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Unmasking Impostor Syndrome: When Enough Is Never Enough


Woman hiding behind a leaf

Impostor syndrome can be a relentless foe. The drive to achieve more and the pervasive anxiety often outweigh any positive impact and the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud leads to perpetual over-preparation to maintain a sense of competence. 

Understanding Triggers Behind Impostor Syndrome

Overcoming this phenomenon requires a journey towards self-appreciation, a task challenged by deeply ingrained beliefs, persisting despite evidence of achievement.

But what is triggering the problem?

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionism and impostor syndrome are best friends. The perfectionist sets very high goals, and when failed, the experience is devastating. Perfectionists are addicted to control and believe that if they want something done right, they feel they have to do it themselves. 

Moreover, no matter how well they perform, after a brief moment of inner satisfaction, they go back to trusting they should've done better. 

2. The Superhero

Superheroes push themselves to perform harder and harder to come to terms with the constant sense of inadequacy and maintain the external image to feel adequate. The result is a continuous tension, harming their mental health and relationships. Superheroes feel they never earn their positions, and no matter their achievements, they feel endlessly pressed to work harder to hide their inadequacies from the world.


superhero

I still have a little imposter syndrome.

It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously.

Michelle Obama


3. The Natural Genius

The natural genius sets his standards high, their competencies can never be enough, and when they don't master something, they feel a deep sense of shame. Their expectation isn't just based on the result, it is also to be achieved on the first try. When they cannot overcome their own expectations, natural geniuses feel their own blame, become highly judgemental and angry with themselves.

4. The Soloist

Soloists believe no team could ever meet their expectations. They tend to be loners and see collaboration as a sign of weakness unless the assistance somehow enhances their worth. The soloist feels intense fear toward any form of connection; the underlying belief is that if they let someone close enough, they will be unmasked as frauds.

5. The Expert

The expert internal process is similar to the soloist's; experts estimate their worth based on "what" and "how much" they know, have, or can do. Experts realise they will never match their own expectations and their biggest fear is having their limits exposed.


self-love corner

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.


Healing Impostor Syndrome: a Path to Self-Assurance

Debilitating as it may be, overcoming impostor syndrome is possible. The authentic self trapped within the syndrome can be freed through a transformative journey demanding self-reflection and intentional steps. Here's a roadmap to help you overcome the shadows of self-doubt:

1. Acknowledge and understand your internal world

Face the feelings head-on. Recognise when impostor syndrome surfaces and delve into understanding its roots. Identifying triggers and patterns is the first step towards overcoming them.

2. Challenge negative thoughts

Identify and actively challenge self-defeating thoughts. Begin to work on a more positive mindset by focusing on your strengths rather than fixating on perceived shortcomings.

3. Set realistic goals

Break down overwhelming tasks into smaller, achievable goals to contribute to building confidence over time. Celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how small.

4. Embrace constructive feedback

Shift your perspective on feedback and see it as a valuable tool for growth. Learn to distinguish between constructive criticism and baseless self-critique.

5. Share your feelings

Speak openly with trusted friends or colleagues about your struggles. Sharing your thoughts provides an external perspective and challenge your distorted self-perception.


Be yourself. Women doing yoga at the beach

Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales.

Be your own narrator. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.

Shonda Rhimes


6. Accept imperfection

Embrace that perfection is unattainable; making mistakes is a natural part of growth. Allow yourself room for imperfection without attaching your self-worth to it.

7. Positive visualisation

Picture yourself confidently being just you, free from the rigid image projected from unrealistic expectations. Visualisation can help rewire your mind towards a more optimistic outlook.

8. Seek professional support

Consider seeking professional support to learn tools and strategies to address deep-ingrained insecurities and help you with the emotional aspects of impostor syndrome.

Final Thoughts

Do yourself and others a favour, and let them know how perfect your imperfections are.

Learn to appreciate your accomplishments, enjoy the feeling, and congratulate yourself. It's OK not to achieve what you hoped for; there is always room for improvement.  

When unpleasant feelings rule your day for too long, it’s time to reach out to someone you trust. Contact a helpline, a support group, or a professional. Your GP or a counsellor can make a difference in your wellbeing. 


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