Managing Doubt and Fear for High-Achievers and Perfectionists

Managing Doubt and Fear for High-Achievers and Perfectionists

Overcome the imposter syndrome that affects 70% of the population, so you can thrive in life and business.

It doesn’t matter how good you are.
How many certifications and education you’ve received.
How many fans, followers and likes you got on that last post.
How many accolades, trophies, awards, and recognitions.
How many accomplishments you have undertaken in life, projects, or business.
It doesn’t matter if you are a creative or an artist.
A social media digital creator (aka influencer), a writer, or a maker of things.

A scientist, a teacher, or a speaker.
An entrepreneur, a managing director, or a parent.

You have most likely struggled with imposter syndrome more than once.

As a serial entrepreneur, artist, and project creator, I’ve had to fight and overcome the imposter syndrome multiple times (and it still comes back and haunts me). Launching a business is thrilling because you often go into uncharted waters and venture into areas where others have schooling and experience, and you do not. This brings up the question, “Do I have what it takes?” or “Would I be judged harshly if I try to break into this microworld outside my box?” or “What if others consider me not competent enough or a plain fraud?”

I am certainly not alone on this. It’s a shared experience, even among those who are highly successful and accomplished in all fields, especially creatives.

  • Maya Angelou: The late poet and author Maya Angelou once said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
  • Emma Watson: The Harry Potter actress and activist Emma Watson has spoken about feeling like a fraud, saying, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.’”
  • Tina Fey: The comedian and actress Tina Fey has talked about feeling like a fraud, saying, “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of, ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’”

Imposter syndrome usually slows me down in rethinking and processing information. To consider all possible success and failure scenarios. Once I convince myself that I have what it takes by remembering I’ve done it plenty of times in the past, I decide to charge forward with impetus and more confidence.

I have lived outside the box most of my teens and adult life, but the feeling is there anyway. I found that in the past it was common to attribute my success to luck or timing, rather than my own abilities and efforts. Then I think about my past home runs and I remember how the odds were either against me or others doubted my success, but I pushed and achieved. 

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their accomplishments and feel like frauds, despite evidence to the contrary. Imposter syndrome is not an official diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it is a common phenomenon that affects people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. A study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science found that up to 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. 

Several studies suggest that imposter syndrome is more prevalent among women than men due to factors such as societal expectations, negative self-talk, and gender bias in certain fields. Another study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (Parkman and Elmore) found that women tend to have more negative thoughts about their abilities and accomplishments than men.

Research has identified several potential causes of imposter syndrome. For example, individuals who were raised in environments that emphasized achievement and perfectionism may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome. In addition, social comparison theory suggests that people tend to evaluate their own abilities and worth based on how they compare to others. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt if an individual perceives themselves as falling short compared to others.

Several subtypes of imposter syndrome have been identified in the literature. These include the perfectionist subtype, where individuals set impossibly high standards for themselves and are never satisfied with their achievements. The expert subtype, where individuals feel like they need to know everything and may avoid new challenges or opportunities for fear of being exposed as fraud. The soloist subtype, where individuals feel like they need to accomplish everything on their own and may avoid asking for help or support from others.

In conclusion, imposter syndrome is a common psychological pattern that affects many people, particularly high achievers. It can lead to anxiety, depression, and burnout, and hinder individuals’ career and personal growth. It can be caused by various factors, including perfectionism and social comparison. However, there are several strategies that individuals can use to overcome imposter syndrome and build confidence in their abilities. With the right support (relationships, mentors, coach, therapist) and the proper mindset, individuals can overcome self-doubt and achieve their full potential.

If you are experiencing imposter syndrome, there are several things you can do to overcome it:

  1. Recognize your accomplishments: write down your accomplishments and review them regularly to remind yourself of your achievements.
  2. Accept compliments: when someone compliments you, don’t brush it off. Accept it graciously and acknowledge your accomplishments.
  3. Learn from mistakes: rather than letting mistakes discourage you, learn from them and use them as opportunities for growth.
  4. Talk to someone: discuss your feelings with someone you trust. Sometimes, just talking about your feelings can help you feel better.
  5. Reframe your thoughts: instead of focusing on your perceived shortcomings, reframe your thoughts to focus on your strengths and accomplishments.

Parkman, A. M., & Elmore, K. C. (2020). Gender differences in the relationship between self-compassion, imposter feelings, and psychological distress. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 39(8), 606-625.

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