Imposter Syndrome Explained, And How To Avoid The Trap

Have you ever felt the fear of being found out?

Have you ever felt that you are a fraud?

The term impostor phenomenon was coined in 1978 by Georgia State University psychology professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes in a study of high-achieving women

However, the impostor syndrome applies to both Men and Women equally.

Chris who found himself in a great job without much effort doubted his ability and gave credit to his luck.

He soon left that job in less than a year before being found incompetent.

Tanya, another professional who is a researcher landed a golden opportunity of heading a global team believes she does not deserve this success because there are many talented people out there who can do a great job. And she lives in perennial fear of being found out that she is not who or what others think she is capable of.

And this is not limited to work alone.

People in great relationships doubt themselves if they deserve such a wonderful partner and they tend to be aloof or suspicious of their partners.

And some regret being alive or safe after a crisis and lead a life of perpetual guilt.

The challenge here is their inability to internalise their achievements.

And if you knew Chris or Tanya, they are amazing people full of life and enthusiasm.

So why do they believe they are a fraud?

Tanya was constantly motivated by her parents to be a winner.

She tells me that she scored 98.9 percent and her parents didn’t acknowledge her success.

Her parents believed that appreciation will demotivate Tanya to succeed. However, they failed to realise that they failed Tanya as parents.

Chris is the eldest son in the family. Love and hugs were rewards for success.

His parents were extremely popular in society and had very high expectations from Chris.

But Chris could never gauge his success except through the intensity of love and hugs he received after each success.

However, at work, he is not rewarded with love and hugs but with promotions and perks.

They are not his measure of success and therefore he believed he is a fraud.

There are other reasons too for feeling like a fraud or fear of being found out.

  • Traumatic Experiences
  • Lack of Validation
  • Highly Successful parents or siblings
  • Poor financial backgrounds
  • Competitive environment
  • Fear of being alone
  • High expectations
  • Conservative thinking
  • Group over the individual attitudes

We are constantly told to get going and keep moving on.

But perhaps it is high time to stop and take a moment to celebrate success and achievements.

Instead of constantly moving the goal post and never feeling finished, it is about time that we stop to acknowledge and celebrate success or completion before we move the goal post.

Quite a few clients tell me how their parents asked them not to share their awards or wins at home so as to not hurt the brother or sister who is not performing at school or arts.

There is another client who intentionally failed his exams to stand on par with his brother because of the pressure from his mother.

This may be an extreme case but to some degree, we are all doing it to ourselves and people close to us directly or indirectly.

Let us create a culture of celebrating success and achievements.

At the same time, let us create a culture of celebrating individuals with differences accepting them as they are.

In workplaces, if you see your colleagues underplaying, call them out and create a safe environment to resolve their inner dilemmas.

At home and in your families, create a culture of acceptance and celebration.

We come with nothing and we take nothing.

And if everything is to fill this gap of a lifetime, should we really worry about success or failure?

I know it is a lot to think about and reflect on.

But it’s time to talk and create an impact.

Love to hear your feedback.

-Manna Abraham

Manna Abraham

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