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Buzz Word Explained: Imposter Syndrome

Written by Zeina Islam

Imposter Syndrome, or just procrastination?

Have you ever found yourself constantly doubting your abilities, even though most of the time you are more than qualified to complete the tasks you’re given? Well, you are not the only one feeling this way. Surprisingly, Imposter Syndrome is so common these days and more people find themselves suffering because of it…


What is Imposter Syndrome?

First off, let’s talk about what Imposter Syndrome is. It is an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be (Cuncic, 2021). It can affect people of all skill sets and qualifications, but more often than not, it affects people who are very qualified for the jobs or tasks for which they don't feel like they are. Due to systemic sexism and racism, women and people of color are most victim to this syndrome. Imposter Syndrome can often have you feeling like you’re pretending that you're capable; you often view yourself as a fraud and feel like the people around you are soon going to realize that as well.

What are the signs or symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome can be very mentally draining, and can often lead to extreme procrastination. It can get overwhelming, often causing those affected to just shut down. The result is that responsibilities don’t end up being fulfilled because the person feels like they physically can’t. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  1. Sabotaging your efforts, often doubting yourself

  2. Not being able to evaluate your actual competence

  3. Procrastination

  4. Always crediting your accomplishments to external factors like ‘luck’

  5. Constantly feeling like a fraud

If you struggle with Imposter Syndrome, you may experience constant anxiety about everything, even the social aspects of life. For example, even with your closest friends, you may find yourself having thoughts like “I’m so scared they’ll realize that I am not the person they think I am and they won’t like me anymore.” Even though the truth is that they know you well inside and out, your thoughts may cause you to believe you're not as kind, smart, or special as everyone thinks you are. And you dread the day they find out, creating more anxiety.

If not dealt with in the right way, these feelings of anxiety eventually get worse and may lead to depression. Here is a video that explains the symptoms more comprehensively:

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As mentioned, Imposter Syndrome is heavily associated with procrastination. Many people often confuse the two and think they have imposter syndrome when it’s actually just procrastination. Procrastination is putting off tasks until the very last minute and the deadline is approaching. Some people justify it to themselves by thinking “I have Imposter Syndrome, I am just scared of failing so I am not going to do anything.” However, even though procrastination is one of the major signs of Imposter Syndrome, it can only be diagnosed if the other associated symptoms apply too.

Imposter Syndrome and Personality Traits

There are usually multiple ways Imposter Syndrome can appear, see If any of these seem familiar to you:

  1. Always choosing to work alone, because you are terrified of rejection, or criticism

  2. Setting impossible goals, and being hard on yourself when you can’t achieve them

  3. You overwork yourself, yet never feel like you have enough experience or expertise

  4. Despite being highly skilled in a certain area, you always underestimate yourself

  5. You always feel like you can do better than what you’re doing now, and fixate on your flaws instead of your strengths

How to cope & get over Imposter Syndrome

Even though imposter syndrome is not officially classified as a psychological disorder, a lot of people suffer its symptoms at some point in their lives. So here are some mindset shifts you can incorporate into your life if you’re struggling with this syndrome

  1. Consider talking to a therapist. Talking to a professional who understands your condition well will inevitably make you feel more understood. You’ll be able to cope with your feelings and manage your life in a healthier and more balanced way.

  2. Learn and read a lot about this disorder. There are so many books, videos, and podcasts discussing imposter syndrome. Reading more about this disorder will help you better understand yourself and triggers. And you’ll be able to learn techniques that apply directly to your situation.

  3. Stop trying to be perfect. One way to do that is by setting more reasonable & achievable goals, being more open to criticism, putting less pressure on yourself by getting things done in good time, and avoiding procrastination.

  4. Stop comparing yourself to people. Especially on social media. People on social media portray a perfect image, which is not normally their everyday life. So comparing yourself to everyone introduces a certain amount of toxicity into your life and leads to you putting unrealistic pressure on yourself. Try taking a step back from social media and focusing on yourself and your goals.

  5. Words of affirmation. Simply put, affirmations are a great way to boost confidence. Even if you don’t believe what you’re saying in the beginning, repeating positive statements to yourself will help instill a positive self image in your mind.

Imposter syndrome does not have to be a debilitating aliment. Learning is the best way to cope. Taking time to reflect and get in touch with your inner being will surely put those fears to rest!


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