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Imposter Syndrome and its Effects on Mental Health

Do you ever feel like you're just faking it? That you're not really good enough and that sooner or later everyone will figure it out? If so, you might be suffering from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a real phenomenon that can impact our mental health. It's estimated that 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.

For those who haven’t experienced it, imposter syndrome is the constant feeling of being a fraud. No matter how much success you have, you always feel like you're about to be exposed as a fraud. This can lead to anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health issues. Despite having evidence to the contrary, people with this syndrome feel like they're just pretending to be competent and that they'll be exposed as a fraud eventually.

Lately, imposter syndrome has become a very hot topic, especially with young professionals on social media. A lot of us feel like we ended up in roles that we don’t deserve or that we are failing at everything all of the time. This invokes self-doubt and convinces a person that they are incompetent, even though they very well might not be. An individual could have the right personality, education, experience, and knowledge for a role, and they still might not believe they are deserving of their job. They put self-inflicted pressure on themselves to succeed and often, eventually, end up self-sabotaging because they’re so nervous they’ll mess it up.

Our mental health relies on many factors: self-worth, relationships, balance, feelings of safety and security, healthy lifestyles, and more. Imposter syndrome directly attacks self-worth, feelings of safety and security, and even relationships. Think about it: if you are consistently worried that you are not good enough at your job and that you landed your position as some sort of fluke, you might worry that your boss will wise up and find a replacement. This stress can cause a myriad of issues and your social and work relationships may suffer as a result.

So, what can you do? First off, recognize that a lot of other people out there are feeling the same way. You are not alone in this fight and there is always support around you. Also, start practicing ways to brag about yourself. I know that sounds ridiculous but one way to overcome imposter syndrome is to jump right into building up your confidence. It can help to write out a list of things that you are great at. Think through why you are good at your job and remind yourself of those qualities often. Finally, give yourself some grace and remember that productivity does not equal your worth as a human being. All of us go through ebbs and flows in our work ethic and productivity, which is absolutely normal! Learn when it seems like it is becoming a problem but give yourself space if you are just having an off day.

Building a healthy support network of people who believe in you and who will help you to see your own strengths and accomplishments, can be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself. These people may also be experiencing symptoms of imposter syndrome and you don’t realize how much support you can offer each other until you get the courage to open up and share.

Focus on your successes, however small they may be, and to give yourself credit for them. Small successes add up quickly! So, if you take some time to write them down, but the end of the day you may be surprised by how many you’ve accumulated. Keep a pen and paper handy at your desk each day, and when you first come into work, write something on top of a sheet of paper that’ll serve as a reminder to jot down your list. Take the list home with you each night and save it somewhere with the others so you have ongoing proof of what a great job you’re doing.

You may want to also work on reframing your thinking. Instead of thinking "I'm not good enough," remind yourself that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. You don't need to be perfect to be successful. Just put your best foot forward and do your best. A therapist can help you reframe negative thought patterns and come up with ways to get these to stick. Pay attention to when you're having negative thoughts and try to challenge them. Are they really true? Do they help you in any way? If not, let them go.

Finally, remember that you're not alone. Many successful people experience imposter syndrome from time to time. In fact, those who are in a position to be challenged at work because they’ve repeatedly proven themselves will likely experience it from time to time. Work on trying to eliminate these thoughts through reframing, reciting positive affirmations and seeking support. Over time, symptoms of imposter syndrome will ease and you will realize just how valuable you are!

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