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If you find yourself doubting your abilities and feel like a fraud, it’s likely you’re wrestling with impostor syndrome. I should know — I’ve been dealing with confidence issues for as long as I can remember.
Impostor syndrome isn’t a rare problem. In fact, it’s very common among successful, capable people. These high achievers feel like they’ve just managed to bluff their way through work, relationships, or other aspects of life.
As a member of the financial independence community, I often feel like I’m inadequate — that I don’t have the “authority” to be an expert or influencer. Sometimes, it feels like I’m throwing around jargon and don’t know what I’m talking about.
Through my conversations with other content creators in the personal finance community, I’ve found out that I’m not alone. Practically everyone else in this circle has had an experience with impostor syndrome.
So what exactly is impostor syndrome? And how can you overcome it?
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is the experience of being unable to accept your success. According to the American Psychological Association, people who suffer from impostor syndrome believe they’re unworthy of their achievements. They believe they’ve gotten where they are either by luck or by tricking everyone into thinking they’re better than they actually are.
Impostor syndrome disproportionately affects high achievers. Women and minorities are also more likely to suffer from it.
In 2017, New York magazine’s The Cut published a list of 25 successful women who self-identify as suffering from impostor syndrome They include:
- Natalie Portman
- Kate Winslet
- Sigourney Weaver
- Mindy Kaling
- Amy Schumer
- Emma Watson
- Tina Fey
- Justice Sonia Sotomayor
I wouldn’t describe any of these women as unworthy of their success, would you? But all of them describe feeling a sense of not belonging, fear, self-doubt, and having a lack of experience. They also feel like they’re a fraud.
According to The Cut, these women often have an unwarranted fear of being fired. Both Penelope Cruz and Jessica Chastain have this same fear — and who in their right mind would fire them?
I also have constant anxiety that I’ll be fired. But I’ve never been fired from a job yet. It’s just my mind playing tricks on me through impostor syndrome.
What Are the Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome?
When you suffer from impostor syndrome, you may suffer from:
- Fear in general
- Fear of failure
- Fear of being fired
- Lack of confidence
- Comparing your success to others
- Impostor thoughts
- Impostor feelings
- Feelings of low self-esteem
What Are the Effects of Impostor Syndrome?
Side effects of impostor syndrome can be both physical and mental. One major effect we have discussed already is low self-esteem. Many of the symptoms can duplicate as effects as well.
Mental Health Effects
Physical Side Effects
If you experience any serious mental or physical side effects, consult with a medical professional.
Common Causes of Impostor Syndrome
What causes impostor syndrome? Some people who report suffering from the condition report coming from families that placed an overemphasis on success and achievement. But for others, especially for minorities, impostor syndrome can be triggered by the hurdles our society has placed in the way of reaching their goals.
People who consider themselves perfectionists also tend to suffer from impostor syndrome.
In some ways, impostor syndrome is a lot like the scarcity mindset, which is triggered by:
- Low self-worth
- Discomfort with wealth or success
- A need for self-preservation
Does a scarcity mindset go hand-and-hand with impostor syndrome? There looks to be a large amount of overlap. Many symptoms of a scarcity mindset are also symptoms of the impostor phenomenon.
How to Deal With Impostor Syndrome
The American Psychological Association (APA) has some great suggestions for overcoming impostor syndrome.
Here’s what they recommend:
- Talking it out
- Fight perfectionism
- Define success differently
- Focus on your talent
Jillian Johnsrud of Montana Money Adventure and our founder, Grant Sabatier of Millennial Money, both recommend being authentic. Being authentic helps you form deeper connections and increases your chances of success.
It doesn’t matter if your authentic self is a giant nerd, either. As Grant says, “Embrace your weirdness — it’s human.”
When I asked my friend Jordan “Doc G” Grumet of the Earn and Invest Podcast how to overcome impostor syndrome, his advice was the same: To build an audience and make friendships in the community, be authentic. People love authenticity, and it will lead to more success in the long run.
Talking it out
Know you’re not alone. When you talk about how you’re feeling, others may feel comfortable sharing that they feel it too.
Talk with a trusted individual. This can be a mentor, therapist, friend, or someone you’re comfortable with. Talking out your feelings can increase your personal growth and decrease your feelings of anxiety.
Perfectionism can lead to procrastination. Know that we are all human and aren’t perfect. Therefore, your work can’t always be perfect.
There is a point at which you have to say, “Good enough.” After all, your “good enough” likely exceeds someone else’s expectations.
The APA also recommends that you celebrate your hard work with treats and little celebrations. So reward yourself for a job “good enough” done with a self-care session, a few minutes of fresh air, or a happy dance. You deserve it.
Define success differently
Grant Sabatier recommends changing your definition of success from money to peace of mind. Since finding financial freedom, Grant has slept better and has felt calm and rested. That’s more important than diving in coins a la Scrooge McDuck.
Focus on your talent
Share your talent with those more experienced than you. But also consider sharing your talent with someone less experienced, such as by tutoring.
Another APA recommendation is to take a self-assessment of your areas of talent. Recognize what you’re doing well and where there is room for improvement.
Why Should I Overcome Impostor Syndrome?
Overcoming impostor syndrome can benefit your mental health. An increase in confidence, self-worth, and self-esteem can lead to greater success.
When you’re confident, you can be more creative. You can also be calmer and rest better so you’re ready to take on your daily tasks.
Overcoming impostor syndrome can also help you fight perfectionism, a heavy burden that many of us carry.
When you radiate good self-esteem, more opportunities for making money will become available. And that can lead to financial freedom and peace of mind.