Possible Reasons for Feeling Like a Fraud or an Imposter



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My heart was racing fast and the room started to spin, I fell on the ground not being able to comprehend what was happening. My hands were sweaty and my stomach felt like it had a knot in it. After I joined the PhD program, I was over-working thinking that people here know so much more than me.

These lines are said by a PhD student while interviewing for Psychology Today. It might seem like that she was having a panic attack, which is true but panic attacks can stem from various reasons. Her reason was Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is an intricate feeling of fear or doubt that continuously echoes in your brain that you are a fraud and sooner or later you will be caught. We all have this type of feeling when we are stepping out of our comfort zone or doing something for which we do not have enough knowledge and skills. But what if this feeling is persistent? 

Then you might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome! From simple tasks to big achievement, the feeling is the same, telling you that you are not capable. Most people undergo it from time to time- not just the common people but celebrities, spokespersons- who address people day in and out, a businessman who signs deals worth crores every day.

This syndrome arises from a group of characteristics -

1. Self-doubt

2. Feeling that you lack competitiveness

3. Berating your performance

4. Attributing success to external factors

5. Fear of failure

What should be kept in mind about this is that it can lead to depression and severe anxiety if not addressed sooner.

Causes -

There could be plausible reasons which are deep-rooted such as -

1. Childhood

You might belong to a family that puts labels on everything you do and flips back and forth while complementing and criticizing you. It creates an anxious feeling to always do what they want and how they want to do it.

2. Perfectionist

The people who are more prone to Imposter Syndrome are perfectionists, as these people are never satisfied with their work no matter how good it is, which leads to anxiety in long periods.

3. Hard Workers

Most people work hard to achieve their goals but some people see working for long hours as a compulsion rather than a need. They find it very difficult to take a break for them beyond work. The irony is harder they work, more inadequate they will feel.

4. Solo Workers

People who believe in individualism too much that they don’t need anyone’s help in their life- fall into this syndrome very quickly. These people will always be anxious about whether to take help or not every time they encounter a problem. 

What Can You Do?

1. Open up and Talk

There is a high possibility that you have some patterns formed from incidents or impressions that have developed into core beliefs about which you aren’t aware of, hence, try to open up with someone close to you. By opening up, you will realize some feelings or thoughts only exist in your mind.

2. Being Aware

It is not our natural state to always be aware of our thoughts and actions as it takes some energy but attempts and be aware of these thoughts that tell, you are not enough and counter-question them by asking is it rational.

3. Comparing Yourself With Others

Whenever you are in a social setting, try to avoid comparing yourself to other people, as it fuels a thought that you lack something in the first place. Always try to remember that everybody has something good and bad in their lives- they might have something which you don’t have and vice-versa.

“Comparison is the thief of joy” - Read it again and again until your conscious finally absorbs it.

4. Journaling

If you are not capable of recalling your achievements then take a pen and note everything that you see as an achievement and then read it every day after waking up or before going to sleep. You can also write three things you are grateful for, every day to make you realize what matters.

5. One Day at a time

When you are trying to align your thoughts with your reality then it becomes very important that you do it very slowly by tackling it like an entangled piece of earphones, opening one knot at a time each day. It will be a very frustrating process sometimes but it's going to worth it and rewards yourself at every small step that you make.

6. Accept Your Emotions

You might have heard this every time that if you run from a problem now, sooner or later it is going to chase you back hence try to accept and acknowledge these feelings and then work upon them to identify the core beliefs that are holding you back.

7. Social Media

Try to use social media whenever necessary as you will be posting your life which is remotely related to who you are and will contribute to spiking these feelings of being a fraud.

8. Help Others

If you find someone who has Imposter Syndrome then connect with that person and ask them questions about themselves so that they won't have to undergo the same dilemma as you did.

9. Motivation

This is not that point where everybody advises that you should have an internal burning motivation to achieve something in your life. This motivation step is to remind yourself that you deserve all the good things in this life. 

This motivation can be attained by any which you love doing and does not compel with society rules. The things which you do for yourself will tell you that you are enough for yourself.

10. Therapy

If you feel that this syndrome is becoming a hindrance between you and your dreams then you should consider therapy as a remedy because it will help you to reveal and understand things in a better way.

At last, due to evolution in the field of psychology, every feeling or emotion which we face have a fancy meaning which doesn’t conclude that anyone is ‘suffering’ from some kind of disease. These feelings existed before and now too, it's just that meanings have changed.

People easily get anxious about hearing that they have a particular syndrome which makes it worse. Hence, it is completely normal to live these feelings on alternate days but awareness is must so that when these fancy words are drooling around one should not feel surprised about it.


Written by - Chavi Goel
Edited by - Ivanova




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