Have you ever felt a disconnect between how you envision yourself and how you think the public views you? Imposter syndrome is exactly that feeling of disconnect. Despite sounding quite negative, imposter syndrome is now being considered a good thing, acting as a potential strength toward achieving a goal. But beware, it can be detrimental if it becomes too intense.
Imposter syndrome is believed to have three main elements: a belief that other individuals have a differing, or inflated, view of your abilities and skills; you experience an intense fear that you will be exposed as a “fake”; and you constantly attribute your success to external factors, neglecting your abilities and talents.
Those who have imposter syndrome find themselves double-checking their work, working extremely hard, trying to perfect everything, never find themselves satisfied, and constantly look for more ways to train or learn to better themselves. Many childhood factors may contribute to imposter syndrome, such as when children are pedestalized but fail to meet the expectations they are subjected to by their parents. Many times, children develop imposter syndrome in attempts to live up to these golden standards.
The BBC reports that around 70 per cent of people have imposter syndrome, and we find numbers rising with social media. As we are constantly presented with the “successful” lives of many, we tend to compare ourselves and draw the conclusion that we cannot measure up.
A proposed solution to this syndrome is simply to objectively look at your successes and hold yourself accountable for your own wins. This reality check can really help you accept both wins and losses and become more comfortable with the notion of not being “perfect.”
There’s another caveat: the syndrome was originally thought to only affect women. I disagree, wholly. Anyone can be vulnerable to imposter syndrome.
We tend to associate women with imposter syndrome-like behaviours—for example, being subjected to “body goals” or standards of life that they feel compelled to achieve through mediums like social media. But men are also very vulnerable to these issues as well. Everyone, for that fact, is vulnerable.
I also think that although the syndrome may superficially be presented as productive or healthy, the line between healthy and unhealthy is extremely thin and it is very easy to cross these boundaries. This syndrome can quickly reach a very detrimental point—a point where you no longer appreciate yourself or consistently self-doubt yourself so much that you put yourself down. It is one of the easiest downfalls that one can foresee if this is taken too intensely.
That being said, there is a lot more we can learn about this issue, and we have only scratched the surface of really understanding the ins and outs of imposter syndrome—that is, how it occurs, when it occurs, and why. Furthermore, it is important to acknowledge that imposter syndrome is not a one-size-fits-all sort of phenomenon. It varies vastly from person to person and will be manifested differently, something else we must keep in mind.
The key takeaway is that if you’re self-conscious enough and doubt yourself a healthy amount, this may do you better, however, it can quickly become a discouraging fear that breaks you down instead of building you up. Appreciating yourself and holding yourself accountable for the great things you do (and learning from the low points) is one of the biggest pieces in our puzzle of life.
Opinion Editor (Volume 49) | firstname.lastname@example.org — Kareena is a third-year student completing a double-major in Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies and Philosophy, and minoring in Forensic Science. She has previously served as the Associate Opinion Editor for Volume 48. Through her involvement and contributions with The Medium, Kareena hopes to foster a safe and trusted space, while encouraging others to let their voices and stories be heard. When Kareena is not writing or studying, you can find her watching true crime mysteries or cooking.