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  • Writer's pictureKate Warren

Am I really good enough?

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

"I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be." - Lady Gaga

Welcome back to the Stay U blog, and thank you for dropping by. My name is Kate, and I am the owner, counsellor and career coach at Stay U.

Today I'll be talking about Imposter Syndrome. You may not have heard of it, but it is more common than you realise. Firstly, let's touch on what "imposter" (sometimes spelt "impostor") means:

a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.

Similar words include: impersonator, masquerader, pretender, deceiver, hoaxer

I'm sure you will agree that pretending to be someone you are not is not a good thing, but what if someone only thinks they are pretending to be someone else? Let's look back at the quote above, from Lady Gaga - she is a mega star, who's debut single hit number 1 on the Billboard charts, a musician, movie star, tv star and has a net worth of about $320 million, yet she still needs to remind herself of her amazing achievements. This is Imposter Syndrome. She suffers from self-doubt, negative self-talk, and, like other suffers of this condition, tends to be a perfectionist. She is human, after all.

Although it is not a diagnosable mental illness, researchers have been looking into its signs and symptoms since the 1970's. There are said to be 5 types of Imposter Syndrome, but at their core they are all associated with the sufferer believing they are not as good as others, and that one day they will be "found out" as a fraud or imposter.

The Perfectionist feels like an imposter as they believe they could always do things better. The Expert feels they will never know, or master, everything there is to know on a particular subject. The Natural Genius does not feel they have any natural intelligence and that every time they get something wrong, this is confirmed. The Soloist feels like a fraud if they need to ask for help with anything. Lastly, the Superperson needs to be the hardest worker, or achieve the highest results, otherwise they are an imposter. In most cases, the reality is that they are doing a great job, but just can't see it!

Common characteristics of Imposter Syndrome include:

  • An inability to realistically recognise or appraise your skills and competence

  • Attributing your success to someone or something else (e.g. "I couldn't have done it without Laura...", etc)

  • Talking down your efforts or performance

  • Fearing that you won't live up to other's expectations

  • Sabotaging your own work (e.g. handing in assignments late, as you don't feel they are 'finished' or good enough, although they were completed way ahead of schedule)

  • Setting yourself unrealistic tasks and feeling disappointed when you fail or fall short

Imposter Syndrome can be a vicious cycle that leads to anxiety, depression, and social and relationship issues. There are a lot of different causes for this condition, with those of us who have a history of depression or anxiety being more likely to experience it. A strict upbringing characterised by controlling or overprotective parents may contribute to the development of Imposter Syndrome from a younger age. Some cultures have a pressure to achieve or display their very best, and this can sow the seeds of doubt.

How can you overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Remember, you are worthy! Comparing yourself to others, or living up to the expectations of others often fuels the negative emotions and self-talk, and is rarely an indication of how you are really doing in life. Verbalise your thoughts and feelings and work on believing your family and friends when they tell you that you are doing well. Question your irrational beliefs and find the root cause - when did this all start? Who's approval are you really seeking? Most importantly of all, if you feel like your feelings are getting more than you can handle, tell someone - don't hold it in, or let it fester.

My next topic is often associated with, or as a result of Imposter Syndrome - it is Social Anxiety. Thanks again for stopping by, and feel free to share your thoughts and feelings on this topic. Perhaps your experiences can help someone else. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. Take care until next time!

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