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Imposter Syndrome ‒ It’s Not Your Fault

Written by: Lily Woi, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

How we perceive ourselves is a reflection of how we live our lives.


All of us fall prey to imposter syndrome at some point in our lives, however, we do not need to let it define who we are.


It’s time to take control of how we perceive ourselves and evolve it into something that benefits us.

Because how we perceive ourselves is a reflection of how we live our lives.


But first, let’s start with a common understanding of what imposter syndrome is.


The definition I found that describes it perfectly is “Imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills. It represents a conflict between your self-perception and how others perceive you.”


Notice the three words I bolded persistent, belief, and perceive. Those are the keywords.


It is the constant feeling of incompetence and inadequacy, despite concrete and objective evidence and how others see you.


It is not about your actual competence or capability. It is not about how good, qualified or skillful you are. More importantly, it is never about learning more skills, going on more courses, or gaining more experiences.


It goes deeper, touching on your identity. It is about who you are. Or rather, who do you think you are.


Imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you’re not good enough for the job. It means you don’t believe you are, which affects your actual performance, productivity, mental health, and relationships.


Imposter syndrome is on a spectrum too. Depending on where you are on the spectrum, it indicates how frequently and seriously imposter syndrome interferes in your life.


Some of the common symptoms of imposter syndrome include:

  • People-pleasing: saying yes when you secretly wanted to say no

  • Keeping quiet: not sharing your ideas or answers when you had them, thinking it is not worth sharing

  • Unrealistic standards: being disappointed in your achievements and think you should have accomplished more by now

  • Not taking credit: always minimizing yourself as you believe your success it’s due to luck or claiming it was a team effort

A common myth is that imposter syndrome only affects women. Nope, it affects both men and women. The difference is how they handle it. Men are more likely to push on through, leading to mental health issues. Women are likely to let it stop them from taking opportunities to shine and go for promotions.


So how do we overcome it?


The answer is not to focus on accomplishing more. It will only fuel the feeling of being an imposter. Some might say imposter syndrome encourages them to be more motivated, however, it comes at a cost. This kind of motivation might get you to over-prepare or work much harder to prove and make sure no one finds you out, setting you up for an unhealthy cycle. You might think the only reason you succeed was because of the efforts you put in to maintain the illusion of success.


It’s because accomplishing more does not change your beliefs. It does not address your self-identity.


If you never change the way you perceive yourself, you’ll continue to feel like an imposter.


A lot of research and articles also focus on how you can overcome imposter syndrome, usually through reframing and challenging your negative thoughts. While I agree that those are important, I don’t feel it truly addresses the root cause of why it happens.


It puts too much pressure on the person to fix it as if it is your fault you have it.


No, it’s not. It’s not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you.


It’s the environment you were raised in and the environment you’re currently in.

For example, if you were raised in an environment where self-worth is associated with winning or advancement, you are more likely to have imposter syndrome characteristics. Or if you frequently experience discrimination. Or if you were frequently compared to others. Or if brilliance and natural-born talent were celebrated over hard work.


All of these will start to make you question your abilities and successes.


So it’s not you. Stop trying to fix you and hope you’ll be able to cope with it. It’ll take more than working on yourself to overcome imposter syndrome.


Instead, also focus on the environment you’re surrounding yourself in.


Think about your environment, are you in an environment where you are able to thrive in a way that suits you?


Think about your people, are they genuinely here to support and empower you, or is there an ulterior motive?


Surround yourself with the right people. Ones who you’re able to share your feelings and thoughts with, who you’ll trust to give you feedback and help you develop a more realistic perspective of yourself.


You’ll need an empowering space where you have the support, validation, and empathy to navigate through this journey. To help you realize there is a different way you could be living where you’re not as anxious and feeling like a fake all the time.


The bottom line is you don’t have to do this alone.


If you are keen to go deeper, get in touch and let’s chat.


With much love,

Lily


Follow me on LinkedIn, or visit my website for more info!


 

Lily Woi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lily Woi is a professionally trained coach and an expert in helping individuals to accelerate their career progression and develop authentic leadership capabilities. She has spent years working in corporate consultancy training and advising clients to deliver multimillion transformation programs before starting her career coaching business (Lily Woi Coaching). She develops current and future leaders to be self-directed, resilient to change, grow their presence and build authentic leadership styles that motivate and inspire others. She is known for her personalized approach, tailoring content to individuals' learning preferences and work experiences to instill real practical change in an enjoyable way.

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