A big 100 is circled in red on your test, but you can’t help but think, “I don’t deserve this.” I’m not smart.
If you can figure it out, you can have impostor syndrome like millions of teenagers around the world. Imposter Syndrome, or IS, is feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness which cause a fear of failureand it can be overcome by following several steps.
Examples and signs
Coupled with low self-esteem, SI makes those with it feel less competent than those around them and as if they don’t deserve their accomplishments, as if they’ll be “caught” at any moment. It affects up to 30% of high achievers, including notable celebrities like Michelle Obama, Serena Williams and Emma Watson.
“Now when I get recognition for my game, I feel incredibly uncomfortable. I tend to withdraw into myself. I feel like an impostor. At any moment someone is going to find out that I’m a total fraud and don’t deserve everything I’ve achieved.”
-Emma Watson, award-winning actress
The signs of IS are not only seen in famous people, but also in everyday life. In schools, for example, many students feel they don’t deserve their high grades or downplay positive feedback. Athletes are also likely to experience it with the high pressure atmosphere in sports.
It is perpetuated by society’s tendency to associate value with success. When someone makes a mistake they are immediately labeled a failure, all of their past accomplishments are suddenly invisible. This overwhelming pressure to be “perfect” adds to the weight of global issues that fall on young people, not to mention the already existing stress of being a teenager.
Although SI is not a diagnosable mental disorder, it has distinct signs that are often seen in patients with depression, anxiety, and PTSD. They understand:
- Overstretch – setting unrealistic and stressful goals
- Constant self-criticism
- Constant comparison with other people
- fear of failure
- Lack of self-confidence
- negative interior monologue
- Inability to overcome setbacks
- Diagnosed anxiety
- Diagnosed depression
There are other factors that can lead to an increased risk, such as:
- Lack of access to mental health resources
- Family members who suffer from IE or mental illnesses associated with IE
- Living in a high pressure household
If you are linked to more than one of the signs above, you might have impostor syndrome. However, you are not alone and you don’t have to live with it.
How to overcome it
Learning to confront my SI can allow you to find peace and genuine pleasure in trying new things. Here is a guide to do so:
1) Educate deepen your knowledge of what IS and its signs.
2) Do self-care an integral part of your daily routine. Find what works for you, like taking a morning walk, spending time with friends, or getting more sleep.
3) Reflect about your accomplishments and allow yourself to be proud of all the amazing things you have done!
4) Talk people you feel comfortable with, such as a friend, teacher, or sibling. You can also find IS support groups or online teen forums.
If you have more serious signs, consider seeking professional help and/or getting tested for associated mental disorders, if possible.
5) Identify your triggers. At this stage, you should have a general idea of where your IS originated, such as a certain activity or person(s). If possible, reduce the time you spend with your triggers.
6) Explore yourself by trying new things, like learning a new sport or learning a new language. Do it only for fun and remember that failure is part of the growth process.
Imposter syndrome causes those who have it to undermine their accomplishments and deter themselves from growing. By knowing the signs and following the guide above, teens can reach their full potential and fight the normalization of IE. Let’s create a world where a 100 is not an opportunity to doubt oneself, but to celebrate what we are capable of.