Exposed, Afraid, & Ashamed: Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Exposed, Afraid, & Ashamed: Understanding Imposter Syndrome

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Does the normal version of yourself in a professional or personal setting always seem to be unaligned with how you truly feel when you look in the mirror?

If so, you may be experiencing a cultural phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling or perception that your competencies, abilities, or accomplishments are not valuable, unique, or important—which leads you to doubt and downplay the compliments of others or to even hide your passions and your true self.

This dilemma can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or income status, and it can be quite difficult to deal with daily.

To fully understand Imposter Syndrome and how it can impact your life and the lives of others, it's good to know the history of it, and how it manifests.

A Little History

The concept known as Imposter Syndrome was identified by two psychologists, Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanna Imes, in 1970.

Initially, the syndrome was thought to be only recognized in women, however, it is now understood as a dilemma that can affect anyone.

What Imposter Syndrome Looks Like

The signs and hints that someone is suffering from Imposter Syndrome are recognizable by understanding a few key behaviors.

  • Obsessing over mistakes 
  • Under-selling skills in situations where you may be competent and capable
  • Constant worry that you will be labeled a fake
  • Reacting negatively to small or relevant criticism
  • Playing down your success to simple luck and fortunate circumstances

How Does It Start?

What exactly begins the potentially damaging cycle of Imposter Syndrome can be determined by many factors:

  • Family background of high expectations
  • Dysfunctional or low socioeconomic conditions
  • Having social phobias and/or social anxiety
  • Lacking a strong sense of self
  • Not understanding why you do what you do

The Bottom Line 

Imposter Syndrome can make anyone feel like they don’t belong or are unworthy of improving their lives or striving for new heights. It can be classified as an inability to see yourself and your skillsets similarly to how other people see them.

This phenomenon can have a damaging impact on the personal and professional lives of many. Understanding what imposter syndrome is and how it begins can be vital to overcoming its effects.

We have a free resource on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome! 


**Disclaimer: The information provided through this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

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