The all-too-common internal voice of reason may not always be so reasonable. How do you know if your internal critic needs some quietening?
Elizabeth just received some big news. She sat down, unsure what to do next - and as she struggled in the overwhelm, she felt like she was in an emotional whirlpool. She felt a little lucky at least, that she was alone and she could let loose with the tears.
Yet it wasn't devastating news she'd received. No - she'd actually received a promotion at work.
Shouldn't I feel ecstatic? My family and friends will be so proud to hear the news- this is exactly what I've been working towards.
Yet the uneasy feeling inside was one she'd struggled with since she was a kid. She couldn't quite put a finger on it, but it was a very private fear that she never spoke of. Because if she spoke of it... Wasn't that just bringing to light what an absolute fraud she sometimes felt like?
Elizabeth didn't realise that feeling had a name - although she was definitely not alone in experiencing that deep feeling of inferiority. I might be found out. I'm not actually this smart, or deserving of this position.
Imposter syndrome is a sneaky mental hurdle that can hold you back from realising your full potential, both personally and professionally.
It often plagues those who are, ironically, high-achieving.
This nagging feeling of inadequacy can be tough to identify, making it essential to know the telltale signs. Today we'll uncover the top 3 signs that you might be grappling with imposter syndrome.
And if you've struggled with feeling like an imposter for a while, it can feel like a big step to admit it to yourself - let alone seek outside help for it, so we'll explore how telehealth psychologists and online therapists in Australia can offer guidance and support.
Sign 1: Constant Self-Doubt
One of the most prevalent signs of imposter syndrome is a constant and nagging sense of self-doubt. No matter how many achievements you rack up, you just can't shake the feeling that you don't deserve them.
You might find yourself thinking, I got lucky or I don't really know what I'm doing. These negative thoughts can be relentless, sapping your self-confidence and preventing you from enjoying your successes.
Sign 2: Downplaying Your Achievements
Do you often downplay your accomplishments, even when others are praising your hard work? If you find yourself attributing your successes to external factors like luck, good timing, or help from others, you could be experiencing another classic symptom of imposter syndrome.
You might say things like, It wasn't a big deal, or Anyone could have done it. While humility is admirable, constantly deflecting credit can be a sign that you're not giving yourself the recognition you deserve.
Sign 3: Fear of Exposure
Another sign that imposter syndrome may be lurking is a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.
You might worry that your colleagues, friends, or family will someday discover that you're not as competent as they believe you to be.
This fear of being found out can lead to avoidance behaviours, such as procrastination or declining new opportunities because you fear you won't measure up.
Why Does Imposter Syndrome Happen?
Imposter syndrome can develop for various reasons, and it often has deep-seated roots in an individual's upbringing, personality, or past experiences. Some factors that can contribute to its development are early life experiences, personality traits, and family dynamics:
Traumatic or challenging experiences in childhood or adolescence can erode self-esteem and contribute to imposter syndrome.
Both an internal sense of perfectionism and high sensitivity to criticism, and an outward environment where achievement was highly valued or where unrealistic expectations were placed, can make individuals more susceptible to imposter syndrome.
To make matters a little more complicated, certain environments we come across as adults are often unhelpfully conducive to that sense of inadequacy.
Societal standards and cultural norms can perpetuate imposter feelings, especially for individuals who don't fit the mould of what's considered successful.
And really - one of the biggest places people experience imposter syndrome is related to working life.
Depending on the supportiveness - or lack thereof - a competitive or unsupportive workplace can exacerbate imposter feelings, as can being the only person from your background or identity group in a particular field.
Are women more likely to be affected?
Although it's often been stated that women are categorically more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome - interestingly, the internal struggle - and the outward reality of unsupportiveness can actually sometimes match.
It's fine to say that an individual needs to change their mindset, yet sometimes an objective reality check can be enough to validate those feelings of being undermined by other colleagues or management.
Either way? The experience usually calls for some extra support, rather than trying to struggle through on your own.
How Therapy Can Help
The good news is that imposter syndrome is not permanent, and therapy can be an effective way to address and overcome it.
Through identifying negative thought patterns, therapy provides a safe space to explore your thoughts; giving you a chance to challenge and reframe beliefs about your abilities and accomplishments.
By taking a look at your individual story, it is possible to develop coping strategies and build self-esteem on sturdier ground than the pretend version it might feel like you were operating from.
With the guidance of a therapist, you can set realistic and achievable goals that align with your abilities and values. This can reduce the pressure to be perfect.
Ready to help that inner child?
If you've felt a bit like an imposter for a really long time, it can be a huge step to make that confession to yourself that you feel this way.
Yet one of the kindest things you could do is look at that younger version of you, and extend a hand.
Picture your younger self as someone you could have a conversation with right now. Do you think they deserve a little more compassion, and a helping hand with those hidden - yet heavy feelings?
Reach out to a telehealth psychologist or online therapist in Australia and start your path toward self-assuredness, self-acceptance, and success.