Clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes have concluded after their research that people who go through the impostor phenomenon or experience are very strongly convinced that they do not deserve the success they have achieved. They fail to acknowledge their own accomplishments despite the presence of obvious evidence that they are responsible for their success.
People battling with an impostor phenomenon can find it debilitating as they're consistently plagued with deep, incessant negative feelings and beliefs about themselves, even in the midst of any successes.
Researchers Clance and Imer determined the following symptoms as indicators of Impostor Syndrome:
One of the worst things about Impostor Syndrome is the debilitating self-doubt that fuels a constant worry and anxiety of not living up to the expectations of others.
While those in the public's eye are obvious candidates, it also affects high achievers who aren't so ‘famous.' Almost everyone has an audience of some size, even if it is restricted to family or the workplace.
Self-doubt is normal to a moderate extent, but when people consciously avoid handling new and bigger responsibilities that may be key to their growth due to doubt and lack of trust in themselves, then it becomes a destructive force that works against sufferers of impostor syndrome.
People who experience the impostor phenomenon are stuck in a vicious cycle of continually doubting themselves, especially when they experience a success. Instead of celebrating their wins, they are unreasonably scared of being exposed for what they think they are – a fraud. They find it impossible to own their success positively.
Low Self-Esteem and Confidence
A correlation of impostor syndrome is low self-esteem and low self-confidence. Falling short of the unreasonable standards they set for themselves causes a mix of uneasy emotions, affecting their confidence. They tend to self-sabotage themselves and deny their competence and worth, despite adequate evidence to the contrary.
Fear of Failure
Their public may see them as good, successful, almost perfect, but to people experiencing impostor phenomenon, their public persona is a false fa ade, hiding their unnecessary flaws and imperfections. Due to the very high standards that they feel they must live up to, they are in constant worry of disappointing others and have the greatest fear of failure, and of being seen as one.
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Deny Their True Worth and Attribute Success to Luck
When a person who experiences impostor syndrome has an achievement, they believe themselves ‘lucky' and attribute it to external factors such as outside help or a good network. Fueled by their impostor feelings and tendencies, they unhealthily deny their worth and true capacity, attributing any sort of victory to outside forces, and never taking credit or seeing the value of their efforts and accomplishments.
Feelings of Depression
Impostorism is intertwined with and can worsen feelings of worry, the tendency to isolate themselves, feeling misunderstood and alone, and is very closely linked to anxiety and depression. People with impostor syndrome continuously try to achieve more than they have accomplished, in a seemingly endless pursuit of perfection.
The endless pursuit of success and the vicious cycle of impostorism often puts sufferers in a near-constant state of anxiety. They're never really comfortable with other people because they are afraid of being exposed as a fraud. They hide behind massive walls of seeming perfection and excellence, and yet are unable to recognize themselves as their own agents of success.