrome is more likely in women and people of color because you feel like you're not supposed to be where you are because of your skin color or gender.

That being said there are 5 main types of impostor syndrome as decribed by Dr. Valerie Young and they are:

Perfectionist

People with this form of impostor syndrome are never satisfied with their work, no matter how much they achieve.

They always feel like they could do better and fear others will find out that they're not as perfect as they seem.

Perfection can not always be attained and impostor syndrome sufferers make this worse by setting impossibly high standards.

Natural genius

These people have easily learned new things throughout their life so when they do not pick up on something instantly they deem themselves a failure even though they are naturally very smart people.

They feel as though they must have a natural ability to do well and have academic succes and blame themselves for any lack of success, even when that's not the case. 

Soloist

Soloists believe that they don't need anyone else and can do everything themselves. They have fraudulent feelings if they need help and are very independent.

They often have a hard time delegating tasks and often do not accept help even if it is needed.

Expert

If you suffer from expert impostor syndrome you voraciously learn everything about all subjects you are interested in.

If you do not know anything about one of the subjects then feel like a fraud. People who suffer from this will often get off track with their main goal due to their want to know everything about their subject of choice.

Superhero

If you have superhero impostor syndrome you want to excel at every single role you encounter. You want to be the best brother, son, student, employee, teammate, etc., and will expend lots of energy to prove it.

Even giving maximum effort, if something goes wrong you think there is more you could have done.

Who typically gets impostor syndrome?

While anyone can experience imposter syndrome, there are certain groups of people who are more likely to suffer from it. Women, especially high-achieving women, and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by imposter syndrome, as are people in high-stress or competitive environments. LGBTQIA+ people and those with disabilities are also more likely to experience imposter syndrome.

How do you develop impostor syndrome?

There is no one answer to this question, as imposter syndrome can be caused by a variety of factors. Some people may develop imposter syndrome due to perfectionism or an inability to accept compliments.

Others may have experienced a traumatic event, such as the loss of a job, which causes imposter syndrome.

Your upbringing may also play a role in whether or not you experience imposter syndrome as you may have experienced intense pressure from your parents or others.

Personality traits are also a factor, as impostor syndrome can be more likely to develop if you are highly introverted or detail-oriented.

Your current mental state must also be accounted for as imposter syndrome can be a symptom of anxiety or depression.

Lastly, if you are in a new role imposter syndrome may develop due to a lack of confidence in your abilities.

What are some ways to treat impostor syndrome?

Treatment of impostor syndrome is not an official diagnosis or condition, there are no specific treatments for it.

However, many people have found success with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness meditation, learning about impostor syndrome, and talking to someone.

Mindfulness meditation can help impostor syndrome sufferers become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, allowing them to catch imposter thoughts before they cause damage.

CBT allows people with imposter syndrome to change the way they think about themselves and others, as well as alter any negative thought patterns that may exist.

Learning about impostor syndrome and impostor thoughts can allow imposter syndrome sufferers to see that many other people have similar experiences so they are not alone in their struggle.

Lastly, talk to someone about your imposter syndrome experiences, whether it's a friend, family member, therapist, or imposter syndrome support group.

This can help you to feel less alone and may even provide some relief from your symptoms.

What are some ways to prevent impostor syndrome?

The best way to treat imposter syndrome is by preventing it from occurring at all, but this may be difficult for those who already experience imposter syndrome and is not always possible.

If you are in a high-stress or competitive environment, try to take some time for yourself each day to relax and de-stress.

Make sure you get enough sleep and eat a balanced diet so you have the energy to tackle your challenges.

Avoid comparing yourself to others, as this will only lead to negative thoughts. Give yourself credit for your accomplishments, no matter how small.

Remember that imposter syndrome can happen to anyone so there is nothing wrong with you if you experience impostor thoughts or feelings.

Summary

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people feel like imposters in their roles, fields, or workplaces.

Imposter syndrome thought patterns can develop for many reasons such as perfectionism or an inability to accept compliments.

It can also be caused by a traumatic event, such as the loss of a job, and can be a symptom of anxiety or depression.

Imposter syndrome is more likely to develop if you are highly introverted or detail-oriented. People who suffer from impostor syndrome are also more likely to be women and minorities, LGBTQIA+ individuals, those with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups. Your current mental state must also be accounted for as imposter syndrome can be a symptom of anxiety or depression.

To treat imposter syndrome, you can learn about impostor syndrome to see that many other people have similar experiences so you are not alone in your struggle as well as talking to others about it.

There is no sure way to prevent imposter syndrome, but you can help prevent it by taking some time for yourself each day to relax and de-stress as well as avoiding comparing yourself to others and giving yourself credit for your accomplishments, no matter how small. Remember that imposter syndrome can happen to anyone so there is nothing wrong with you if you experience impostor thoughts or feelings.

Reference and Sources:

apa.org

psychologytoday.com

psycnet.apa.org

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

so06.tci-thaijo.org

en.wiktionary.org

Published December 10th, 2021 by Chris Riley
Fact Checked by
Erik Rivera
Medically Reviewed:
Dr. Angel Rivera
Updated Date: Jun 14th, 2022

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