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An Introvert’s Guide to Beating Imposter Syndrome

Most people feel at times that they aren’t competent, that they don’t deserve their success or accomplishments. It’s called the imposter syndrome, and it’s linked to other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Nearly 70% of adults will experience imposter syndrome at some point in their life. It may be more common among introverts than extroverts, but everyone experiences it. Not everyone deals with the resulting feelings that can damage their self-esteem.

Although it’s not officially recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), imposter syndrome is an accepted psychological phenomenon. Imposter syndrome typically manifests in those who battle perfectionism and neuroticism.

It’s especially common in people who grew up with high expectations and intense pressure to perform in school, sports, and extracurricular activities. In many cases, these people didn’t get enough praise as a child, causing a lack of trust in their abilities.

Ironically, people who experience it are often highly accomplished, have academic degrees, and perform well in their job, athletic pursuits, and relationships. They attribute their success to external factors, like having good luck or good timing.

According to research done by MIT, people with imposter syndrome feel they need to overcompensate for their shortcomings. This makes them overachievers and great team players.

Please join me in welcoming Stephen Bitsoli as our Beyond Introversion guest blogger. Stephen is a career journalist who now writes articles on mental health and substance abuse for newspapers and websites around the world. His passion for the subject and his thoughtful research shine through in his article on Imposter Syndrome today. Prepare to be enlightened...

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

A review of 62 studies in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that imposter syndrome can affect anyone regardless of age, demographic group, gender, and profession.

Women, however, tend to experience it more than men. This has been attributed to the fact that there are gender imbalances in the workplace, and executive women felt they were in a minority compared to their male peers.

Many women report that the more successful they become, the lonelier it gets at the top, in part because their peer groups change. High-pressure environments can cause women to feel like they constantly have to perform and that others do not know them on a human, personal level.

Why Does Imposter Syndrome Afflict Introverts?

Some personality traits common to introverts can lead to imposter syndrome, including:

  • Introverts are deeply self-reflective, self-aware, and gain energy from time alone. However, they can overthink things and be their own harshest critic, causing self-doubt and low self-esteem.

  • Many introverts struggle with trying to be perfect and so have trouble making decisions.

  • Introverts don’t typically seek out validation of how great they’re doing, they have to battle with themselves to feel worthy.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as an Introvert

There isn’t a huge deal of scientific research on imposter syndrome or how to overcome its associated feelings, but there is anecdotal evidence. Many people have described how they overcame their imposter syndrome. Also, many therapists and psychologists have applied evidence-based practices used to treat other mental health conditions to imposter syndrome.

1. Share Your Feelings with Someone you Trust

Sometimes the first step in overcoming negative feelings is speaking them out loud to someone who will listen. Share your feelings with a close friend or family member, mentor, or therapist. This is especially helpful for introverts who tend to keep things to themselves. This helps you receive validation from someone who cares and believes that you feel the way you do.

2. Practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Change Your Mindset

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of psychological treatment that helps you change your thinking patterns, is based on three core principles:

  1. Psychological problems are a result of unhelpful patterns of thinking.

  2. Psychological problems are a result of learned unhelpful behaviors.

  3. People battling psychological problems can learn healthier ways of coping to live more effective lives.

CBT involves a great deal of self-awareness and self-talk. By recognizing distortions in your ways of thinking, you can evaluate them and ground them in reality. CBT also focuses on understanding the behaviors and motivations of others around you to gain perspective.

Some CBT techniques for people with imposter syndrome include:

  • Identifying specific areas in your life where you feel like a fraud