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What Is Impostor Syndrome And How To Overcome It?

Impostor syndrome can contribute to increased anxiety and depression, as well as limited academic and professional performance. 

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LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Ramírez Ramos

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es el síndrome del impostor y cómo superarlo?

Impostor syndrome refers to a series of feelings that prevent outstanding or high-performing people from recognizing their successes and achievements. Likewise, those who suffer from it have constant doubts about themselves and a general fear of failing or being seen as a fraud.

In this regard, it is also known as fraud syndrome or impostor phenomenon. However, it is necessary to clarify that it is not a syndrome itself, since it is not a clinical diagnosis as such, as indicated by the American Psychological Association, APA for its acronym in English. For this reason, it is more appropriate to call it the impostor phenomenon, even though the word syndrome is a colloquial usage.

According to research published in 2020 by the Journal of General Internal Medicine , which reviewed 62 studies on the subject, there are statistically significantly higher rates of impostor feelings in women than in men.

Another of the characteristics of those who have this syndrome is that it is difficult for them to recognize their qualities and aptitudes, and to attribute the successes of their performance to their real competences. On the contrary, they tend to attribute their achievements to luck or the help of others. In this sense, they are also usually very harsh with their flaws and mistakes.

Although the recognition of errors is something positive, insofar as it allows us to improve and solve problems, distrusting our own abilities too much is harmful. In this sense, the impostor phenomenon or syndrome can affect mental health and increase anxiety or depression. Likewise, it can contribute to the deterioration of interpersonal relationships, since the beliefs of feeling inferior put a brake on the exchange of ideas and the relationship with others.

On the other hand, according to a publication in the Journal of Counseling Psychology , minority or vulnerable groups tend to present these impostor feelings more. In this sense, the context, with interculturality and discrimination, are a fundamental factor to take into account.

Likewise, this phenomenon can manifest itself in love relationships. In this way, people often feel unworthy of their partner's love and fear that they will think they are not that good.

Also read: Interview: Is There a Relationship Between Mental Illness and Armed Attacks?

Tips for overcoming impostor syndrome

It is convenient to point out that sometimes it is normal to feel insecure or uncomfortable, the important thing is that it is not a constant feeling that prevents assuming challenges and responsibilities. In this regard, Harvard Business Review notes that " imposter syndrome took a fairly universal feeling of discomfort, self-doubt, and mild anxiety in the workplace and pathologized it, especially for women." However, if you identify that the lack of self-recognition, as well as feeling inadequate or ashamed of your achievements, are a pattern in your life, we suggest you take into account the following recommendations:

Evaluate the facts without exaggeration

It is essential to separate feelings from facts. It is good to recognize your own emotions and identify them, but it is important to know to what extent they are born from real events and not from the imagination. In this way, sometimes it is convenient to “take a step back to see the big picture. What facts support that you deserve to be in your role?”, as the APA points out.

Avoid comparison

Comparing yourself is a bad idea and even more so if you identify that you have a tendency to have impostor feelings. In this sense, the Cleveland Clinic points out “Focus on measuring your own achievements instead of comparing them with those of others”.

Accept your failures and celebrate your successes

Recognizing that failures are part of life is important because it also helps not to overestimate them. However, it is also very important to recognize successes and celebrate them, as they are achieved with effort and dedication.

Consult an expert

If at any time you feel that your emotions overwhelm you and impostor feelings interfere with your normal activities, due to excessive worry or fear, it is best that you go to visit a psychologist.