Imposter Syndrome: What it is and How it Can Affect You

This May, I’ll be graduating from college with a degree in finance with highest honors. Throughout all four years of school, I worked really hard and learned as much as I could about finance, but as the day for graduation approaches, I’m starting to feel fear that all of my grades might have been awarded to me by mistake. Yes, I studied for each exam, but the grades I received always felt unwarranted to me. It’s almost like I made it this far due to luck. In class, I always had a feeling that I didn’t belong there, that making it into college was because I squeezed through the cracks and ended up where I wasn’t supposed to be. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I can’t help but feel that all of this is due to me being at the right place at the right time.

Feeling chronic self-doubt about your success or believing it’s all due to luck instead of your hard work can both be associated with imposter syndrome. The phenomenon was first coined in 1978 by Suzanne A. Imes and Pauline R. Clance. It’s basically when someone feels that the success they’ve achieved is not deserved, making them feel like an “imposter”.

Experiencing self-doubt and associating your hard work with luck are just two examples of what imposter syndrome involves, but it goes much deeper than that. Rice Psychology Group believes that this issue can and should be addressed. Below, you’ll find my experience with it and other characteristics of this issue.

Reach out to our psychologists in Tampa today if you’re feeling at all like what we’ve described above.

My Experience

My personal experience with imposter syndrome goes back decades, but one of my most prominent memories is from the last week of my senior year of college. The phone rang and I was informed that I’d been invited for induction into Phi Beta Kappa, one of the country’s most prestigious academic honor societies for undergraduates studying liberal arts and sciences.

I was certain that my college had a quota to fill and that they’d dug deep for one more senior to invite. I didn’t think I’d earned my spot on my own merits. My journey with this syndrome continued as I embarked on my training to become a psychologist and then becoming licensed in two states.

For years, I would say, “I’m off to work to play psychologist now”, since it was so hard for me to believe that I was really qualified despite feedback from supervisors, progress made with patients and my reputation in the community! I’m pleased to say that two decades in, my symptoms are finally subsiding and I am coming into my own.

“It’s All Due to Luck”

People dealing with imposter syndrome sometimes associate the good they’ve done with luck. Click To Tweet

People dealing with imposter syndrome sometimes associate the good they’ve done with luck. They tend to pass off their achievements by saying things like, “Eh, I just got lucky. Anyone could’ve done it!” The truth is it takes a certain person who has training in a particular set of skills to accomplish specific tasks. It takes a lot of experience to master a set of skills, something that luck can’t always be attributed to.

“It’s Not That Big a Deal”

When accomplishing something difficult, people with imposter syndrome usually downplay it. Click To Tweet

When accomplishing something difficult, people with imposter syndrome usually downplay it. If a student manages to score an A in a difficult mathematics course that all other students struggled in, they might brush it off as not being a big deal. Sometimes, this can also be attributed to luck when in actuality, he/she has managed to do something impressive on their own.

“I Don’t Belong Here”

Feeling out of place is one of the main symptoms of imposter syndrome. Click To Tweet

Feeling out of place is one of the main symptoms of imposter syndrome. People feeling this way will often have a fear of being “discovered” of not belonging in the position they’re in. For example, if a man is given a promotion, he might worry that a supervisor will think that he lacks what it takes to perform his new responsibilities even though the skills he has are what caused him to get the promotion in the first place.

Dealing with Being an “Imposter”

Unless a person is actually masquerading as competent in their area of supposed expertise, imposter syndrome is not something one should have to contend with.  Imposter syndrome and low self-esteem can go hand-in-hand, and counseling is a powerful way to address this issue. Identifying when feelings of self-doubt emerge is one of the first ways to overcome them.

Feeling out of place is one of the main symptoms of imposter syndrome. Click To Tweet

Being aware that you’ve been rewarded for your hard work is another factor. Nobody is lucky all of the time. Realizing that luck might play a role but typically isn’t the primary reason for a person’s success can help. In psychology, we say that there are no coincidences and that things happen for a reason.Feeling out of place is one of the main symptoms of imposter syndrome.

If you are achieving success, take some credit for it since it’s likely you had a hand or fistfuls in earning it. Be sure to take pride in what you’ve done. Hard work goes a long way, and eventually, people will come to notice that. For example, if you’ve been working on a solo project that receives a lot of praise, know that it’s due to your skills and experience with the matter.

You can have humility and be modest while taking pride. Click To Tweet

And lastly, it’s okay to feel good about your accomplishments. You can have humility and be modest while taking pride. We will talk about this in a future blog – feeling proud without becoming conceited or boasting. It’s an issue for kids and some adults, so be sure to check back soon!

Helping You in Tampa

Imposter syndrome can be quite a serious phenomenon. As we said above, it can affect your professional life, impact your self-esteem and your ability to do great work. Our psychologists in Tampa will be glad to help you address issues that relate to feeling as if you’re faking it in life. Contact us today for more information about our services. 

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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