Are you Suffering from Imposter Syndrome?

Do you sometimes feel like a fraud? 

People who struggle with imposter Syndrome believe that they don’t deserve their achievements, and they don’t feel that others should hold them in high esteem. They feel that they are not as clever, competent, intellectual or even as kind as others might think. They also think and fear, that others will soon know the truth about them, and that they will be “found out”. Usually, people with Imposter syndrome are often well accomplished, they probably have many academic degrees and perhaps hold high office. 

So, what causes Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome usually starts with personality traits, for example those who tend to be perfectionists, or those who are very competitive.

When congratulated they will say “Oh it was just luck” or “I was just in the right place at the right time” These people very rarely acknowledge their own accomplishments.

Those who are adult children of alcoholic or addicted parents can quite often struggle with Imposter syndrome. Just imagine, as a child, having to take a parental role, look after siblings, cook and clean, make sure the siblings are looked after etc…these people have grown up always thinking they haven’t done well enough. They grow up, not knowing HOW to get their needs met. They tend to suffer depression and they are their own worst critics. As you can imagine, a person who has taken on a complete parental role from a young or teen age, will probably strive to become the best he or she can be in adulthood – to be successful – not just in the workplace, but in their family and social life as well. 

Imposter syndrome tends to affect women more than men. These women feel they are not good enough in anything they do. They feel their boss will soon find out they are a fraud, that they are not up to the job. They feel their children will realise they are not a good mum when they themselves grow up. This feeling of being a fraud, comes from having to give out an air of competence and confidence as a child.

At times we can ALL feel a little impostorism- especially if we climb the career success ladder at a young age. However, around 30% of high achievers may suffer from Imposter syndrome, which is quite a high number! 

Can one be diagnosed with Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is not actually an official diagnosis in the DSM (Diagnostics and Statistics Manual) However, people may struggle with other mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, or acute stress. Perfectionism tends to go hand in glove with Imposter syndrome, as people feel that they HAVE to perform at their very best ALL the time, and when they don’t or can’t, they get serious feelings of anxiety and incompetence. Many people also FEAR their success, because if they make a mistake, they will feel a failure!

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome?

To overcome Imposter Sydrome, a therapist would need to help the person change their mind-set about their abilities. He or she may feel like he doesn’t belong, or that he is useless. Their accomplishments need to be acknowledged and they need to be reminded that they have earned their success, and their place in society or the workplace. The therapist would help them to stay focused on their own accomplishments and success and not to keep comparing themselves to others. They will also need to change the mindset so that they are not continually striving to be perfect.

Lisa’s Story:

I treated a lady recently with Imposter Sydrome. I will let Lisa tell you her story:

“I had feared, for many years that I was struggling with Imposter syndrome. Dad was an alcoholic and my mum suffered really bad depression, so I was pretty much left to bring up my siblings (two younger sisters and a younger brother). I had to virtually do everything – cook, clean, washing, ironing, take the kids to school. By the time I got to doing my GCSE’s I was exhausted and couldn’t really be bothered. I failed most of them and it wasn’t until I left home and got a job, I started to think about studying again. I did ok and landed a good job in PR and climbed the success ladder quite fast.

I had my own children and I started to feel that I wasn’t actually good at anything. I felt like a hopeless mum as I was always working. I felt like a fraud at work as I quite often had to take time off to look after my youngest as she has a long -term illness. I just literary felt hopeless and I didn’t know where to go for help.

It was only when I was discussing it with a close friend and she said she had been to see Elaine Hodgins at Focus Hypnotherapy, for exactly the same problem, that I decided to seek help. Elaine was very good, and she understood my feelings completely. She put me in a light trance so that she could put some more relevant positive suggestions into my subconscious mind. I would say it took a couple of sessions before I noticed how different I felt. However, once I had finished her Imposter therapy programme, I felt absolutely great and even my colleagues at work noticed the difference and my kids certainly did! If I hadn’t gone to see Elaine I don’t know where I would be now. I have actually been promoted and my self esteem and confidence has really rocketed.”

Lisa Wells, London.

How can I prevent my children getting Imposter syndrome?

The first thing to do is try not to criticise them constantly as they will end up thinking they are not good enough. Also, we sometimes say things like “Wow you are the cleverest boy in the world” phrases like this will only instil high expectations and a lot of pressure. Getting it just right with your kids is tough. You want to praise them but not on the outcome – it’s better to always praise their effort as this will teach them to understand their strengths and weaknesses. The other thing is NOT to become an alcoholic or an addict of course! 

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