Imposter Syndrome Is Real, Here's How To Tell If You Have It
Former first lady Michelle Obama recently spoke out about living with imposter syndrome, but what is it and how does it affect people's lives?
The phrase 'imposter syndrome' actually refers to a collection of feelings of inadequacy that continue, no matter how much success the individual achieves.
'Imposters' are often crippled with feelings of self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence, which can overrule feelings of success or competence.
This is something former first lady Michelle Obama has spoken out about during her recent trip the UK to promote her new book, Becoming. In an open conversation with Penguin Books, Michelle revealed how she went to an elite college feeling like she wasn't good enough, because of that's what she'd been told by her high school counsellor.
"When all of society sort of looks at kids of colour, or kids from poorer communities or rural communities as not belonging, I, like many others walked into that school with a stigma in my own head."
Michelle explained that what she was suffering from was known as 'imposter syndrome', which she explained as being "where kids like me feel like they don't belong."
She continued: "I had to work to overcome that question that I always asked myself - am I good enough? I write about that, and that's a question that's dogged me for a good part of my life.
"Am I good enough to have all of this? Am I good enough to be the first lady of the United States? And I think that many young women and definitely many young girls of all backgrounds walk around with that question."
However, there are ways to get over imposter syndrome, and Michelle opened up about how she overcame the feelings of inadequacy.
"How I overcame that is how I overcome anything. Hard work. So, whenever I doubted myself, I just told myself 'let me put my head down, and do the work' and I would let my work speak for itself.
"And I still find that I do that. I still feel that at some level, I have something to prove - because of the colour of my skin, or the shape of my body, because of who knows how people are judging me."
Many high achievers in history, including Maya Angelou, have spoken out about living with the crippling form of low self-esteem, but as Michelle pointed out, there are ways of coping with it.
According to Fiona Buckland, many people hold back from stepping up in life because they feel luck lies behind their success, rather than their own ability, prompting them to fear they will one day be discovered as a fraud.
She says that recognising imposter syndrome is the first stage of overcoming it by acknowledging it whenever we feel like we're about to be exposed as a fraud.
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