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Imposter Syndrome: What It Is and How to Overcome It.

Imposter Syndrome: What It Is and How to Overcome It.

December 09, 2022

taylor picture

By: Taylor Ford

 

 

This topic comes right from the heart. I battle the doubts, questions, and fears of imposter syndrome every day. However, the more I open up and talk about it, the more I realize I’m not alone. Over 25% of high achievers potentially suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

Today, modern men are asked expected to succeed in a world filled with illusions and unrealistic expectations. Social media’s cherry-picked highlight reel of the “perfect man” can leave the rest of us feeling, well, less than perfect. Keeping up with the Jones’ is no longer local, but now global. And it’s 24/7.

The modern perception of success and the competitive landscape has changed dramatically.

Good husband. Good father. Good colleague. Good coach.

We juggle so many crucial roles, while simultaneously judging ourselves on the competence of each in a vacuum. It’s easy to feel like you’re losing. It’s not fair, it’s not healthy, and it’s time we address this thing that a lot of us are battling: imposter syndrome.

 imposter syndrome, man standing in front of techy background.

WHAT IS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?

Merriam-Webster defines it as a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success.

Also known as perceived fraudulence, there is a gap between how you see yourself and how others perceive you.

It’s a difficult balance, as successful people often get there by being critical and honest with themselves.

 

WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?

  • You have a chip on your shoulder.
  • You question your worth.
  • You lack confidence.
  • You have unrealistic expectations.
  • You fear others will figure out your weaknesses.

 

THE 5 TYPES

Dr. Valerie Young at the Imposter Syndrome Institute organized the different types into 5 categories.

Perfectionist:

  • Focuses on the “how” something is done. Often overlooks the victories while emphasizing the rare defeats.

Expert:

  • Focuses on the “what” and “how much” you know. Expects to know everything and anything less is failing.

Soloist:

  • Focuses on the “who” and self-achievement, asking for help would be failing.

Natural genius:

  • Focuses on the “how” and “when”. They think anything that is not easy and fast means failure.

Superhuman:

  • Focuses on “how many”. You know the type, that insist on being everything to everyone.

 

WHAT CAUSES IT?

  • The Past:
    • Your childhood was filled with overprotective or controlling parents.
    • High pressure environment in school or at home.
    • Alternatively, some who breeze through school in the early years develop imposter syndrome later in life when they experience struggling or failing for the first time.
  • The Now:
    • AKA “The New.” The new job, new career, or maybe you’re a new dad.

 

MY EXPERIENCE

They say that imposter syndrome usually manifests in perfectionists, and that’s absolutely true in my case. From the list above, I’m a people pleaser. I’m on a mission to be everything to everyone. Anything less is failure.

I grew up in the perfect small town in the mid-west, picture Leave it to Beaver. I was the polite, rule abiding, “yes ma’am”, “please & thank you”, clean-cut kid who (to my surprise) ended up being homecoming king. From those formative years of my life, I was determined to never let people down and never crack that image they had of me. Inside, I was brutally hard on myself, unconfident, and striving to live up to this image others had of me.

Flash forward to my mid 20’s: I’m a newly licensed financial advisor attempting to confidently assure folks two to three times my age that I’m the right guy to trust their life savings and retirement plans with. Pair that with the cut-throat world of Wall Street and the carousel of new guys like me coming and failing daily. I didn’t know what imposter syndrome was back then, but I’m pretty sure the anxiety and panic attacks were a direct result.

The world-famous Olympic Sprinter Michael Johnson talked about pressure being nothing more than the shadow of great opportunity. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way, and I did.

I’ve written about how stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that most of the things we stress about are blessings we’ve previously dreamed of having. With that being said, the pressure to perform combined with being important to so many people can be a heavy weight to carry.

 

HOW TO OVERCOME IT?

Unfortunately, the personality traits that lead to imposter syndrome don’t lend well to encouraging positive self-talk or patience. The last thing you should do to cope is isolate or self-sabotage. Coping with drugs or alcohol is a vicious cycle that could elevate your anxiety. Imposter syndrome is real, but with the right approach you can make your mindset your advantage:

  • Set reasonable expectations.
  • Be constructive and critical, then move on. Don’t dwell.
  • When you win, call it what it is…a W. Save it, and the others you will collect, because they are statistical proof that you are a bad ass the next time the doubts try creeping in.
  • If you’re visual, write down your wins every day on a sticky note or journal.

CONCLUSION

Earlier I said that imposter syndrome is the gap between how you see yourself and how others perceive you. Ask a friend or a therapist, most likely they will confirm that you are being too hard on yourself and need to clean up that distorted mirror you have been seeing yourself through.

I’m working on cleaning mine too, it’s a process. I’d love to hear your thoughts below, which of the 5 types above are you?




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