Culture 4 min read

Best Way to Cope With Impostor Syndrome Revealed

Impostor Syndrome is more common than initial studies suggest, so researchers at Brigham Young University searched for the best way to cope with it.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

A recent study at Brigham Young University suggests that impostor syndrome is more common than you imagined. And the researchers suggested the best way to cope with the feeling.

So, you just got a new job and with it several accomplishments. As a result, your colleagues and friends think you’re brilliant at your job, but this voice in your head says otherwise.

It says you don’t deserve your job or the accomplishments, that you’re a fraud – and you believe it. As a result, there’s this deep fear of being discovered as an impostor.

Sounds familiar? Well, that’s not surprising.

According to a review article, an estimated 70 percent of people have experienced impostor feelings at some point in their lives. Whether you’re a student, manager, actor, or a poet, you’re not immune to this feeling.

American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou famously said:

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

Before we delve any deeper, let’s begin with the obvious question here:

What is Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome, also known as fraud syndrome is a psychological pattern that manifests when people doubt their accomplishments. These people have a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Such individuals credit their success to luck, right timing, or others believing they were better. Meanwhile, they may actually be qualified and capable to handle the job.

What’s responsible for this feeling, you ask?

According to past studies, our personality plays a role. For example, people who experience impostor syndrome are usually emotionally reactive and self-focused. Also, they are less likely to be organized and disciplined.

Childhood conditioning could also bring about the feeling. Children with perfectionist parents who hold unrealistic ideals of what an achievement is are susceptible to impostorism.

With that said, a new study co-authored by Jeff Bednar, Bryan Stewart, and James Oldroyd or Brigham Young University has suggested the best way to cope with this feeling.

The Best Way to Cope With Impostor Experience

For their study, the researchers interviewed students in an elite academic program and discovered that 20 percent of them suffered from intense feelings of impostorism. So, they reached out to understand how the students cope with this feeling.

Although the researchers noted various coping mechanisms, one particular method stood out: seeking social support from people outside their academic program.

During the interview, the researchers noted that the students felt worse when they “reached in” to other students within their major. Conversely, their perception of impostorism reduced when they reached out to other outside bodies. These include family, friends, or even professors.

In a statement, BYU management professor and co-author on the study, Bednar said:

“Those outside the social group seem to be able to help students see the big picture and recalibrate their reference groups. After reaching outside their social group for support, students are able to understand themselves more holistically rather than being so focused on what they felt they lacked in just one area.”

Some ineffective ways that the participants tried to cope with impostor syndrome include getting their mind off work through escapes, such as playing video games. Others simply hid how they felt and acted excited about their performance.

Surprisingly, the researchers couldn’t establish a relationship between the perception of impostorism and performance. In other words, individuals who suffer from impostor syndrome are capable of doing their jobs; they just don’t believe it.

“It’s important to create cultures where people talk about failure and mistakes,” Bednar said. “When we create those cultures, someone who is feeling strong feelings of impostorism will be more likely to get the help they need within the organization.”

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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