Imposter phenomenon, also known as imposter syndrome, refers to a subjective experience of phoniness in individuals who think that they are not capable, intelligent, or creative despite evidence of high achievement, and who are highly motivated to achieve but live in perpetual fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds. The sufferer feels that the success is the result of just luck and not because of his/her qualifications or talent. It was first explained in the year 1978 by two US psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzzane A Imes in an article titled ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention.’ According to the article, women were more susceptible to the phenomenon. However, recent researches have shown that it affects both men and women equally. In other words it is a pervasive and persistent feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence inspite of often overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The phenomenon affects people who are smart and intelligent and often at the time of some big achievement. As per the International Journal of Behavioral Science, about 70 % of individuals suffer from this phenomenon at some point in their lives.
Self-esteem refers to how one views oneself in terms of one’s own self-worth. One can have a very high opinion of oneself or low, or in-between. Everyone can have doubts about one’s abilities at some point in their life. Feeling low about one’s self-worth can lead to lots of negative effects like, feelings of insecurities, self-doubt, or demotivation. Reasons could be anything, from being bullied to experience of failure in some exam/job interview, or it could be a heartbreak or rejection in love, or experiencing inability to maintain relationships. These experiences can lead to low self-esteem, which in turn can hamper the ability of an individual to bounce back from such experiences. There are also personality factors which predispose a person to have a low self-esteem. In either of the case, it becomes more imperative to help oneself or our loved ones to build healthy and positive self-esteem. High and positive self-esteem has been shown to enhance a person’s success at workplace, relationships, and also his or her mental and emotional wellbeing. It, however, does not mean that you have to be perfect in everything or in every role of your life, to have a healthy self-esteem.
A positive and healthy self-esteem is knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, acknowledging one’s flaws and not being overwhelmed by them and knowing that one does not have be perfect to be happy; it’s rather being happy with one’s imperfections. Here are some powerful ways to boost your self-esteem. But before we start, you need to keep only one thing in mind when it comes to self-esteem, that it is based on your opinion about yourself, what others think or feel doesn’t matter, so you need to work on yourself and on your own thoughts alone. Once you are able to view yourself in positive and healthy manner, what others think of you or how others make you feel won’t matter. You will be the in charge of your life and your thoughts.
1. Be kind: The biggest irony is that we are able to show kindness to others but when it comes to ourselves, we become the meanest or stingiest person. We are willing to discount or ignore other’s imperfections or failures sometimes, but when it comes to our own failures or flaws, we leave no stone unturned to blame ourselves. It is high time that your start showing some kindness to yourself as well. Failing at one aspect doesn’t make you a failure. Like, you can be bad at mathematics but you can be expert in some other subject. Same goes with every aspect of one’s life. Therefore, stop lowering your self-worth over one incident or aspect of your life, and start focusing on your strengths instead. Use positive self-talk to bolster up your self-esteem and challenge any negative thought that comes to your mind and makes you feel less worthy. Besides, never compare yourself with anyone. Your self-worth is based on how you think of yourself not how you think about others or how they think about you. Be your own biggest supporter and encourager.
2. Self-care: Take good care of yourself. Set your health as your first priority. Eat regular healthy balanced diet, incorporate lot of fresh fruits, and plenty of water in your daily diet. Having a sound and quality sleep is very important for how you feel. Lack of good sleep makes you feel irritable and lowers your productivity. Avoid alcohol and other recreational drugs when you feel low about yourself; these only make things worse and, in fact, hampers your natural abilities to deal with challenges. Include daily exercise like aerobics or morning walk in your daily routine. Exercise makes you feel good. Go out; spend some time in parks or green surroundings.
3. Focus on the positives: To maintain a healthy self-esteem, it is important to focus on the positive things. No success is small; celebrate your accomplishments and achievements, even if not too remarkable. This will especially help you in situations of self-doubt and will let you focus on your abilities. Don’t forget to praise and appreciate yourself for every achievement. Remember failures are part of life and not the end. Take your failures as learning experiences and appreciate your efforts.
4. Make an inventory: Sometimes in situations of self-doubt or circumstances where our perseverance is challenged, it is helpful to make a list of things that you like about yourself as a person. Prepare a list of your strengths or qualities about yourself that you appreciate. No matter how small that quality may seem, write it down. You can even ask others about what they like about you or what qualities they appreciate. These could be skills, traits, beliefs, talents, achievements, etc. Go through these on daily basis to maintain a healthy and positive self-esteem.
5. Explore your talents and hobbies: Make effort to indulge in activities that help you relieve stress and bring out something new about you. These should be activities other than your routine tasks, e.g., gardening, painting, music, cooking, etc. These activities help you explore your competencies and give you immediate gratification of accomplishment, which will, in turn, enhance your self-esteem.
6. Avoid perfection: Seeking perfection is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it encourages the person to strive for excellence and on the other hand, it can lead to feeling of failure, disappointment, dissatisfaction, or frustration. Research has shown that perfection has a link with depression as well. Instead of seeking perfection you should focus on completion. Try to give your best and don’t pressurize yourself with unrealistic expectations. Think of goals and expectations that are realistic and achievable.
This applies to personal life as well. Whenever you shout or get angry at your child or at your partner, this doesn’t mean you are a bad parent or a bad spouse. Or when you get rejected in love, this shouldn’t make you feel less worthy of love or affection. Or if you fail at a task at your workplace, it doesn’t, in any way, make you less capable as a worker. We all have weak moments in life where we don’t know the right way to respond or where things are beyond our control. These are times which should be taken as learning experiences. Without doubting yourself, you should learn from these experiences and move forward.
7. Accept compliments: People with low self-esteem often find it difficult to accept compliments from others, or they do not trust these compliments and sometimes don’t know how to respond to positive compliments from others. It is high time you start accepting compliments and enjoy the feeling of being appreciated without any apprehension or doubt. Practice in front of mirror on how to respond when someone appreciates you. Saying a simple ‘thank you’ can be quite challenging for a person with low self-esteem.
8. Do something for others: When you experience low self-esteem, doing small favor for others or the environment and surrounding can help you achieve a feeling of accomplishment. Making someone feel good by giving them a nice compliment can help you achieve this. Helping others can help you achieve positive feelings about yourself.