Impostor Syndrome: The Fear of Being Found Out and 7 Ways to Overcome It

I don’t belong. I don’t fit in.

I’m a phony.

Am I really a man?

Do these words sound familiar? Have you ever felt like a fake? “Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, gave it a name in 1978: the impostor syndrome. They described it as a feeling of ‘phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.'”

Impostor Syndrome

You Are Not Alone…researchers believe that up to 70% of people have suffered from it [impostor syndrome] at some point.”

At my birthday dinner recently, everyone went around the room saying all of these extremely nice things about me. I soon said, “Can we stop with the toasting and get to the roasting?” Maybe I’m used to fratire culture. Perhaps the bullying in high school became my new norm. But, I’ve found it easier being poked fun at than getting compliments.  

I remember a group leader pointing out that I cowered instead of beamed when I received words of affirmation. And isn’t that interesting? My top love language IS words of affirmation…and yet I can’t outwardly accept them.

Caltech Counseling claims there are “three subcategories” that define the impostor syndrome:

1.  Feeling like a fake

2.  Attributing success to luck

3.  Discounting Success

In some sense, I’m keenly aware of my impostor syndrome. I’m worried I won’t achieve anything without it because it’s the fuel that keeps my success fire burning. But, other times, it feels like poison instead of fuel.

Here are some of the ways impostor syndrome manifests itself according to the two psychologists who identified it:

  1. Diligence and hard work: do you find yourself going over and beyond, striving to prove your worth? But no matter how much you do, you still feel like you come up short.
  2. Intellectual inauthenticity: do you compromise your intelligence or your beliefs in an attempt to gain favor with a professor, superior, or group of people? Do you say you believe one thing when you really believe another?
  3. Winning approval from others: is your worth measured by who likes you and who doesn’t? Do you believe getting approval from others will mean you are worthy?
  4. Avoiding success: do you believe achieving success and getting recognition will expose your shortcomings? Do you avoid the limelight and promotion?

The authors of the original article believed this trait is inherited from family, and I can see some of this in my own parents. My mom told everyone at my birthday dinner that I’m a self-made man, and I noticed she couldn’t accept some of the compliments I was throwing her way. My dad is similar, and overworks himself 6 days a week.

In 10 Ways To Win A Girl’s Heart, I talk about finding success from knowing your identity. “When you know who you are, you’ll do the things that fulfill you,” I wrote. “You won’t waste time doing anything else.”

Impostor phenomenon

However, I constantly have to revisit this ethos because I’m the King of Comparison. I look at what others are doing, and immediately think I’m a failure. But when it comes down to it, comparison is not fuel…it is poison.

If you’ve had enough of the impostor syndrome. Here are 7 simple things you can do to eliminate this fear from your life:

  1. Stop comparing
  2. Accept a compliment…don’t be awkward or nervous or deflect
  3. Remind yourself what God promised
  4. Surrender and find peace with yourself
  5. Give yourself some credit instead of expecting it from others
  6. Try new things
  7. Allow people you respect to speak into your life

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