What scientific research says about Imposter Syndrome

The origins of imposter syndrome

Disjunction self-assessment vs. actual capabilities

  1. This time, a different child in the family or in close proximity is branded the “smart one”, with the child in question being told they were the “charming” or “sensitive one”. This would lead to them believing that they could never be the “smart one” and start attributing their achievements to social manipulation.

Pressure to achieve in a pre-defined role

Perceived differences and embarking on new journeys

Individuals who feel like they differ in any way from the norm (in race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, interests) tend to be more susceptible to imposter syndrome. They might attribute successes to not be due to their own hard work, but to sympathy from others. This is particularly true for many people from minority backgrounds.

What can we do to tackle imposter syndrome?

Keep track of compliments, accept praise, disown failures

In order to receive compliments, you need to be willing to accept praise first, which many women have a lot of trouble doing. It takes practice, but I promise that it will feel natural after a while. So the next time someone compliments you, instead of saying “not really” or countering with a self-deprecating remark, just test out a simple “thank you”. Let me know how it feels!

Change your thinking pattern

Stop striving for perfection

The former strategy is linked to this one. If you regularly set perfectionist goals for yourself, you’ll fall short of them every single time. This then fuels your imposter syndrome thoughts and tendency to predict failure for yourself. The result is a downward spiral into anxiety and stress.

Talk to other people and share your experiences

Talking to others can have a two-fold benefit: firstly, imparting your knowledge and experience in your areas of expertise to your juniors can boost your confidence in your abilities and remind you of what you’re good at. Secondly, talking about your imposter syndrome thoughts can lead to others sharing theirs with you. While talking to other people about your perceived weaknesses can seem daunting, it can really help to foster more of a sense of belonging.

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