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More Than 70% of People Have Imposter Syndrome, and if You Don’t Have It, You Are Probably Naive

I talk about personal development, entrepreneurship, investing, and emerging technologies.

Let’s find out if the imposter syndrome is a sign of greatness or fraud.

Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes used the term “Imposter Phenomenon” first time in 1978 in their research paper — The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, which focused on women. Later research showed that imposter syndrome is real and transpires in both men and women.

What is Imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many questions whether they’re deserving of accolades.” Harvard Business Review

When I got accepted to the university on a full scholarship to pursue a Master of Engineering degree, my first thought was that someone definitely made a mistake giving me a 100% scholarship.

By the time I was in the class, I was sure that super-intelligent people were around me. Many of my classmates worked full-time with multi-national companies in leadership roles. I used to think about how can I end up with high-performers without a big name on my resume.

I grew up in a small village where no one went to school after grade 8 in the 90s. I was the first in my extended family and neighborhood to go to college and then university. I used to walk to a nearby village to do my 9th and 10th grades. Sometimes to sit on the donkey carts but most of the time walking.

I used to have a hard time internalizing my accomplishments. Imposter syndrome started again when I wanted to write on the internet. I always thought there were millions of accomplished writers on the planet. Why would someone read my article?

What am I going to share? These thoughts always make me think that I do not have enough knowledge to perform this task. The following thought process changed my perspective.

I want to share my unique experiences. Maybe similar stories exist and may be written by someone else but not by me. I accept that I have self-doubt and anxiety, and sometimes I feel I am not enough. I treat this as a learning curve and look at my past to get some encouragement and move! I have to play my part.

I always have the same feelings, accepting a new project, mentorship, and even networking events. I can share that it’s hard to handle fraudulent emotions.

Sometimes, I also feel like I am set for life. Let me tell you, I was wrong. To be successful and stay optimistic all the time, you have to embrace the path of a perpetual learner.

Imposter syndrome is real

Research shows that 70% of intelligent people may suffer from imposter syndrome when I joined my M.Eng program with highly intellectual students. Later, when I entered the corporate world, it was easy to look around and feel like I didn’t belong there.

Internal defense mechanism

As I said above, approximately 70% of people experience imposter syndrome. Research shows that imposter syndrome should be seen as a defense mechanism to protect you from failures.

Imposter Syndrom men vs. women

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The first paper on the imposter phenomenon was focused on high-achieving women who experienced imposter syndrome. Many studies show that imposter syndrome affects men just as much as women. Research also shows that men can have severe anxiety due to imposter syndrome compared to women.

So what can we do about it? Is there any solution? Let’s see how we overcome the fear of imposter syndrome.

Here are the 3 ways to overcome imposter syndrome based on my experience.

1- Accept it

It’s completely okay to accept your feelings, and that’s the only way you can grow up. I am a firm believer that not a single person on the planet knows everything, at least not me.

I worked on my M.Eng thesis for 2 years, and in the end, I literally touched the tip of the iceberg (subject). Be open-minded and keep learning.

I have written 100+ articles on Medium, and each time I sit to write I know nothing; I have to research and find people’s perspectives to benchmark my findings. Weakness is a part of life. It’s totally normal to feel that you don’t know anything or even you don’t belong here.

2- Keep learning, especially from your mistakes.

Embrace the perpetual learner path or, in another way, a lifelong learning route. Try to understand your weaknesses and develop a mechanism to overcome them in the long run by adopting the change. Always pay key attention to your constructive feedback, especially the negative one, to take it as an opportunity to learn.

Constantly find ways to improve yourself! I always buy Udemy, Coursera, or Linda courses to keep improving my skills, and there is a high chance to get funds from the company for continuous learning. Here is an excellent article on why successful people spend 5 hours each week learning.

I can share with you from my experience that no one is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes. Be adaptable to embrace the change and keep learning from your mistakes.

3- Share with your best friend/mentor

Make sure to share your imposter syndrome feelings with your best friend or mentor to get their point of view. I reach out to people on LinkedIn to ask for mentorship, and after a couple of sessions, I share my doubts to listen to their experienced recommendations.

It’s super easy to find people on LinkedIn in your industry to get in touch. You can also find professional people to help you overcome imposter syndrome by paying for a couple of sessions. You can also share your feelings with your family or seek help from a professional organization.

The bottom line

Trust your strengths, and believe me, it will get easier. Train your brain to accept that you belong here. It’s not that you just joined the organization unexpectedly; there was a tough competition to get to where you are right now.

Whenever I face imposter syndrome, I always connect back to my early days when I used to live in a small village and think I will learn more skills and acquire more knowledge in the long run.

Don’t worry; keep learning, and you will accomplish great things in life.

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