Imposter Syndrome: What is it?
Imposter syndrome definitions started as early as the 1970s. It is continuing to be an issue for many people, especially women. You may have imposter syndrome if you think you are unable to do something because it has already been done, or if you do people will call you fake. The fear of people thinking you copied someone because you couldn’t do it yourself could cause you to pull back. Imposter syndrome is limiting and negative.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Simply put, imposter syndrome is feeling as though you are phony or a copycat in regard to something in your life. It is a thought process that makes you feel as though you are not as qualified as others may believe. When you have a mindset of imposter syndrome, you tend to think that you are a fraud. You become anxious about how embarrassing it would be to fail.
This thought process is common in a wide variety of people. It was once thought to only affect women who were highly ambitious with strong goals. Now it has become common in all walks of life. There are different attributes and risk factors used when defining imposter syndrome. Even though this affects many people and is labeled as a syndrome, it is technically not a mental disorder.
What Are the Common Symptoms?
There are several common symptoms that could indicate that you are suffering from imposter syndrome.
Trouble assessing your own qualifications.
When it comes to assessing your own skills and qualifications you may be unable to fully promote yourself as being qualified. You compare yourself to the ability of others and feel as though you just don’t measure up. When it comes to spiritual giftings many people believe they cannot do as well as others.
“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11, NASB
God’s Word does not back this thought process. He designed each of us for a purpose and calling.
Believing that the success was due to something external.
A person who attributes their success to something other than themselves they are believing that the external factor created the success. He or she may feel that his or her success comes from someone making a mistake. It’s as if he or she could not have possibly done anything to attribute to his or her success.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10, NASB
Learning to overcome this thought process depends on learning to know that you were created with precision and ability.
Self-doubt and negative self-talk.
This symptom manifests when a person is given a compliment and he or she just can’t accept that other means it honestly. The person truly believes that the compliments are just because the other person was being nice and not because they earned the recognition.
Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3, NASB
It is okay to accept compliments for a job well done. God wants us to do our jobs well.
Only applying for jobs that you know you meet all requirements.
When it comes to looking for a job, a person with imposter syndrome will only apply for those for which he or she has met all the requirements. This can be detrimental to a healthy career. When you think you must meet all the requirements you are limiting yourself to learning something new.
May the kindness of the Lord our God be upon us; and confirm for us the work of our hands; yes, confirm the work of our hands. – Psalm 90:17, NASB
Not everyone will have all the requirements needed for every job he or she would like to perform. This is okay because God will confirm the work He has given us to do.
Constant comparison to others.
Women are especially prone to this symptom. In a world where beauty is the definition of success women find it hard not to compare themselves to other women. They fall into the trap of not believing that they are just as beautiful and intelligent as other women.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7, NASB
God designed each woman with unique and special abilities. He defines based on the heart, not the appearance.
Engaging in self-sabotage.
We seem to think that failing is easier to handle if there is an external reason. An example of this may be when a person knows he or she has a big presentation but he or she chooses to procrastinate. This causes him or her to not complete the presentation at his or her best level. When he or she is questioned, he or she may reply about not being given enough time.
Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord and not for people. – Colossians 3:23, NASB
God only wants us to do our best at everything we pursue. We can focus on serving him rather than impressing others.
Always seeking to do more.
As contrary as it may sound, people who are experiencing imposter syndrome feel the need to continue to do more. They want to gain more and more so that they will be found acceptable by others. Most of the time they will hold themselves to an unattainable standard.
Unless the LORD builds a house, they who build it labor in vain; unless the LORD guards a city, the watchman stays awake in vain. – Psalm 127:1, NASB
God asks that we follow His will for our lives and not try to create a different pathway to follow.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
The causes of imposter syndrome vary from person to person. The list is continually growing when it comes to understanding what makes a person susceptible to imposter syndrome. Although it seems that women tend to be affected by imposter syndrome more than men, the number of men struggling with imposter syndrome is becoming higher.
Most common factors that are noted as causes of imposter syndrome are:
- Comparing self
- Dysfunctional dynamics within a family
- Certain personality traits
- A person’s cultural upbringing
The five types of imposter syndrome.
Many symptoms have been associated in defining imposter syndrome. These symptoms have been grouped together to create five types of imposter syndrome. Each type has a different thought process and attributes.
1. The Soloist: This is the sufferer who has the mindset that if he or she cannot achieve it alone then he or she feels fake. He or she does not think to ask for help.
2. The Perfectionist: This type is one of the most mentioned types of imposter syndrome. A perfectionist will set extremely high goals and experience anxiety when those goals cannot be attained. Perfectionists like to maintain control.
3. The Expert: This type remains focused on how much he or she knows. If he or she has little knowledge in an area, then he or she feels like a failure.
4. The Superman/Superwoman: This type of person with imposter syndrome truly believes that he or she is a fraud when compared to other people who do the same thing. This causes him or her to become an overachiever. These people are focused on work which affects home life dramatically.
5. The Natural Genius: For this person, success is based on whether or not he or she is smart. He or she has set the bar high but add in the factor of being right the first time. There are no do-overs, and if he or she cannot get it right, anxiety sets in.
The good news is there is a way to overcome imposter syndrome. You don’t have to go through life feeling like you are a fake and a failure. We all have giftings and skill sets that have been integrated in who we are as people. God specifically made musicians, painters, builders, and writers. Any one of these is no less important than any other.
The first step of defining imposter syndrome is to evaluate yourself and determine if any of these issues are present and causing anxiety or depression. Looking for behaviors that cause problems within your home life will help you identify symptoms, attributes, types and treatment. If you feel that you need help identifying imposter syndrome in your behavior, reach out to a Christian counselor for encouragement and perspective.
“Pensive Woman”, Courtesy of Motoki Tonn, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Writing”, Courtesy of Green Chameleon, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Reading Material”, Courtesy of DNK.PHOTO, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The View from the Door”, Courtesy of Jams Garcia, Unsplash.com, CC0 License