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Four tips from a psychologist on how to overcome 'impostor syndrome'

Dr. Jeffrey Janata, PhD, director of psychology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, breaks down the concept and how we can get past it.
Credit: wkyc studios
“Impostor syndrome has been defined as feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evidence of success,” according to Jeffrey Janata, PhD, director of psychology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

CLEVELAND — Have you ever had that feeling that one day, everyone will figure out that you’re not actually deserving of all the good things that have your way, despite all of your hard work and dedication?

You’re not alone. That feeling is called “impostor syndrome” and it impacts a lot of incredibly successful people.

“Impostor syndrome has been defined as feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evidence of success,” according to Jeffrey Janata, PhD, director of psychology at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.

“Highly successful individuals seem particularly prone to impostor phenomena as they struggle with chronic self-doubt,” Dr. Janata told 3News. “Interestingly, it does not seem linked to low self-esteem or low self-confidence but may in fact be more related to perfectionism and the tendency to compare oneself negatively to others.”

Dr. Janata explained that when someone is dealing with impostor syndrome, they often credit their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and often fear that they will be exposed as frauds.

While impostor syndrome is not an “official” psychiatric diagnosis, the concept was first described as a psychological construct in the 1970s by two psychologists, Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance. Since that time, a number of studies have validated and extended their original observations surrounding the idea.

If you think you might be dealing with impostor syndrome, Dr. Janata recommends the following strategies to get beyond feeling fraudulent so you can enjoy your success:

  • Acknowledge that it is not uncommon to have self-doubt in the context of high achievement;
  • Recognize your expertise by trying to make a realistic assessment of your abilities;
  • Try to balance your emphasis on flaws with acknowledgment of accomplishments;
  • Talk with a psychologist or other mental health practitioner to help change the patterns of thinking that underlie impostor feelings.

Need an extra does of #MondayMotivation? Every Monday digital anchor Stephanie Haney invites the 3News viewing family to share stories from your experiences, whether you need a boost or want to offer one to others, because #WeKnowYouCan.

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