impostor syndrome is very real, here’s how to deal with it.
No matter how successful or confident you really are, there are days when your anxiety gets the best of you: You go through everything you said and did in the past and overthink the parts that went wrong; you're always wary of good news because you always feel like there's a catch; and no matter how hard you work, you never truly feel like you belong.These are all manifestations of impostor syndrome. And it’s something every career driven, 30-something woman should be mindful of.
What is impostor syndrome
According to a feature on Psychology Today, "The impostor syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with impostor syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have."
Examples would be chalking up success to external factors like luck or timing, and never feeling like you're good, or legit enough for something. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people who experience impostor syndrome are high achieving individuals like CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Why women feel impostor syndrome
While impostor syndrome is common among both men and women, the reasons (and manifestations) for each may vary. An example, according to one study, is that women tend to doubt themselves at work more than their male counterparts.
In support of this, CEO and entrepreneur Liz Elting writes on Forbes that it's because, “women often face accusations that we have only advanced or succeeded due to presumed 'preferential treatment' and that we don’t actually deserve or belong in the positions we’ve earned. It can be hard not to take those criticisms--and the additional barriers, work experience, and qualifications required of women–to heart, convincing us we don’t deserve what we have ourselves achieved.“
“Consciously or unconsciously women know they’re being judged by a different standard,” says expert topic and author Dr. Valerie Young in a feature on Cosmopolitan. Because of this, “Research shows that women and girls are more likely to internalize failure, mistakes, and criticism, and boys and men are more apt to externalise these things,” Young says. “In other words when a woman makes a mistake or does not perform well, for instance failing a test, she blames herself seeing it as proof of her supposed ineptness at a subject or task."
Social media and the rise of Perfectionism
It also doesn't help that we are now able to constantly compare ourselves to our peers on social media. And the more we see people accomplish so much, or worse, get something we want for ourselves, the more we question our daily habits and personal journeys. Unfortuantely, for perfections, this can have a very taxing effect on their mental health. As York St John University’s Hill says on BBC, “Working hard, being committed, diligent, and so on–these are all desirable features. But for a perfectionist, those are really a symptom, or a side product, of what perfectionism is. Perfectionism isn’t about high standards. It’s about unrealistic standards.
“Perfectionism isn’t a behavior. It’s a way of thinking about yourself.”
The feature even revealed that extreme perfectionistic tendencies could lead to depression and anxiety, self-harm, social anxiety disorder, binge eating, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, and more.
The five types of impostor syndrome
According to an article on the Muse, Dr. Valerie Young highlights five categories of impostor syndrome in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
Someone who always has to be in control and tends to overly focus on mistakes. Perfectionists often forget to celebrate small victories and always set unrealistic standards for themselves.
While they know their strong suits, one small mistake can often lead them to a spiral of self-doubt.
Someone who pushes herself too hard and equates success with productivity. They feel like they're not proving their worth when they're not doing something, and often tend to spread themselves too thin.
The Superwoman has trouble managing work-life balance, and tends to burn out frequently because of it.
The Natural Genius
The natural genius is someone who always got good grades without having to try too hard. This eventually became a problem because they are now easily frustrated when something doesn't come naturally like picking up a skill or learning a language.
Instead of exerting effort, the impostor syndrome can leave them feeling like they're not good enough solely because they need to try harder than usual.
The Rugged Individualist
Solosits who are so used to their independence that they see getting help from others as a sign of weakness.
The individualist tends to avoid letting her guard down, and sees herself as incompetent when unable to complete a task on her own.
Experts are the ones who tend to over-prepare for something in order to feel like they deserve their victory.
Because of constantly feeling like they have to prove themselves, the expert fears being seen as someone who tricked their way into success and always aims for impressive credentials and validation.
If you feel like you have impostor syndrome, here’s how to deal with it
Try these tips to gain more self-confidence and overcome your stress:
Learn to take a step back when you find yourself feeling lost.
When you're getting too lost in your own head, take a moment to breathe and take a mental step away from the situation. (It can even be physical, like staying home for a day or logging out your e-mail).
Adopt a second perspective.
If you often find yourself reacting negatively to a situation (like being passive agressive), try seeing it from a different perspective. Remember, not everything that goes wrong in your life is a personal attack. Instead, try to be flexible and learn to be quick on your feet.
Celebrate small successes.
Had a long day at work but only finished 70 percent of your work? That's okay! Treat yourself for a job well done and don't focus on the remaining 30. There's always tomorrow!
Remember that most people experience this at some point in their lives, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. Reach out to a friend, a colleague, or a family member, and don't shy away from constructive criticism.
While questioning yourself can be a tough mental and emotional journey, doing so is how you build character. For as long as you're not punishing yourself while learning from your mistakes, you're bound to outgrow these challenges and self-doubt. Get it, girl!