Imposter Syndrome

If you play the game Among Us, I am sure you are familiar with the term imposter. If not, imposter refers to a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain. Now, what is the Imposter Syndrome? How does it occur? Does it have anything to do with the game Among Us? Well sorry to disappoint but it has no relation to that game but imposter syndrome does refer to a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. This is 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 imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.

But why does this happen? It can be due to various reasons that can be caused by both nature and nurture. This usually occurs during the developmental stage where a child has parents who flipped back and forth between offering praise and being critical. Studies have revealed that children often praised as being the “smart one”, “beautiful one”, “intelligent one”, “good one” and so on tend to attribute their success to their beauty or intelligence or goodness. This throws their self assessment out of balance, meaning that when such children are exposed to problems which require more skills than the current skill sets they possess, instead of assessing the problem as being difficult, they tend to internalize their failure, often stating believing that they probably are not as smart or beautiful or good as they have been praised to be. The result being that they are not able to solve simple problems as they have lost faith in themselves. It turns out that encouraging sentences like “you are better than this” or “I know you can do better” or “You are really intelligent” and so on tend to cause more harm than good.

Overcoming imposter syndrome involves changing a person's mindset about their own abilities. Imposters feel like they don’t belong, so acknowledging their expertise and accomplishments is key, as is reminding themselves that they earned their place in their academic or professional environment. They perpetuate this excessive pressure because they believe that without the discipline they won't succeed and, instead of rewarding themselves, they only worry about the next task ahead. This cycle can be hard to break, but part of doing so involves reminders that no one is perfect and that a person can only do their personal best. Imposter syndrome can stifle the potential for growth and meaning, by preventing people from pursuing new opportunities for growth at work, in relationships, or around their hobbies. Confronting imposter syndrome can help people continue to grow and thrive which is crucial to maintain their mental as well as physical health.