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Have you ever felt that the people around you secretly don’t respect you, think you’re not qualified, or that you’re actually an imposter? If so, you’re not alone.

It’s called Impostor Syndrome, a concept that was first put forth in the ‘70s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

This syndrome refers to a state of mind where the affected individual feels that their success is only due to luck, not skill, and because of this they live with the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

To help you break through the self-doubt and fear, let’s take a closer look at what Impostor Syndrome is, how it can impact one’s life, and useful tips to overcome it.

Who is most affected by impostor syndrome?

Experts have found a pattern among people that typically suffer from the Impostor Syndrome:

  • People that are used to being perfect. Even a small mistake will make them question their abilities.
  • High achievers that have a fear of being perceived as mediocre due to something as small as asking for clarification.
  • People who like to do all the work by themselves and feel like a failure if they have to ask for help from others.
  • Individuals that experience an intense need to be equipped with all of the information before taking up a task.
  • Individuals that think of themselves as genius and feel inadequate when they have to work hard for success.
  • People that feel they have to excel at everything in life and put in extra effort to continually prove themselves.

How can impostor syndrome affect your life?

Impostor Syndrome can have a significant impact on both personal and professional lives. Affected people often find themselves in what is termed as an “impostor cycle”.

The cycle often begins with the belief that he/ she needs to achieve to succeed, belong, or be loved. Over time, such people find themselves stuck in these beliefs and have difficulty breaking out of them.

You may feel the following negative effects at work:

  • An intense need to complete every task perfectly without seeking help from others.
  • A tendency to procrastinate in the fear of not being able to complete a task to self-perceived high standards.
  • A need to meet unreasonable standards by spending more time on preparing for the task than on completing it.
  • Likely to miss professional opportunities as a result of constant self-doubt and constant fear of failure.

The effects of sticking to the impostor cycle:

  • The mental stress and fear of failure can lead to burnout, which affects productivity and achieving professional goals.
  • The physical stress can cause them to abandon exercising and healthy eating habits, which can take a toll on their overall wellbeing.
  • The constant feeling of inadequacy can make them mentally unavailable to loved ones, which impacts their relationships.

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4 Tips to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

1. Start by accepting your feelings.

If you are feeling self-doubt, fear, or other negative emotions, then write them down in a journal as well as the events that led to such feelings.

Now, give reasons why you feel the way you do. Compare them with reality. For example, say your co-workers gave applause after your new presentation. But you fear that you were inadequate.

Compare your feelings with reality. Understand that feelings are just that and not facts. Focus on reality and reframe your negative thoughts.

2. Talk to trusted people about your feelings.

Often, people suffering from Impostor Syndrome are afraid to talk to others in the fear of being revealed as a fake.

When you talk to people and the way they perceive your success, it can give you a new perspective. Talking also reduces the power of your feelings and shifts the control to you.

Talking to mentors and people whom you admire can help. Their idea of success can help you attain a perspective that is reliable, constructive, and actionable.

By sharing your feelings, you may come to understand that such feelings of inadequacy are normal and not something to be ashamed of.

Talking with mentors also helps you view your own achievements from the perspective of a person that has been in your position.

Impostor Syndrome prevents your ability to recognize your own accomplishments. Talking and sharing can help you understand your achievements realistically.

3. Practice detachment from your feelings.

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome is a long-term task. You need to develop techniques that you can use in the present. Detaching yourself from your feelings is one way of dealing with your present.

Whenever you feel inadequate or plagued by negative thoughts, move away from those thoughts mentally. Observe them instead of getting involved in them.

You can distance yourself from such feelings by dealing with them in the third person. For example, say you feel “I’m incapable because I did not get positive feedback from clients”.

Reframe this feeling in the third person using he/she statements such as “He/she feels.” When you do so, you tend to be more objective and frame a more realistic and helpful perspective.

You can also combat your inner critic by taking up calculated risks at work and doing your best.

4. Get a deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses.

Assess what you excel at and where you lag. This gives you a realistic outlook on your positive and negative aspects.

When you know yourself, you can stop worrying about why you are not good at certain things and focus on constructive ways to minimize your weaknesses.

In conclusion

The physical and mental distress that people affected by Impostor Syndrome undergo can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, most people continue to tolerate the suffering because they believe there is no way out.

However, leading a great life is possible and by reframing your thoughts and talking through your feelings can help you gain confidence and break the Impostor cycle.

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