Have you ever aced a school assignment, but instead of celebrating you told yourself it must be some kind of fluke? Or maybe your besties basically think you’re the Beyoncé of the group, but you’re worried they’re going to find out you’re not as funny or cool as they think you are? You might even cringe whenever your parents rave about how talented you are. DW, you’re not crazy and you’re defs not alone. In fact, this phenomenon is becoming so common, it even has a name. It’s called imposter syndrome.
So, WTH is it?
Put simply, an imposter is someone pretending to be someone they’re not. AKA, pretty much every character in Pretty Little Liars! Imposter syndrome is a psychological fear of being exposed as a fraud who doesn’t deserve their own success — even if they’ve worked really freaking hard to achieve it! The term was coined back in the ’70s by two female psychologists, who noticed the trend in successful women.
Who gets it?
Anyone can experience imposter syndrome. Even some of the world’s most successful ladies have fessed up about their struggles with it, including our girl Emma Watson. “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved,’” she said.
And Lady Gaga battles it, too. “I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be,” she revealed in her documentary. But it’s not just grown-ups in the workforce who experience imposter syndrome. It’s actually becoming increasingly common among teen girls – and it can actually hit much harder.
“While working with young women, I’ve observed that imposter syndrome can be more intense than for older adults, as it is a critical time where their personality, thought patterns and self-worth are all developing,” says Amy-Kate Johnson, psychologist and founder of The Mindful Collective.
Claire Green, 16, from Canberra, has experienced the crushing effects of imposter syndrome first hand. Despite being a high achiever at school, she says she feels that she has to work extra hard to prove to herself and others that her success isn’t just a fluke. “I always feel like I have to go the extra mile and put in the extra hours’ work so that I believe that my mark was earned,” she says.
While Claire can act confident, inside she can be a ball of nerves. “I have my moments where I believe I don’t actually have the talents that others express in me or that I’m not nearly as wonderful as they think I am.” The problem with imposter syndrome is it can lead to feeling alone, unsettled and like you’re never good enough. The good news is there are ways to break the cycle and stop feeling like a fraud!
What to do about it…
Celebrate your success
So, you made it onto the netball team? Or went up a few grades in maths? Treat yourself to that Too Faced lipstick you’ve been eyeing off for months. It’s important to get into the habit of celebrating your wins – no matter how small and insignificant they may seem!
Remember your self-worth
While it’s always nice to do well, remember that your worthiness isn’t actually defined by your accomplishments. You don’t have to be perfect at everything
(no-one is!) and you still deserve to be happy even if you don’t ace every exam.
Talk it out
Next time you’re feeling like an imposter, talk to a friend about it. That’s what they’re for! Not only will they be able to remind you that you are really as wonderful as everyone says, but they may even be feeling the same way.
Get a reality check
When imposter syndrome rears its ugly head, sometimes you need to look at the facts. For example, could it really be a mistake that you’ve done well in all of your classes? And surely your friends know you well enough to love the real you. It’s also important to remember that some of the world’s most successful people feel like imposters, even when we can all see that they’re absolutely killin’ it! And girl, so are you.