Impostor Syndrome – what is it?


The impostor syndrome, also known as the fraud syndrome, is a disorder that is associated with successful people or high-achievers who find it hard to accept that their achievements and successes are as a result of their hard work.

This inability to accept their own capabilities is also shadowed by a strong fear of being exposed for the frauds they perceive themselves to be and as such, people who suffer from the impostor syndrome tend to work harder than everyone else in a bid to cover up their make-believe insuffiency.

Why do people suffer from the impostor syndrome?

First of all, the impostor syndrome often comes as a reaction to certain situations and stimuli. While it is not directly linked to mental issues, psychological research has described the condition as an in-born personality trait that often manifests itself in certain situations.

People suffering from impostor syndrome will attribute their successes and achievements to luck, timing, deception, and literally anything else that comes to mind so long as it does not credit their efforts as the reason for their success. In fact, when presented with this information, individuals suffering from the impostor syndrome will probably deny it. 

The problem is more prominent among successful women or at least it appears that way since most men will not open up easily about their insecurities. However, notable male cases include Tom Hanks and Neil Gaiman. The latter has spoken about the condition previously. He describes it as a feeling that you are getting away with something, especially when it comes to your successes. Seth Godin is an accomplished writer with numerous bestsellers under his name. However, he wrote in The Icarus Deception that despite his blatant success, he cannot shake off the feeling that he is somehow a fraud. 

So how does one rid himself/herself of this crippling mentality that is quite often a symptom of self-doubt and low self-esteem? Here are four effective ways to overcome the impostor syndrome.

1. Accept that you’re not perfect

The impostor syndrome is often associated to inflated feelings of self-importance. While it is not wrong to feel good about yourself, toning down the feelings of self-importance will help you learn how to accept failure better. 

2. Credit your efforts as much as possible

Learning how to internalise your successes might not be the easiest thing if you happen to suffer from the impostor syndrome. However, you need to credit your efforts for getting you as far as you are right now. Take a look back at how far you have come. Not everyone would have accepted the same opportunities you were given in the same way. As such, your success is entirely based on how much hard work you put into becoming the person you are today. 

3. Don’t compare yourself to others

As hard as it may seem, it is pointless to compare your successes to those of others, unless you are doing a critical self-evaluation in a bid to upgrade yourself. It is easy to conclude that your level of achievement is less worthy or that your life just does not live up to that of others. Keep in mind that everyone is born with a unique set of skills and a different outlook on life. Embrace being yourself.

4. You are allowed to be wrong

Missing the mark every once in a while (or even more than once in a while) is completely allowed—it does not make you a fraud. Read about the greatest people in every field and you will find that they all share one thing in common: they have all failed at some point in their lives. Don’t let failure get to you. No one is built to be flawless. 

The list of people suffering from imposter syndrome is full of high profile names from all over the world, most of whom are recognised over-achievers or extremely successful and iconic individuals. Despite the fact that their success stems from their hard work, they often consider themselves frauds and question other people’s beliefs in their abilities. Keep this in mind every time you feel like you are just not doing enough, despite your successes. 

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