Why imposter syndrome will ruin your whole life

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There’s a saying about “faking it until you make it”. But if you feel that faking it has become a normal part of your life and you’re feeling like a fraud, you could be suffering from imposter syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a belief that you are not as competent as others think you are. It’s a nagging sensation that you don’t know what you’re doing, while everyone else does. It’s a fear of being ‘found out’ — exposed as a fraud any minute. Research suggests that as many as 70% of people suffer from imposter syndrome.

Signs you have imposter syndrome?

If you can identify with any of the following, you may have imposter syndrome:

  • You doubt yourself
  • You have low self-worth and low confidence
  • You’re a perfectionist
  • You work harder than everyone else or over-prepare, in order to feel competent or achieve something
  • You can’t realistically assess your competence and skills
  • You attribute success to external factors such as ‘luck’ or ‘being in the right place at the right time’
  • You’re critical of your performance and achievements
  • You fear that you won’t live up to expectations
  • You’re a high-achiever who often feels disappointed with your results
  • You often self-sabotage your own success
  • You set very challenging or unrealistic goals and feel disappointed when you fall short
  • You worry about what others think of you
  • You constantly compare yourself to others 
  • You feel anxious or worried a lot
  • You engage in negative self-talk
  • You feel the need to control things
  • You have difficulty accepting praise and accolades
  • You procrastinate about taking action because you’re afraid to make a mistake or you need to ‘know everything’ first
  • Do you struggle to take and accept compliments?
  • Do you find it hard to believe the positive things people say about you because you think they’re just being ‘nice’?
  • You’re sensitive to constructive criticism and take it personally
  • You downplay your expertise, even if you are highly skilled
  • You won’t try new things in case you can’t do them
  • You give up when you make mistakes, instead of learning from them.

What does imposter syndrome look like?

Research has shown that imposter syndrome can appear in a few different ways. These are:

The perfectionist

If you’re a perfectionist, you always feel that you could have done something better, and are never satisfied with what you achieve. You tend to focus on your weaknesses and mistakes and beat yourself up for them. You have trouble seeing your strengths and what you do well. Perfectionism causes you to feel enormous pressure, anxiety and stress and a constant drive to ‘get things right’ all the time.

The superhero

If you’re a superhero, you feel compelled to work as hard as you can — often harder than you need to. You’re reluctant to rest because you believe that in order to protect your fraudulent identity, you need to work longer and harder than anyone else.

The expert

If you believe you need to know everything there is to know about something, then you could be an expert. You’ll often feel that you don’t know enough about things, and so will tend to spend extra time learning or studying, even if you are highly skilled and experienced at what you do.

The natural genius

If you set lofty or unrealistic goals for yourself, and then feel bitterly disappointed in yourself for not achieving them, then you’re probably a natural genius. You believe that you should be able to succeed at something on your first attempt. You equate failing at something as you being a failure which makes you reluctant to try new things.

The soloist 

Soloists tend to find their self-worth in what they do and achieve and therefore tend to prefer to work alone. They believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness or incompetence and are therefore reluctant to ask for or accept help. They believe that if they achieved something with the help of someone else, that it doesn’t ‘count’ because they didn’t do it alone. This causes them to double-down on their belief that they need to do everything on their own in order for them not to be discovered as an imposter.

How imposter syndrome affects you

Many people believe that imposter syndrome only affects people’s careers, but the truth is that it affects all areas of your life.

Relationships

Imposter syndrome is a belief that you’re not good enough. When it comes to relationships that often means that you won’t show up as your authentic self in case you’re found out and seen as less than ideal. Instead, you’ll wear a mask and pretend to be someone that you’re not, in order for other people in your life to love you. This will mean that your relationships are not genuine and you’re likely to become a people-pleaser who tries to keep everyone happy before doing what’s right for you. You can find out more about this in our blog How to be your authentic self.

Career

Believing that your success is down to luck rather than your abilities will drastically affect your career and the rest of your life. For one thing, you will work longer and harder than your colleagues because you’re so afraid of being found out as a fraud. This will mean you’ll end up burning out and never having time for yourself or your family. Working longer hours will become a vicious cycle as you believe that the only reason you’re doing well in your job or business is because you put in the extra work, and without it, you’ll be a failure. 

Imposter syndrome at work can also prevent you from being creative and innovative, applying for new jobs, going for promotions, or sharing your ideas at work. Instead, you’ll continue to play it ‘safe’ and live on the sidelines. This may mean feeling stressed and anxious about your performance even if you’ve been in the same job for years, staying stuck in a job with limited earning potential (which will perpetuate the need to work long hours), or working in a job that you find boring or unfulfilling — all because you don’t believe you’re good enough to do anything else.

