The Silent Struggles: Confronting Shame and Imposter Syndrome
Ever felt like you don’t deserve all the good things in your life? Or that whatever you do, it is never good enough? You aren’t alone. These emotions often point to a mental health condition called imposter syndrome. 

Fret not. There are many ways to overcome this, starting with acceptance and overcoming emotional resistance. In this article, we’ll look more closely at imposter syndrome, its possible causes, and a few things you can do to get out of a negative spiral. 

Imposter Syndrome: What It Is and Who Feels It

In these modern times, talking about mental health is no longer a taboo. However, many are still struggling in silence regarding imposter syndrome, a behavioral health phenomenon that causes you to doubt your intellect, skills, or accomplishments, especially in high achievers. 

The term was first coined by Imes and Clance in 1978 when they observed successful women and other marginalized groups. Although the women had earned accolades and were respected among their peers, they still believed their success was due to sheer luck. This is mostly due to the collective message from society that women did not belong in leadership and powerful positions. 

Although it’s commonly experienced, there’s still little known data on the exact prevalence of this phenomenon. Successful women remain one of the most affected by this issue, but everyone can experience imposter syndrome, as it’s not exclusive to a certain gender. Imposter syndrome can manifest in different ways, such as:

  • People who feel they don’t deserve a promotion, even though they worked hard and had their performance objectively measured.
  • Women in powerful positions that still doubt their ability to perform their job function and tend to over-prepare to show their capabilities.
  • Students who are still anxious about their standing in class despite their awesome test results.
  • Feminine Leaders feeling the need to get outside validation or over prepare to prove that they belong in their space.

The Causes and Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

There are many possible causes of imposter syndrome, all of which come from cultural and environmental factors. One factor is family dynamics and the roles we were assigned when we were young. 

For example, a child raised to be a perfectionist might suffer from imposter syndrome, or when the child is constantly compared to a sibling or someone in class with better grades. 

If you grew up with a high-performing sibling, you might be driven to prove you’re just as smart or smarter. No amount of praise will be enough, and you might not feel validated, even if you turn out to be successful in your field. 

Some others who were praised lavishly for everything they did and never made mistakes might also develop imposter syndrome and start doubting the truth in the praise and, eventually, their true abilities. 

Here are some characteristics that are closely related to imposter syndrome.

  1. Perfectionism - You feel the need to always be the best. 
  2. Super-heroism - You over-prepare for everything to appear more capable.
  3. Fear of failure - You experience intense anxiety at the thought of failure. 
  4. Denial of competence - You doubt your intelligence, experience, skills, and talents. 
  5. Fear of success - You have difficulty recognizing your successes and fear that it could lead to higher expectations or more work.
  6. Dismiss compliments - You might also tend to dismiss any compliments or praise from others, thinking that it is luck or other external factors that are the reasons for your success. 
  7. Focusing only on mistakes - You might also focus on your mistakes and highlight your faults to others instead of your successes.  

The Imposter Syndrome Cycle

The imposter syndrome cycle is a brutal one that is a catch-22. The cycle begins when you overwork to cover for the fact that you might fail or are not capable enough. 

You’ll receive praise for your hard work and stellar performance, but you think you don’t deserve it, which leads you to work even more, and the cycle continues. 

Breaking the cycle will require some self-awareness, compassion for yourself, and a subtle shift in perception of your abilities. 

Toxic Phrases People With Imposter Syndrome Say

If you are wondering if you have a touch of imposter syndrome, here’s a list of toxic phrases that people with imposter syndrome usually use.

I’m a fraud” - You feel like you didn't put in the hard work when you finish a task quicker and better than others.

I’ll never be good enough to deserve this.” - You constantly compare yourself to others and don’t think you deserve your accolades.

I’m not as talented as people think.” - You feel as though people overestimate your skills.

I don’t want to ask questions because it will show how little I know.” - You’re afraid of showing your lack of knowledge even though questions are necessary for getting things right.

I’m not capable of doing this.” - You second guess yourself before you even start a task.

Everyone here is so much smarter than me.” - You feel intimidated by others around you when it’s not necessarily true. 

