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The Self-Stigma Cycle Of Imposter Syndrome And 5 Steps In Helping You In Seeking Support

Written by: Victor Mosconi, 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.

 

You’re not that bad. Your struggle isn’t bad enough. You don’t deserve help. Don’t you have all the tools already? If you need help, then you’re not good enough anyway and you really are the problem.

Impostor syndrome written on the sticker on the whiteboard.

Thoughts and questions your mind will go through when experiencing impostor syndrome and questioning if you should seek out support.


What is Imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome, also known as the impostor phenomenon, generally is the inability to recognize internalized successes and achievements. It’s the constant fear of being a fraud for not being good enough and needing to seek out acceptance from external sources that will never fulfill that need.


When you’re experiencing this negative self-belief, you don’t trust yourself. You are in a state of fear of not being good enough. You worry others will discover or confirm you are a fraud. Your fear keeps you from seeing what is real and true.


You stay stuck where you are. Stressed and anxious, and not being able to create change. Only staying in the same path cycle of anxiety, fear, and negative self-belief.


The Impostor Cycle

Imposter syndrome is known to follow what is called the impostor cycle, first identified by Dr. Clance through her research. The basic premise of the impostor cycle refers to your thoughts and feelings, along with the negative effects associated with completing a task while experiencing imposter syndrome. When you experience high levels of imposter thoughts, you follow this path in hopes of being seen as worthy, yet all the while believing you are never good enough.


The cycle begins at the achievement-related task stage, which can relate to any academic or professional setting. The cycle then moves to the next phase of anxiety, self-doubt, and worry, which is all of your stress and uncertainty of being unable to accomplish the specified task.


You will choose one of two avoidance coping strategies: either overwork or procrastination. Either choice will eventually get you to completion of the task and relief, but it’s filled with anxiety and denial.


If you follow the overwork path, you believe your accomplishment was due to extreme effort, lots of after-hours work, stress, and pushing yourself to your limits to bring about success. But you don’t see your accomplishment due to your own knowledge, skills, and ability. If you follow the path of procrastination, you push off starting till the last minute for fear of failure. You believe any success was due to luck and chance, but not due to your skill or ability.


Once that task is complete, you are relieved it’s over but don’t feel any better about what you’ve accomplished. You carry that stress and anxiety with you into the next task, where this cycle begins again.


You never are able to break away from the stress, anxiety, denial, and self-doubt, which only increases with each round of the imposter cycle. Your imposter syndrome thoughts will continue to increase and your self-doubt and fear will continue to grow.


The Self-Stigma Cycle

The imposter cycle keeps you in a state of believing you’re not good enough in what you do. The self-stigma cycle perpetuates the intensity of your imposter thoughts and feelings of not being good enough for who you are. When experiencing imposter syndrome, you feel you aren’t good enough, and you feel you’re a fraud in who you are and what you deserve.


You may have thoughts of wanting to break free of your imposter thoughts. But you fear seeking out help from a therapist or coach will only confirm the thought you are a fraud. To seek out the support of friends or colleagues may also result in that confirmation, or you’ll dismiss any words of support because “They’re my friends/colleagues, of course, they’ll be nice and supportive, but I know it’s not true.”


You decide it’s better not to mention your thoughts and struggles to anyone. Plus, you think you’re not bad enough for help anyway. And if you are, it’s your own fault and nothing will change. You see yourself as the problem and feel you deserve the struggles and negativity in your life.


So, you cycle within your own thoughts of never being good enough for help or being fearful of sharing and being confirmed fraud. And you never step out to seek the help you truly desire.


Two Cycles in One

Your daily process is your work at the task, which you become anxious over, so you procrastinate or overwork, and when you have finished, you dismiss any appreciation for your work, and you feel terrible about the job you completed. You feel terrible about who you are as well, but you won’t share this with anyone fearing confirmation you are a fraud or dismissing any support.


You stay in this cycle of negative and false thoughts that won’t allow you to seek help for fear of confirmation, fear of being the problem, and fear that nothing will ever change. And because of this…Nothing. Will. Change.


This is a cycle that you will never break out of until you literally take steps to create the change you so desperately want, but fear won’t happen.


5 Steps to Help You Seek Support in Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

To create this change you seek, you need to move out from your fear and do the things you have not allowed yourself previously.


Acknowledge you are experiencing imposter syndrome

Even if you don’t recognize you’re experiencing this complex construct for what it is, acknowledge the characteristics you’re experiencing. Ask yourself if you have a general negative self-belief or high self-judgment, or when working on a task do you generally procrastinate or overwork? Do you have a lot of self-doubts? Can you appreciate your own qualities, or is your focus on the expectations or approval of others? Think back to your most recent tasks or accomplishments, do you think your success was due to luck or chance?


Reflect on how this has made you feel

This is important because you may acknowledge you are experiencing these thoughts, but it’s easy to dismiss they have any effect on you and your life. Write down daily how you’re feeling throughout different situations and how this is affecting your behavior. It’s important to understand the impact it is having on your life.


Make the decision to create change

Once you understand how these negative thoughts are affecting your emotions and behavior, you can then decide to make a change. Ask yourself, “Is this how I want to stay?”, “If I don’t make a change, where will my life be in a year? 2 years?”, “If I make a change, where could my life be in a year? 2 years?”


Take the step to reach out for help

Now is the time to start sharing. It won’t be easy. Start with where your thoughts have been and how you’ve been feeling. These are tangible in the sense you can describe them. The person listening, a trusted friend, therapist, or coach, will ask questions to better understand your experiences and guide you through the process of growing in your self-belief.


Be open to creating change in your life

This may sound easy, but when you’re coming from a place of fear, worry and do not feel you are worthy of good, you could have your walls up to new developments and opportunities for change. Listen to what your friend, therapist, or coach shares with you. Ask questions to gain more clarity, but be willing and wanting to create the change you seek. It won’t be easy at first, and it won’t be quick. But you will create the change you desire if you are open to it.


Moving Forward

It may feel as if your life in the imposter cycle is where you’ll always be. And it may be fearful of breaking out of the self-stigma cycle because sharing your fears is scary. But remember, imposter syndrome feeds off your fear and negative self-belief and will keep you trapped in these cycles.


To break free and create the life you truly want takes you reaching out for help. You can develop strategies and techniques to connect with what is real and true about your situation and yourself and to build up your self-belief.


You don’t have to spin through life stuck in these cycles. You can take the steps out toward appreciating the real you and living the life you desire.


Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!


 

Victor Mosconi, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Victor Mosconi, is a Ph.D. Candidate in Psychology, with a Master’s in Psychology of Leadership Development and Coaching, a Master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and the founder of Imposter Solution Coach. Through his life-long experience with imposter syndrome, his psychology background, and coaching skills, Victor specializes in supporting up-and-coming women leaders and entrepreneurs in overcoming their self-doubt and imposter thoughts to develop a mindset of self-appreciation and strong self-belief. Take his quiz on his website and discover what level of impostor syndrome you experience.


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