Are you one of those people who’s toyed with the idea of starting an online business for years, but never actually gotten started?
Chances are, it’s not because you’re not knowledgeable enough. You’ve probably hit that “content saturation” point where blogs, newsletters, and other fresh content in the “how to make money online” niche isn’t telling you much that you didn’t already know.
But you haven’t started yet. Why?
It’s probably imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a super common — but ultimately maladaptive — set of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that gifted people tend to experience.
While imposter syndrome is especially common in people who also have clinically significant mood disorders like depression or anxiety, that isn’t always the case. Not everyone with imposter syndrome has serious global emotional dysregulation that’s bad enough to be clinically significant.
But it’s an issue of self concept. You feel like you’re, you know, not quite good enough to succeed. Like your best efforts may not work out well — and the idea of giving it your all, then failing spectacularly despite all that, isn’t very fun to think about.
But it can leave you condemned to a lifetime of “what-ifs” and “might have beens.”
A recent piece from A Better Lemonade Stand explores the epidemiology and psychology of “imposter syndrome” in more detail, offering some interesting stats that demonstrate just how widespread it is.
Imposter Syndrome is said to affect about 70% of the population at some point in their lives, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.
The term was first coined in the 70’s by psychologists Dr. Suzanne Imes and Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and “Refers to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite external evidence of their competence”.
People who exhibit Imposter Syndrome remain convinced that their own success and achievements are attributed to luck, timing or because they were able to fool others into thinking that they are smarter and more competent than they actually themselves believe they are.
Even though Imposter Syndrome isn’t listed as an official diagnosis in any of the manuals about mental disorders, psychologists and healthcare professionals do acknowledge it as a crippling form of intellectual self-doubt.
What’s interesting is that even though the syndrome isn’t an official diagnosis in itself, the feelings associated with it usually go hand in hand with other recognized mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
It’s so important to understand that statistically 7 out of the 10 people around you may actually be facing emotions of Imposter Syndrome, or at least are likely to at some point in their lives, just like you.
Even though it was initially believed that women were more affected by Imposter Syndrome than men, recent studies have shown that this is not a gendered experience.
Oftentimes, the root of these fraudulent feelings can be traced back to our childhood.
Growing up in a family where parents or other influential role models oscillate between over-criticism and over-praise — wherein success and achievements are of the utmost importance — can prompt the child into becoming a highly ambitious over-achiever who is at risk of experiencing Imposter Syndrome as they mature.
Of course, society’s standards of success and the pressure that accompanies them, only adds fuel to the fire.
Other factors that lead to fuelling this sense of being a fraud are the way we differ from the majority of our peers, be it our appearance, gender, sexual orientation, race or other defining characteristics.
Millennials are also at a higher risk of facing feelings of Imposter Syndrome, as their time of entering the workforce is occurring during some remarkable technological and socio-economic developments that require constant learning and adaptability due to the rate that mankind is excelling at.
While some people may see adaptability as a good trait to possess, it can also make others feel like they aren’t equipped with the expertise they should have to begin with, rather than learning and adapting to situations.
Perfectly curated social media feeds don’t help either – in many cases people base their self worth on another’s Facebook or LinkedIn page and are severely critical about the way they perceive themselves in comparison.
At this point their perceptions are often not aligned with the reality of things.
One attribute that commonly occurs in high-achieving people and often accompanies Imposter Syndrome is perfectionism.
Perfectionism typically leads a person to take one of two routes: Procrastination or over-preparation.
Someone dealing with imposter-like feelings is very likely to put off tasks until the very last minute due to a sometimes irrational fear that they may not complete the task at high enough standards, or on the flip side they may spend way too much time on the task when it isn’t required.
Criticism, failure and mistakes seem to be the only thing that people with Imposter Syndrome dwell upon.
This trait often translates into a deep running fear of the person’s failures being exposed and can limit the chance to explore and take a leap of faith.
Although it is possible to ease the feelings related to imposter syndrome, the best way to deal with it is to address it while it’s taking root.
Transparency about such feelings with someone you look up to, or in a safe environment, can really help.
However, this method of management works best when there is two-way communication; When mentors open up about their experiences with imposter syndrome, it brings light to the fact that others also face the same feelings of inadequacy.
This may help others from victimizing themselves as it no longer feels like a negative experience that is limited to only them.
Another great reflective tool that many people use includes making lists of their own successes, accomplishments, and positive experiences where they stood out or felt like they truly deserved the accolades they received.
This helps to reiterate the fact that one may not be an “imposter” after all. Of course, having a strong support system that is open to discussing these feelings while providing feedback regularly, is one of the best ways to cope with the syndrome.
You can get the full story on imposter syndrome in the original article from ecommerce blog A Better Lemonade Stand.