I’m not worthy of my success.” - You doubt your skills and think your success might be due to external factors or luck. 

How Imposter Syndrome Can Affect You

This condition can damage both your professional and personal lives. Professionally, you will be less engaged in your career and more likely to experience burnout or dissatisfaction. When the imposter syndrome cycle starts, you’ll work excessively and tire yourself out. 

Despite this, you might still feel like you don’t deserve success, leaving you dissatisfied with your career. The fear of failure might lead to a reluctance to participate in conversations or voice your opinions. 

In terms of personal life, imposter syndrome can induce feelings of anxiety and depression. You might have low self-esteem and feel less satisfied with your life. Romantic relationships can also be tricky to navigate since you might not believe you deserve the good things in life.   

Confronting Imposter Syndrome

If you feel that imposter syndrome is starting to affect your life, you have control and have already taken the first steps by reading this article to educate yourself. 

You are invited to RISE, a 1 year comprehensive course welcoming you back to your wild, intrinsic self. It is a journey back to the heart that has reshaped the lives of hundreds of women struggling with limiting thoughts and beliefs. 

You can also try these healing avenues:  

Individual psychotherapy - You can engage in personal therapy with a psychologist. With therapy, you can reframe all the negative messages you received and re-evaluate your motivations. 

Group therapy - Talking with other people who also have imposter syndrome can help. Those in support groups can share their feelings of shame and support one another. 

Seek support - Talk to friends, family members, or colleagues about your feelings. Often, sharing your experiences with someone you trust can help you gain a different perspective and receive emotional support. Break the silence.

Practical Steps to Heal From Imposter Syndrome

If formal therapy isn’t your thing, there are a few more things you can do personally to help heal. 

  1. You can seek mentorship to provide guidance, advice, and reassurance. You can even work directly with me by booking a consultation call for 1:1 mentorship focused on your strengths and abilities to overcome your limiting beliefs. 
  1. Embrace imperfections and accept that not all tasks can be completed flawlessly. People with imposter syndrome often have perfectionism, which leads to fear of failure. Acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them instead. No one’s perfect! 
  1. Keep a daily record of your achievements to have an objective account of your success. Try to spare some time every week to review it for positive reinforcement. 
  1. Convert your fear into excitement by tricking your brain. Instead of dreading upcoming tasks, tell yourself that you’re excited. Excitement and fear share a common neural pathway, so switch to a more positive note. 

Positive Affirmations 

You can also state positive affirmations to keep imposter syndrome at bay, such as:

  • I am worthy of my position.
  • I am prepared to take on any challenges that come my way.
  • I am as good as people say I am.
  • My life is a gift, and I appreciate what I have.
  • I have the power to create change.
  • I am allowed to make mistakes.
  • I let go of all that no longer serves me.
  • I am exactly where I need to be today.

Putting a Positive Spin on Imposter Syndrome

Most view imposter syndrome negatively, but you can put a positive spin on it. 

  • Keep challenging yourself to get better. There’s no doubt that imposter syndrome will push you to work hard, which will, in turn, lead to personal growth. Remember to avoid overworking yourself though! 
  • Set realistic goals and congratulate yourself when you achieve them. Being objective about your successes is an excellent way to keep imposter syndrome in check. 
  • Learn to accept compliments and use them as motivation to work harder and achieve more. 
  • Increase your knowledge and see your achievements as a sign that you are setting goals and pushing boundaries. 
  • Be empathetic with others who also experience self-doubt. This can enhance your ability to support and mentor co-workers.
  • Seek feedback from trusted sources that can give you their objective opinions so you can improve and be happy with your performance. 

Imposter syndrome is a common phenomenon many of us feel, no matter how successful we are. To break free of imposter syndrome, we can acknowledge its existence, accept our imperfections, and implement practical steps to heal and break out of the cycle. 

If you still struggle with self-doubt, we’ll be happy to help. There is power within each and every one of us, and we aim to guide you to it. Give us a call anytime for a casual chat and let us help you heal, live and serve better.


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