Educative · Uncategorized

Exposition: What is Impostor Syndrome? 

I’ve wanted to write this post since the inspiration first came. I once saw a person write “I am aware” in a space meant for complimenting yourself. I like that. I envy it; to be aware, informed, enlightened.
I learnt of the term Impostor Syndrome(IS) not so long ago.

It is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.

It’s common among high achievers. They believe their success isn’t well deserved.

I first got to learn of it when Mariam Olafuyi had an instalive session on Instagram sometime last year. Ever since then, I noticed it easily in books I read, I saw it on the internet. Simply put, I became conscious of it and discovered its been a long standing discovery.

It’s very easy to think of it as Low Self Esteem (LSE) but it isn’t. Someone asked a question on that instalive session on whether any difference existed between IS and LSE. She responded by saying they’re different. I’m paraphrasing her answer:

“It isn’t the same. I know I’m awesome. I think I’m pretty cool. I don’t doubt that. The issue is when opportunities come, I don’t think I’m best suited for them.”

Both concepts can rightly be said to be distant family relations, so far as you admit that they are different. IS doubts results produced, LSE doubts the worth of the person.

IS is also referred to as Impostor phenomenon or Fraud syndrome. One easy way to diagnose it is that while a part of you tells you that this explains that feeling you often have, another part tells you ‘No, you’re simply famzing the category, reading too much meaning into your inabilities, you probably just have poor output’. 

The condition

The condition “Impostor syndrome” was first identified in the late 1970s by Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Their research showed that many high-achieving women tended to believe they were not intelligent and that they were over-evaluated by others.

IS is not rare, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, it is estimated to occur to 70% of people from all walks of life, both men and women experience the impostor syndrome at some point in their careers. 

Another study revealed almost 75% of surveyed students at Harvard Business School also felt like they were admitted due to some failure of the admission process.

Technology is growing so fast that most of us are learning something new on almost every project we work on. And that can make you feel like you don’t have the expertise you should have to rightfully be in that position.

I saw two Ted talks that I think shed more light on this concept. The speakers didn’t for once mention Impostor Syndrome but it was, in my opinion, close to their areas of concentration.

This by Sheryl Sandberg and This by Reshma Saujani.

Impostor syndrome is more common in women. Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In said:

“Men attribute their success to themselves while women attribute it to other external factors.
If you asked men why they did a good job, they’d say ‘I’m awesome, why do you bother asking?’ If you asked women, they’d say someone helped them; or they got lucky; or they did a good job…”

Another fact is that men are more likely to apply for a job in which they meet 60% of the requirements, while women will most likely not apply unless they meet 100% of the requirements.

This isn’t to fault the male folk in any sense, its simply to highlight the extent to which women lean back and why Impostor syndrome is consequently, more common in women. 

Teaching women bravery instead of perfection, will go a long way in alienating IS because then you are taught to try. 

My theory is that IS has gotten enough flesh to feast on because of our approach to a failed attempt. We all think ill of an attempt which didn’t turn out well. We should rather, think well of the courage that fuelled that attempt in the first place.

 When that is accomplished, it goes to say when we do in fact succeed, it would not be sacrificed on the altar of “it just happened“, “I got help“, “ I was lucky“. It didn’t just happen. You did well. You succeeded. Believe it, own it.

Some of the tips to overcoming Impostor Syndrome include:

  • Keeping a file/folder of all the compliments you recieve on the work you do. You can always consult it to forge ahead on cloudy days.
  • Admitting that its impostor syndrome that’s preventing you from trying something new, from accepting your good work. Say it. Say it and it immedieately becomes less of a threat.

“I own my own successes. I wear them as a badge. I have privileges but I’ve been able to leverage them. I’ve not done much but what I have done is substantial. I celebrate my work.”

There are a million other things you can learn about impostor syndrome and how to overcome it. A few helpful links: one and two. Research some more, the internet is (well, can be) your friend. Lol.

You may be immune to this(a wild guess), but you have a friend who isn’t. Share this post with them and stay enlightened.

I really hope this has been of help. If it has, do share. Have a great weekend and don’t forget to tell us what you think in the comment box.
Peace and Light,



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