Disclaimer: The advice given in this article is based on my personal experience and my conversations with people. This is not professional or psychological advice, therefore, do not hold it to psychological standards.

I have not known anyone who has not suffered from some form of impostor syndrome; from successful business owners to Ph.D. scholars, students to corporate professionals, most people go through that phase of self-doubt. Feeling like an impostor is not necessarily a bad thing as in most cases, it does push you to overcome your anxieties and discover your strengths and weaknesses.

The problem is when the syndrome becomes a full-blown mental crisis. You are constantly doubting yourself, you feel like you’re a failure when you make a mistake, and you get so overwhelmed with the pressure that you end up spiraling into depression and destructive behaviors. That’s when impostor syndrome has hit you hard – and – you need help.

In my experience, there are usually four factors that cause crippling impostor syndrome:

Your Immediate Environment

Impostor Syndrome is a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their achievements and have an internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, can be fueled by environmental factors. Highly competitive environments, such as elite universities, high-performance workplaces, or competitive industries often cause this condition.

There is a constant emphasis on achievement and maximum performance, creating a culture where individuals are pitted against each other, amplifying feelings of inadequacy. The presence of exceptionally talented peers or colleagues can compound the effect by setting a high bar for success, causing individuals to believe they aren’t genuinely competent or talented and that they’ve only achieved their position through luck or deception. This psychological phenomenon can be reinforced by societal expectations, biases, stereotypes, and the lack of representation, making some individuals feel they don’t ‘belong’ or that their success is unmerited.

Social Media & Societal Pressures

Ever felt like you don’t know anything or you’re in the wrong field after browsing LinkedIn? That’s social media making you feel like an impostor.

I personally know people who fake content on LinkedIn as a way to seem “popular,” but in reality do not have 6-figure incomes. They just create content for the sake of content. However, their fake content creates a ripple effect. Most of us end up thinking we don’t know our jobs when we see these “quick cheat codes that will generate 6-figures,” posts.

Then there are societal pressures. You have to be an entrepreneur. You have to be a creator. You have to be a successful corporate professional with a fancy car and a house. You are constantly being forced to be a capitalist even though you want nothing but a simple job that pays your bills.

With so much external pressure, we all feel like we’re not good enough or we’re not meant to succeed. We all feel like we’re failures.

External Voices & Feedback from People Who Don’t Matter

The opinion of a stranger on the internet doesn’t matter. The feedback of a colleague who doesn’t understand your job, your role, or your industry doesn’t matter. The negative feedback from people around you discouraging you from achieving your goals doesn’t matter.

Do not let external voices control your identity.

Your Internal Voice and Critical Feedback

If you’re an overthinker, chances are you spend more time in self-sabotaging than in self-appreciation. If you keep finding yourself saying, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a failure,” “I’m a loser,” then you’re adding to your impostor syndrome.

Usually, self-sabotage happens when you measure yourself against impossible standards or compete with other people. If you keep thinking you have to be perfect, or you have to meet certain imaginary standards you end up nurturing an anxiety that cripples your self-confidence. This negative internal feedback will cause a mental health crisis.

Steps I Took to Manage My Impostor Syndrome

Be realistic about who I am: I have to do a lot of self-discovery and soul-searching to understand who I am and what my values are. I have never taken the ‘fake it till you make it advice,’ because I don’t think that’s a realistic way of approaching the problem. I would rather be realistic about what I can or cannot do and find people who would respect those abilities.

Own my strengths & weaknesses: This is very liberating. When I owned my weaknesses, I knew exactly what I wanted (or not wanted) to do. I was not affected by social media or societal pressures. When I knew my strengths, I used them as my USP and brought value to the table. Knowing and owning your strengths and weaknesses saves you from a lot of unnecessary struggles and heartbreaks!

Knowing when the pressure is too much: There’s good pressure, and then there’s toxic pressure. Good pressure is trying to achieve a team goal and being excited about it. Negative pressure is constant overperformance, overworking, and finding the overwhelming need to prove yourself – ALL THE TIME. Yes, I was at workplaces where this was a norm and it gave me extreme stress. Now, I am able to identify these pressure modes and work around them (or completely avoid them).

Invest in continuous learning: I just finished my second Master’s degree and I’m willing to learn more. Keep improving your skills. Learn new skills. Put into practice. Start a project for fun or build a new hobby. Create tangible items so that when you doubt yourself, you can look at it and know you’re doing something good – for you.

In the grand scheme of things…. it doesn’t matter what my KPI score is. What matters is how happy am I with the quality of my life. Am I having enough time for my loved ones? For my hobbies? For my self-development? These are far more important factors to worry about.

At the end of the day, impostor syndrome is our belief that we are not enough. It’s hard to feel enough when you’re in a world that’s constantly demanding more of you. Sometimes, no one gets this and you feel like you have to keep pretending to keep up. Eventually, though, it crashes on you. Don’t spiral into despair. Believe in your journey. Believe in you!

Have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome? I’d love to know how you managed it! Please share your comments.

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