Impostor syndrome

Posted by Fed Finance in Our employment advice
Posted at 19/01/2023
Impostor syndrome

Have you ever heard of the Impostor Syndrome? This psychological phenomenon has a strong impact on the individual's life, namely in the professional area. Find out more about what it is and how to deal with this mental state that can trigger negative feelings with very harmful effects on health.

Not being classified as a mental illness, the Impostor Syndrome was identified by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance in 1978, who named it as a psychological phenomenon characterized by being a defense mechanism that every individual can go through at a certain time in their life, because of a certain set of circumstances.

Whether it is present in men or women, this type of syndrome is closely related to the feeling of not being good enough, of being inferior in relation to others, or of believing oneself to be a fraud in the performance of a function.

In professional terms, there seems to be a direct relationship between the appearance of this type of feeling and the performance of certain professions. Professionals in more competitive areas such as athletes, medical and health professionals, artists, public figures, or others who tend to be assessed and tested more frequently, seem to have a greater tendency to develop Impostor Syndrome. On the other hand, this syndrome can occur in any profession at a time of fragility or exposure, such as a promotion or the appearance of a new professional challenge.

The main symptoms of impostor syndrome?

Feelings such as low self-esteem, anxiety, fear, depression, and burnout situations are common in people who experience this type of problem.

We can say that it starts to be a more serious problem when the activities of daily life, start to be lived with great anxiety and represent a source of great suffering for the individual.

Be aware of the warning signs:

  • Over-effort. Since they think they are less capable than others, people with impostor syndrome often put themselves in situations of extreme effort leading to physical and mental exhaustion.
  • Self-sabotage. Because he/she always sees him/herself less capable than the others, the individual may choose not to make any effort so as not to expose his/her work to the judgement of third parties.
  • Fear of exposure. Exposure is always a moment of great tension. The moment of evaluation is often avoided as much as possible.
  • Procrastination. Putting off tasks and responsibilities until later is also a characteristic of people with this type of disorder since this is a way of postponing the moment of evaluation.
  • Inability to internalize praise. When praised, these individuals believe that they are cheating or that their achievement is a mere stroke of luck or a result of circumstances, never thinking that they really deserve a positive comment.
  • Overvaluing the other. The tendency to overestimate the qualities of the other person to the detriment of one's own abilities is common. Overly perfectionist, they are in constant comparison, thinking that others are always better.

This whole pattern of thinking leads to feelings of anxiety, which can even lead to more serious states of burnout and depression.

The famous case of Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States, has come out publicly to say that a certain moment in her life was also accompanied by feelings of insecurity and anxiety.

Black and daughter of a hydraulic fireman, in a country like the United States, Michelle Obama says that there were several circumstances that made her go through some more complicated phases, with feelings of vulnerability and many moments when she doubted being up to her capabilities.

In an interview where she speaks openly about how she was affected by Impostor Syndrome, she says that she learnt that "the worst criticism is the one that comes from ourselves and that we have to accept our fears and insecurities as something natural", without them becoming something that paralyses us and prevents us from giving the best of ourselves.

This valuable testimony helps us to understand how this is a problem that really cuts across society, but that can be overcome.

Beating Imposter Disorder

If you are going through a time of heightened anxiety, know that there are several strategies you can adopt to optimize your mental health.

  • Share what you are feeling with someone you trust.
  • Try to evaluate yourself while respecting your limitations.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others, being aware that everyone has limitations and insecurities.
  • Develop leisure activities that promote moments of physical and mental relaxation. 

Mental health is something valuable in our lives and nothing can replace it. Although we can, and should, adopt healthy lifestyles that promote good physical and mental health, sometimes it is essential to seek professional help from a psychologist or a mental health professional to overcome such problems. Remember that "nothing is more sacred than the integrity of your mind" (Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer, and philosopher). Find out about Fed Finance job offers in Finance and Accounting and continue to follow our job advice.