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Think back to when you were tested. There may have been times when you studied all night and entered the exam room, tired and nervous. Maybe you were intimidated by the first question you saw. To your amazement, you did incredibly well. However, instead of acknowledging your effort — you chose to be hard on yourself for not doing better. While improving your skillset and perfecting your craft isn't a bad thing, believing you haven't earned it can be detrimental to your progress. The doubts causing you to question your self-worth are called "impostor syndrome."
According to PsychologyToday.com, people with impostor syndrome struggle with self-efficacy, perfectionism, and neuroticism. The article goes on to say that impostor syndrome could come from personality traits. On the other hand, a piece on TIME.com, suggests some experts believe it stems from childhood memories, like if your parents were never satisfied with your grades.
People struggling with impostor syndrome belittle themselves and their achievements because they attribute their success to luck instead of their talent, intelligence, or work ethic. You could be the only one in your class to secure a job in your field and still feel like you didn't earn it or don't belong. You might even think it's only a matter of time before everyone realizes they made a mistake when they hired you.
Types of impostors
Here are some brief descriptions of the five types of "impostors" listed on TheScienceOfPeople.com:
1. The Perfectionist can't tell when the job is done because they're obsessing over minor details instead of finishing it. They have very high standards for themselves, which at times may not be possible to accomplish.
2. The Natural Genius believes they should know and grasp everything they're taught immediately. They get frustrated easily and believe everyone else is finding a way to succeed while they continue to struggle and fail.
3. The Expert believes they must always be perfect because there's always someone better. They try to learn as much as they can and are constantly trying to better themselves because they never think they are enough.
4. The Rugged Individualist believes they can do everything alone and don't believe in asking for help because they see it as a sign of weakness.
5. The Superwoman/Man will take on more responsibility than they should because they can't say no. They tend to work harder than their colleagues and put work before their personal lives.
An editorial on BetterHelp.com lists some in-depth strategies you can use to take control of your thoughts:
1: Avoid the Comparison Game: It may seem like others are reaching their goals effortlessly while you must give your all to achieve yours. If you always compare yourself to others, it's going to be hard to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments. Always remember, you don't know what others have done or been through to get where they are today.
2: Appreciate Constructive Criticism: If you struggle with impostor syndrome it may be difficult to hear you have things to work on. Instead of feeling offended or retreating within yourself, practice active listening. Don't take it personally. Everyone has areas that could be improved, and it will only make you better.
3: Change How You Define Failure: If you succeeded at everything the first time you tried it, how would you motivate or challenge yourself? Failure is part of life. It is through failure we learn where we can improve. Appreciate your failures. The lessons you learn will push you to work harder to reach your goals.
4: Document Your Success: When your colleagues, family or friends recognize your accomplishments, it can be difficult to accept the praise. Learning to appreciate compliments instead of deflecting them can help you recognize how hard you worked to get there. When you're struggling, it may help to look back on what others have said about you. You could also write notes to remind yourself of your small accomplishments throughout the day to look back on.
5: Seek Counselling: Putting yourself down and believing you're an impostor can really affect your mental health. If you're finding it difficult to cope, you may want to consider speaking to a licensed therapist. They can help you figure out where your issues are coming from and develop a plan to handle them.
Before you can address a problem, you'll have to acknowledge and accept that a problem exists. From recognizing how impostor syndrome affects your thoughts to confiding in friends and mentors, there are various tools you can use and approaches you can take to changing the way you think.
Impostor syndrome doesn't target a specific race or gender. It can affect anyone at any time. It won't be easy to change the way you think, but as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said, "Our life is what our thoughts make it."
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