Amongst people who love fame and praise for someone else’s accomplishments, there are a few handful who feel that their accomplishments and success don’t belong to them and attribute it to luck, faulty judgement and time instead of lauding themselves for the achievement. They even call themselves as fake. These are clear indications of ‘imposter syndrome’ which can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that remain within an individual even after reaching the success pedestal, prevalent more among highly successful women. For instance, Golden Globe winner and actor of the one of the highest grossing movies of all times ‘Titanic’, Kate Winslet once commented that ‘Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.”
Highly successful people in the cine field, academia, teaching and social sciences behind their success veil feel that they are complete frauds and the days are not far away where they would be exposed to the world as an imposter. This is not only prevalent among celebrities and successful people but more than 50% of individuals in this world experience this syndrome in their lifetime-when you have fared in the entrance test with flying colors, closed a million-dollar deal, landed on an exceptional job or received a double promotion.
Roots of the Syndrome
Few psychologists believe that imposter syndrome is deep-rooted in childhood experiences. Some families brand one child as ‘smart’ and the other child as ‘sensitive’. Sibling rivalry too sometimes creates this syndrome. Sometimes, the person distrusts the family’s perceptions of their talent and start doubting themselves.
Some of the common feelings and views associated with imposter syndrome include:
I pray not to fail: Just because some individuals don’t think their success is well-deserved, they are under constant pressure not to fail as otherwise they feel that their lack of talent will be found out.
I think I am a fake: Imposters always believe that they don’t deserve any accolades as the public have been deceived into thinking that they are smart and great. They feel that they have projected themselves more capable than what they are actually and always remain anxious that someone has committed a crime by elevating them to successful positions.
Luck deserves to be credited: ‘I got lucky’ or ‘it was a fluke’ are typical sentences of a person under imposter syndrome as he/she is worried that they will not be able to succeed the next time.
Success is not a big deal: People who often attribute their success to good time, easy work and supportive staff are clearly under the influence of imposter syndrome.
Breaking the Ice
Analyze the root cause of the problem: Identifying what exactly is uprooting your confidence and putting you in a constant state of fear can help you bring down effects of the syndrome. A new challenge such as leading a high-level project or earning a new job, competing with your sibling who has been branded as the ‘smartest’ despite your equal grades and intellect or being labeled as the superior child in the family (parents praise the child even when the child faces difficulty achieving few things) might be the cause for your self-doubt.
Note down achievements: Maintain a book or journal listing down all your accomplishments and when in doubt look at this journal to clear away any misconceptions that you have imagined your success.
Be yourself: Learn to accept yourself with your flaws and be kind to yourself when things go wrong to increase overall well-being, happiness quotient and flexibility. Read more on well-being and ways to achieve the same at www.firsteatright.com.
Share your thoughts: Imposter syndrome is always accompanied by inadequacy despite the success ratio and many individuals with this syndrome share common thoughts and feelings. When you talk it out and share your feelings, you definitely will get better and feel good.
Rewrite rules: Rather than thinking that others will find out about your phony nature, try to understand that it is not possible for a person to know everything and you can learn as you progress.
Getting help is not a sin: It is not wrong to ask for assistance or get a few things cleared when in doubt. There is no rule that states that you need to do everything by yourself.
Learn from failures: Use your failures as stepping stones to success and use them constructively to achieve big in future.
Every person born in this world is gifted with different talents and abilities. Your success is hard-earned and you have every right to use an opportunity and succeed in an endeavor just like everybody else in this world. Instead of calling yourself an imposter or fake, work on things that need improvement, stay grounded, accept success, enjoy rewards and work harder to achieve much more greater things in life.
AVOID FRAUD. EAT SMART.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.