Signs & Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

signs of imposter syndrome

Signs & Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that causes you to feel like a phony in some area of your life, most commonly in professional situations. If you struggle with imposter syndrome, you probably feel like you do not deserve the position you are in despite experiencing success. While imposter syndrome is not a diagnosable mental health condition, it is a common issue that many adults face in their daily life.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), up to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome to some extent.[1] 

Imposter syndrome can be debilitating in some cases, causing increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and hesitancy to take necessary risks in your career. Audrey Ervin, a clinical psychologist, explains that “there’s an ongoing fear that’s usually experienced by high-achieving individuals that they’re going to be ‘found out’ or unmasked as being incompetent or unable to replicate past successes.”[1] 

While imposter syndrome is not recognized as a mental illness, it can significantly impact your life and your ability to succeed. If you are worried that you are struggling with imposter syndrome, being aware of the signs and symptoms can motivate you to seek the help you need.

The Signs and Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that typically affects high-achieving adults. However, this manifestation of low self-esteem and anxiety can affect anyone, no matter their social status, expertise, gender, or race. If you are worried that imposter syndrome is affecting your ability to improve in your career and overall life, you should speak with a licensed therapist or counselor to receive advice and support on how to recover. 

Common signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome include:

  • Obsessing over small mistakes or flaws in your work
  • Attributing your success to outside factors rather than your personal effort and achievements 
  • Being extremely sensitive to even constructive criticism 
  • Feeling like you will inevitably be found out as a “phony” 
  • Downplaying your abilities even in areas where you are exceptional 
  • Being unable to realistically assess your skills 
  • Being afraid that you will not live up to expectations
  • Not taking risks or going for promotions because you feel you do not deserve them 
  • Overachieving or creating unrealistic goals to subconsciously prove you are not skilled in your profession 

People who suffer from imposter syndrome may not be able to internalize or fully grasp their successes. As a result, they experience regular feelings of self-doubt, depression, anxiety, and apprehension. They may have an irrational fear of being exposed as fraud in their work even though there is evidence proving otherwise.[2]

Take a doctor who has been nominated for an award, for example. Despite having evidence of success and expertise in the field, a doctor suffering from imposter syndrome may feel like they do not deserve the award because they simply had better resources and “fell into” the success. 

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is often tied to your family dynamics as well as societal pressures to be successful. Oftentimes, people who experience this phenomenon come from a family that places high value on being successful in school and your professional career. If your parents were extremely serious about getting good grades and had high expectations for your life as an adult, you may struggle with imposter syndrome later in life.

Conversely, people who come from families that were not “successful” in society’s eyes, could also develop imposter syndrome. For example, if you watched your parents struggle financially and professionally as a child, you may feel an overwhelming need to succeed so you can take care of your family or even prove that you are different from them. Once you are successful in your career, you may begin to feel like an imposter because of your background.

There are many ways that imposter syndrome can develop, however, usually it boils down to low self-esteem, anxiety, and perfectionism. 

Different Types of Imposter Syndrome 

There are 5 different types of imposter syndrome. While every form of this condition produces the same kind of self-doubt and perfectionism, the reasons you feel like an imposter are different. 

The 5 types of imposter syndrome include:

  1. The Perfectionist – This subtype of imposter syndrome involves believing that you must be completely perfect, otherwise your efforts are worth nothing. 
  2. The Expert – The expert subtype believes they are an imposter if they do not know everything they can possibly know about the subject. If there is more for them to learn, they do not believe they are exceptional at anything. 
  3. The Natural Genius – This type of imposter syndrome causes you to feel like a fraud simply because something does not come naturally to you. You believe that if you have to work really hard to achieve something, you are an imposter in the profession. 
  4. The Soloist – If you feel like asking for help or receiving assistance to achieve something makes you a fraud, you fit the criteria for “the soloist” subtype of imposter syndrome. 
  5. The High Achiever – The high achiever believes that unless they are at the very top of their field, they are a fraud and are not worthy of their profession or social status. 

If you find that any of the above types of imposter syndrome resonate with you, receiving professional therapy can help you let go of the self-doubt and negative thoughts you experience towards your professional abilities.

Find Help for Imposter Syndrome and Low Self-Esteem

Imposter syndrome is something that affects a large majority of us. However, this manifestation of poor self-esteem, negative self-talk, and toxic perfectionism can make life really difficult for some individuals. If you find that imposter syndrome is affecting your ability to take pride in your work and purpose in life, Florida Recovery Group is here to help. 

With a combination of evidence-based behavioral therapy, emotional support, and techniques to improve self-esteem, Florida Recovery Group can provide you with everything you need to overcome imposter syndrome. Contact us today to learn more about our mental health treatment services.