When I landed a copywriting job at one of the top IT companies in the country, it felt surreal.
On my first day at the job, the team manager introduced me as the new head of content.
“Yoooo, how did I get here? Am I even up to the task? Oh no! I will mess this up for sure.”
This was my first experience with imposter syndrome. Since then, I have figured things out for myself.
So, let me share what causes imposter syndrome and the symptoms you should look out for. Read on to discover how to deal with imposter syndrome as a writer.
What is imposter syndrome?
Psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose came up with the term “imposter phenomenon” in the 1970s.
Since then, experts define imposter syndrome as an internal feeling of being a fraud (an impostor) in any position.
Imposter syndrome also manifests as self-doubt or a feeling of “undeserved” luck, due to insufficient experience, economic background, or social status.
Imposter syndrome categories
Imposter syndrome is a blanket term for a variety of experiences that fall under the following categories:
- Perfectionists — these people are never satisfied with their achievements. In a bid to improve on their success, they focus on their flaws instead of their superpowers.
- Naturally-gifted — these ‘geniuses’ tackle insurmountable obstacles and punish themselves when they can’t scale them.
- Eternal experts — like perfectionists, experts underestimate themselves and try to validate themselves through learning new skills.
- Superheroes — always try to overcompensate for their feeling of inadequacy by taking on more than they can handle.
- Lone rangers — do their work in isolation and reject external assistance because it makes them feel incompetent.
What does imposter syndrome feel like?
Although imposter syndrome cannot be diagnosed, over 70% of people experience it, especially in high-value industries.
Here are the imposter syndrome symptoms for those yet to experience or identify it.
- Sense of unworthiness
- Trying to overachieve in everything
- Crediting your success to “dumb luck”
- Constant fear of falling short
People experience imposter syndrome differently, but these symptoms are the most common.
What causes imposter syndrome?
The absence of classic symptoms makes imposter syndrome hard to diagnose. Not only that, tracing the source of this condition is not precise because several factors can contribute to it.
So, let’s explore some contributing factors to impostor syndrome:
Change of scenery
When you travel to a new city or get a new job, you often feel the pressure to succeed. Everything feels so surreal because you never pictured yourself in this position.
As a result, self-doubt creeps in, and you start to question if you really deserve this fortune.
People from households where they are under constant pressure to do well often experience imposter feelings in adulthood.
Also, overprotective parenting and constant belittlement make kids develop a feeling of inferiority, which later transforms into imposter syndrome.
Pre-existing mental health problems
Anxiety can also contribute to your feelings of being an impostor. And since you already doubt yourself, your imposter feeling worsens.
Also, Healthline claims that imposter syndrome aggravates mental health conditions.
People with high neuroticism, perfectionist traits, and low self-confidence have a high propensity to feel like imposters.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome might sound innocuous, but it can hold you back from realizing your full potential. On rare occasions, people self-sabotage just to free themselves of this guilt.
But you don’t have to subject yourself to this mental dilemma. Here are ways of overcoming imposter syndrome.
Embrace your feelings
The first step to defeating imposter syndrome is to acknowledge it: this is not one of those ghosts that disappear when ignored.
“Yes, I feel like a fraud, but I am going to do something about it.”
You can also talk to your superiors about your plight. By doing so, you get the help and support you need to become more confident.
Change your thinking
Once you identify that you are battling imposter syndrome, start working to change the way you think.
Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, own your wins.
Whenever you think, “Oh, I was just lucky”, change it to “I deserve to be here because I toiled for it!”
If you don’t claim your success, no one will do it for you.
Assess your skills honestly
Instead of creating a cloud of doubt in your head, assess your skills honestly.
Don’t focus on your failings and shortcomings. Spend time exploring the achievements and strong points that make you the perfect candidate for the job.
By visualizing your accomplishments, you can now compare yourself based on real data rather than long-held feelings of inadequacy.
Stop comparing yourself to others
When assessing your real-world skill, you might feel the urge to compare yourself to your colleague.
Comparing yourself to others exposes other faults, which you will cling to as an excuse to believe that you are a fraud.
Accept that this is your world and that you deserve everything that comes to you.
Limit your use of social media
Go on LinkedIn and you will see your mates with 10 directorial positions in 100 companies. Instagram users will convince you that you are not good enough to be in the same room as them.
Forget all that hogwash; social media is a snake pit for people masking their reality.
Most of these people are fakers, and that is why you should never compare yourself with them.
Stop putting yourself under pressure
The pressure to be perfect can cripple your creativity and productivity. Even if you land a new writing gig, don’t force yourself to get things right at once.
Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn on the job. If your superiors demand perfection every time, they are clueless, and you should look for a better gig.
Connect with others
You can talk to your superiors about your feelings of being an imposter. But sometimes, opening up to strangers can be a challenge.
Instead, confide in your friends and peers. Don’t be surprised if they tell you that they are going through the same thing.
In cases of racial imposter syndrome, you can confide in a colleague from the same racial background for advice.
Don’t let it hold you back
Okay, you are lucky to be here. So what? Fortune favors the brave.
Since you made it here, you might as well show everyone your professional prowess. After all, other candidates weren’t so lucky.
Don’t let self-doubt or overthinking hold you back. Relax and nestle in the role.
Worst case scenario, you will struggle in the early stages before finding your feet eventually.
No clinically acclaimed imposter syndrome treatment exists for now. But if you are struggling with self-confidence at work, you can take the imposter syndrome test to find out what’s wrong.
And if the imposter syndrome is affecting your mental health — or making it worse — consult a mental health expert right away.
Don’t try to be a superhero every time. Seek help when necessary.
Imposter syndrome can cripple your career progression by making you doubt your abilities. Sometimes, you can even end up self-sabotaging as a way to relieve the pressure.
If you notice the symptoms of imposter syndrome, start working on ways to combat them. Embrace your feelings and stop comparing yourself to others.
And if the imposter feelings aggravate your mental health, seek help from a trained expert.