PSYCHOLOGY WITH MUNA: YES, IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS REAL. PT 2

It is always a pleasure to interact with you on matters concerning a field that is as intriguing as the mind and helping you understand every word that you are reading. This Wednesday we continue looking at the imposter phenomenon.

 Last time we had the time to look at what imposter syndrome is and how it comes about and how to identify it and we concluded by stating that having a sense of self-doubt can help a person assess their achievements and ability, but too much self-doubt can adversely impact a person’s self-image and can affect a number of other areas in one’s life.

Imposter phenomenon causes procrastination thereby,  affecting productivity,  proactivity,, innovation, career advancement, and mental and physical wellbeing including your social relationships. 

Imposter phenomenon does not only lower a person’s inner self-confidence and esteem, it also greatly impacts how you achieve the success you want and deserve. The following are the negative impacts of imposter phenomenon:

Firstly, it instils low self-esteem and self-doubt. Remember that one of the characteristics of a sufferer of imposter syndrome is for them to attribute their success to luck, which makes them reject praise and downplay achievements. In doing so they re-enforce the idea that they are not good enough to do things on their own. Get this right, it is important to take credit for the work you have done, it makes you more likable because you gain self confidence and people like confident individuals. 

For one who is in a position of leadership or just in your own personal life, imposter phenomenon hampers your progress. Sufferers will feel vulnerable and fear being exposed which makes taking tough decisions very hard and showing strong leadership less likely. This also leads to procrastination, putting things off until a time you feel confident enough to accept the credit. 

It also restricts innovation and risk taking because one fears failure which inhibits creativity and inventiveness. Imposter phenomenon does affect your mental health, creating stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation.

So if you feel like you suffer or know someone suffering from imposter phenomenon or something like it, there is good news, there are ways to deal with such feelings. Here are some tips to get you on your feet.

First and foremost read and know about imposter phenomenon. Most often the signs of imposter phenomenon are overlooked yet they come up in our day-to-day lives. Recognizing the signs is actually the first step towards combatting imposter phenomenon. If you find it hard to accept praise, you feel like you got lucky when you actually prepared well, you find the fear of failure paralyzing, or you are convinced you are not enough, take a step back and identify that this is imposter phenomenon knocking on my door. Do pay attention to your language choices, when talking to others and when talking to yourself. If you find that your own success or the praise of others makes you sick to the stomach, do some reflective thinking on where those types of thoughts came from and what it means in your life.

You will have to distinguish between fear and humility. Taking humility in your achievements is one thing and being overwhelmed by fear because of them is another. Truth be told, sometimes being good at something makes us discount its value, it feels so natural. One might ask, is it possible to feel worthy without feeling entitled? Yes it is possible and overcoming imposter phenomenon requires that a healthy balance is found between the two. Godin writes, “ Humility and worthiness have nothing at all to do with defending our territory. We do not have to feel like a fraud to also be gracious, open or humble.”

Guest Writer and host of Psychology with Muna: Munandalu Monze, B A Psychology, Rusangu University, Zambia.

Allow yourself to fail. Perfectionism can be  a major roadblock for productivity and it can also be a roadblock to overcoming imposter phenomenon. Many people who suffer from imposter phenomenon are high achievers which means they set extremely high standards for themselves and are committed to doing their best and being their best. But perfectionism only feeds into your imposter syndrome. When you feel like a fraud, it is usually because you are comparing yourself to some ideal perfect self or perfect outcome that is either unrealistic or impossible. To remove the imposter thoughts and feelings allow yourself to fail, we all fail and its normal.

 Imposter syndrome is not a medical diagnosis; it has yet to appear in the American Psychiatric Association’s gold-standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, for instance. Nevertheless, Clance and Imes demonstrated that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) exercises, an evidence-based psychosocial intervention commonly employed by mental health professionals, resulted in positive outcomes among their study population. CBT functions to deconstruct pathologic belief systems and dismantle negative behaviors. One particular exercise calls for simulating the reaction of evaluators upon receiving the subject’s confession of intellectual deception, generating such mock responses as: “‘I did not give you an award in English because you charmed me…I honored you for your outstanding work,’” or “‘I don’t like your negating me and my opinions.’” In this manner, CBT challenges the individual’s perceptions surrounding feedback and performance to bring about sincere recognition of his or her abilities.

We now know what the feeling is called and we know that others suffer from it. We now know a bit about why we feel that way and how we can handle it. Its time that we make it a daily work to speak over these feelings and achieve our greatest dreams without feeling guilty about it.

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