Impostor Syndrome

Woman with Impostor Syndrome
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Definition: The Impostor Syndrome refers to feelings of inadequacy in spite of evidence to the contrary. A person who suffers from this syndrome may achieve as much or even more than others, but yet still feels as though they are inadequate and experience anxiety over being "found out." No matter what they accomplish, they fear that someone will recognize them as the fraud they believe themselves to be.

People with the Impostor Syndrome do not believe that their accomplishments are the result of hard work and effort, but to other factors, such as luck. They were in the right place at the right time or they knew the right person. They fail to recognize that even though those things may be true, being in the right place at the right time or knowing the right person will not do anyone any good if they don't have the knowledge and skills needed.

Those with the Impostor Syndrome also tend to hold themselves to a very high standard and when they don't meet those standards, the feel as though they have failed. The fact that others recognize their accomplishments does nothing to help them recognize their accomplishments. Instead, they are more likely to feel fear and anxiety because someone will recognize sooner or later, as they did, that they did not meet the standards required to be deserving of praise.

On the other hand, people with the Impostor Syndrome tend to overinternalize failure and actually fear success. They focus on their failures as proof of their inadequacies, but don't use their successes as proof of their competence. Being successful means that a person will become more visible, which in turn means that the chances of being exposed as a fraud increases.

This syndrome is not uncommon among the gifted population, particularly those who are perfectionistic and who have not been challenged and therefore do not understand the role hard work and effort play in achievement of success. This is not to say that they don't work hard in life to accomplish what they do, but rather that they are unable to internalize their accomplishments. If they were used to being praised for what they accomplished throughout their school years even when they knew they didn't have to do much to get that praise, they will have a hard time trusting the praise they get since they don't believe they have done anything to deserve it.

Also Known As: Fraud Syndrome

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