5 Common Ways Imposter Syndrome Cuts Down Your Confidence, Making You Feel Unwanted — And How To Overcome It (For Good!)

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What Is Imposter Syndrome? 5 Common Ways Imposter Syndrome Kills Your Self-Esteem — And How To Get Over It

What is imposter syndrome?

This common pattern of behavior, also known as imposter phenomenon and fraud syndrome, is defined as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.”

Imposter syndrome is essentially a fear of being exposed as a fraud, and it can cause significant problems with your work performance and self-esteem.

If you cannot identify your skills, talents and good characteristics, then you may not be able to improve them or stand up for yourself when your abilities are called into question.

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It’s this constant feeling that you might be exposed as a fake — that you might finally be confronted and told to quit your job or your position of power. Whether you hold yourself to a higher standard than everyone else (i.e., your colleagues and friends) or expect yourself to succeed despite putting in little effort, you can experience imposter syndrome in numerous ways.

For example, your imposter syndrome can present itself in one of the 5 ways without you even knowing it. Each way imposter syndrome is demonstrated in your life (outwardly and inwardly) is explained in detail below along with some tips to help you combat this awful syndrome for good.

1. By being controlling.

If you have trouble relinquishing control to others and feel disappointed regardless of your ability to control a situation, then you probably have imposter syndrome. You might overthink the situation and wonder what you could have done to prevent an error. You might even feel like a failure for letting someone else lead a work assignment with the confidence you lack. However, being a leader first requires you to believe in yourself and then to believe in your team; you don’t always have to be in charge to guarantee you will finish your work.

Learning to embrace your mistakes and contribute to group projects without controlling them can help you feel better about your work performance. You also need to relish in your successes, even though you might think you could’ve done better. It’s unhealthy to blame yourself for only your failures.

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2. By overworking yourself.

These people feel like they need to sacrifice everything in their lives to perform at 100% all of the time. They don’t appreciate when their skills have been recognized by awards, degrees or certificates and constantly overwork themselves in an attempt to prove to others that they belong. You might have this type of imposter syndrome if you can never justify taking a break, are told that you’re an overachiever and thrive on validation for your hard work.

To make imposter syndrome take up less of your time and effort, try accepting criticism as helpful, not personal. Use it as a means to improve, not a reason to berate yourself. Schedule breaks often to avoid burnout and increase your focus, and remember that life needs balance.

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3. By putting in too little effort.

This may seem counterintuitive for someone with imposter syndrome, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If you are used to succeeding with little effort throughout school and have grown up being told that you are “the smart one,” then you are less likely to take risks and challenge yourself mentally. You may be afraid that you’ll bring shame to yourself or your family, so you retreat instead of working harder. Because you’ve never been exposed to challenges or forced to face setbacks in life, you don’t have the best work ethic.

However, this type of imposter syndrome has a simple solution. All you need to do is seek out challenges on a regular basis. Encourage yourself to keep trying, despite your fear of failure. It’s possible for you to achieve even more than you have, especially if you accept help from others.

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4. By ignoring your needs.

Imposter syndrome can make you feel like the world is on your shoulders — that your needs come second to the needs of your work. Refusing to ask for help can be detrimental to your mental, and physical, health, so it’s important for you to understand the difference between independence and stubbornness. Being independent is good, but it can lead you to think that you don’t need anyone in your life to help improve your abilities, encourage you or lend a helping hand.

Don’t let imposter syndrome take away your support system. The best way to fight the syndrome if it affects you in this manner is to communicate with your loved ones. Tell them about your struggles with accepting help, and let them know that it’s OK for them to intervene when you reach your breaking point (and beforehand). However, you need to be responsive to their help and try your very best not to dismiss it.

5. By never being satisfied with yourself.

While it’s normal to want to continue your education and keep learning, it’s not so normal to feel inadequate because of your limited experiences and skills. No one is perfect, so no one can know everything about a subject. Not even you. The fear of being inexperienced is common for people who struggle with imposter syndrome because they don’t believe they are skilled enough to meet different work requirements.

If you want to overcome imposter syndrome, start limiting yourself to only learning new skills that you need to complete your responsibilities. Gaining skills just for the sake of having them can be exhausting and leave you feeling even more inadequate. If you develop the skills you already have and focus on the skills that you can and need to improve, then you will be better equipped for your job and exude confidence in the process.

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Meaghan Summers is a writer who covers astrology, pop culture and relationship topics.