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:
Psychological problems are a result of unhelpful patterns of thinking.
Psychological problems are a result of learned unhelpful behaviors.
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
Role-playing potentially fear-inducing situations
Speaking to yourself out loud to hear how your thoughts and words sound
Journaling your negative thoughts, and making a list of positive thoughts to counteract them
Talking through behaviors and their outcomes, then acting upon them to see that they are not as catastrophic as you thought
Relaxation and stress-management techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and muscle relaxation
It’s important to work with trained professional therapists to learn cognitive-behavioral therapy. They can collaborate with you on strategies, be a sounding board for your ideas, and track your progress. That should only last a few months at most, however. Once you learn these positive thinking patterns, they become part of your toolkit. You can apply them and take them with you wherever you go.
3. Practice Gratitude
Practicing daily gratitude can change your brain and improve your mental health because you consciously choose to acknowledge good things in your life. It can unshackle you from persistent toxic emotions and release positive chemicals in your brain that make you feel happy and satisfied.
There are dozens of ways to practice gratitude, including keeping a gratitude journal and writing letters to people to whom you are grateful (you don’t have to mail them). While the benefits probably won’t happen overnight, regularly practicing gratitude can change the patterns in your brain.
Elsewhere on Beyond Introversion, you’ll find other resources that may prove applicable to your feelings of unworthiness and other matters of interest.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review
info.kmpg.us - KPMG study finds 75% of female executives across industries have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers
psychologytoday.com - Imposter Syndrome
apa.org - What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?
healthline.com - 9 CBT Techniques for Mental Health
sunshinebehavioralhealth.com - 90 Day Rehab Programs
greatergood.berkley.edu - How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain
lifehack.org - 40 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
Bio: Stephen Bitsoli
Stephen Bitsoli received his degree in English from Wayne State University in Detroit. The Michigan native is a professional writer and guest blogger and was a journalist for more than 20 years. Since 2016, he’s used that experience and passion in writing well-organized, comprehensive, and comprehensible articles on the complex and changing world of substance abuse and treatment. He’s won awards for his newspaper articles and was the top-ranked blogger at an international website in 2018. A lifelong reader, he enjoys learning and sharing what he’s learned.
See more of Stephen Bitsoli's writings here:
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Introversion often feels so alone and many of us assume no one else could feel this way. Contained in this book are many of the questions that have been asked, often by introverts trying to understand this personality trait that can at times govern our lives.
Hi Steve! I just wanted to say I'm incredibly thankful that I came across your blog. I currently have your [Q&A] booklet up on my work computer and every single line resonates with me. I've struggled my entire life with introversion, but your guide is helping me realize that I need to embrace it instead of feeling embarrassed! Anyways, your content is awesome and I'm planning on sharing some info with my team. -GK 2/8/2022
I also hear from many introverts struggling to share their introversion with family, friends, and co-workers, either out of fear or just not having the words. I hope this booklet may serve to educate others to better understand the many strengths and talents we have to share.
I hope you will find this booklet an informative read and reference book with a splash of light-heartedness and inspiration as well. I invite you to start with the questions you are most curious about and share from there.
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