Imposter Syndrome/Phenomenon/Experience: (n) Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”, despite how many accomplishments they might achieve.
Newsflash: It has nothing to do with your competency and everything to do with your own worst critic: you!
It’s like the extreme opposite of the Dunning Kruger effect which is almost cruel that this exists because then people suffering from imposter syndrome will quietly question themselves: how do they know they don’t have the Dunning Kruger effect and actually are an imposter in their field?! (Welcome to Jordan’s thoughts).
It seems there’s a connection between 1) the number of failures or learning lessons you experience in a field and 2) how you evaluate your own skills. Those who have more experience in a particular topic (and hence have likely faced several obstacles that may resonate as “failure” or learning lessons, whatever you want to call it) typically grade themselves poorer. However, those with the least experience (and hence have faced little to no failure or learning lessons, which may resonate as a feeling of knowledge or talent on said topic) will think higher of their skills than they really should.
So, it makes sense that the more you grow in your field the more you might doubt yourself, especially after realizing you either have imposter or Dunning Kruger syndrome or BOTH, in which case one validates the other and vice versa and you’ll need to quit your job, move, and start a new life under a different name.
I really like how Einstein put it: “As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” Basically, the more you know about a topic, the more aware you are that there is so much to learn about the topic. Therefore, you tend to believe you know less about this topic than there could be to know about it, and you rate yourself at a lower comprehension because of it. That’s kinda a cool thing – it exposes how easily humans can feel insignificant and aware that there is much, much more to the world than what we have been able to make of it – that’s humbling. Humans are inherently humble creatures and that’s kind of beautiful.
The videos mention a few ways we can help battle imposter syndrome and I think some of these points can also keep Dunning Krugers at bay:
- Open discussions about your feelings of inferiority. You’ll be surprised how many around you feel the exact same way.
- Open discussions about your expertise. Share what you do and become comfortable talking about it with anyone.
- Ask about your performance. Don’t freak out if you get some criticism but instead use it to improve. If it concerns you, just say so. Example questions to ask in response of criticism: How can I improve my performance? Is there anything I can do to correct this mistake? Does this setback the timeframe for the project? Example responses to receiving negative feedback: This is good information to know and I will certainly work on this. I will make a point to improve on this subject. Thank you for pointing that out, I will look into this. I didn’t know that and thank you for teaching me this.
- Let yourself be proud when receiving praise or credit.
- Be comfortable learning something no matter how expert you feel about a topic. There is always something to learn!
The tips definitely rise in “severity” or unease (well, #3 and #4) so just start with the first two and then work your way to those two points if need be. On the other hand, some people tend to handle imposter syndrome poorly by overworking. It’s the classic overcompensation mechanism: never feeling good enough so you work hard until you feel like you have met expectation which, depending on how bad of imposter syndrome you have, could be never, lol. It’s important to be able to reflect when you start doing this and always remember to rest! Find a hobby that brings you peace and try to do it regularly.
Take it from me, a fellow imposter syndrome sufferer.