Mental health

Imposter syndrome takes a great toll on your mental health. It creates enormous amounts of stress and anxiety due to the fear of being found out. It continues to instill self-doubt and low self-worth, and causes you to engage in negative self-talk. This gets louder every time you’re given constructive feedback, and perpetuates the cycle of not feeling good enough and doubting your worth. Over time, this causes you to hide away and live in fear. You can read more about this in our blog How low self-worth affects your weight.

Weight

Living with imposter syndrome will impact your weight in many ways. Here’s how:

  1. People-pleasing efforts will mean you won’t put yourself first and make the time to do things to help you lose weight, such as exercising regularly, weekly meal prep and healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
  2. Stress levels will be high, which prevents you from losing weight. You can read about this in our blog How stress and weight gain are linked.
  3. Your lack of self-worth will prevent you from setting goals and putting in the effort to achieve them.
  4. Comparing yourself to others will mean you won’t be working on the things you need to, in order to lose weight. You can read more about this in our blog How comparing yourself to others slows down your weight loss.
  5. You won’t be willing to work with a coach who makes you accountable, because you’ll be too afraid of them seeing the ‘real you’.
  6. You won’t be able to admit what you don’t know and will be unwilling to ask for help, so will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. We explain this in more detail in our blog Nothing changes if nothing changes: How to lose weight for good.
  7. Your belief that you need to keep working harder than anyone else will see you burning out (or becoming injured if you overexercise), which will end up sidelining you and preventing you from doing anything at all.
  8. You’ll be reluctant to take action because you’ll believe you need to ‘know more’ or ‘be more’ first.
  9. Your fixed mindset will cause you to believe that there is nothing you can do to change your habits, thoughts and beliefs, and that there’s nothing you can do to lose weight. We explain this in more detail in our blog Why mindset is everything.
  10. You’ll aim to be perfect in everything you do, instead of focusing on being consistent.

 

What you can do about it

Build your self-worth

Imposter syndrome occurs because you don’t feel good enough. Building your self-worth is key to overcoming imposter syndrome. When you believe you are worthy regardless of what you do or achieve, you’ll understand that no one is perfect, or can possibly know everything. You’ll learn to realise that your best effort is good enough, rather than believing you need to get things right all the time. You’ll also stop worrying about what other people think of you, and will no longer be worried about being ‘found out’ to be a fraud. You can find out how to build your self-worth in our blog How low self-worth affects your weight.

Change your mindset

Changing your mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset will help you realise that making mistakes is an important part of growing or learning. You’ll be able to ask for help, and won’t take constructive feedback as personal criticism. All of these things will help you to step out of your comfort zone to embrace challenges rather than shying away from them. You’ll also be able to persist despite setbacks and hurdles, which will mean you’ll be more successful. You can read more about this in our blog Why mindset is everything.

Celebrate success and acknowledge what you’re good at

Celebrating your success is also important. The more you celebrate the more your confidence will grow and the more you’ll believe in yourself. This will also help you grow your self-worth. It’s also important to take stock and acknowledge all the things you are good at, and all the strengths you have. This is important to shift your mindset into one where you focus on the positives, instead of the negatives.

Limit social media

Social media isn’t all bad. However, depending on what you’re looking at and how often you use it, it may be feeding into your imposter syndrome, by causing you to compare yourself with others. Pay attention to what you’re looking at on social media. Stop following the accounts that make you feel inferior or bad about who you are and what you do, as these only add to the negative thoughts already going around in your head.

Surround yourself with the right people

Make sure you surround yourself with people who can celebrate your success with you, as well as point out when you might be too hard on yourself. Ensure that those in your circle encourage you to move out of your comfort zone, rather than enable you to stay complacent. Surround yourself with people who genuinely have your best interests at heart and who won’t tear you down when you succeed, or gossip about your mistakes behind your back.  

Work with a coach who makes you accountable

Making yourself accountable to a coach will also help you get over imposter syndrome. A good coach will help you set goals and make you accountable for taking action towards them. They will also be able to help you see all the things you are good at, identify any habits or beliefs that are holding you back, and give you strategies on how to overcome them.

Imposter syndrome impacts on your relationships, career, mental wellbeing, your health and your happiness. If you’re struggling to get on top if it please reach out to us because we can help.

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