Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of extreme self-doubt which leads to paralysis in decision-making. In short, the person feeling like an “imposter” will not be able to perform her/his duties due to a feeling of inappropriateness.
When does imposter syndrome happen?
Someone with imposter syndrome doubts their talents, skills, or abilities despite their education, accomplishments, or experience.
Imposter syndrome tends to be present in competitive environments or where one’s performance is measured in some way.
As a result, it may be particularly prevalent among college students (particularly medical students) and high-level professionals.
Several types of imposters can also provide clues as to what causes the syndrome:
- Workaholic imposters – these individuals may overwork in response to job insecurity, potential demotion, or to avoid being seen as incapable in their roles. Workaholics may also spend excessive amounts of time on a task and develop perfectionist tendencies.
- Lucky duck imposters – employees who believe that a promotion, raise, or positive performance review is down to luck, chance, or happenstance.
- Chameleon imposters – those classified as chameleon imposters prefer to work alone because they fear their shortcomings will be exposed when working as part of a team. Unfortunately, these individuals avoid attention and fear recognition – no matter how well they have performed.
When is imposter syndrome good?
In some instances, the imposter syndrome might be a good feeling, as it might help you pass through some critical obstacles by putting in more work and building more competence.
In those cases, the imposter syndrome works as a form of positive paranoia, which leads to improvement.
In these cases, the imposter syndrome working as constructive paranoia improves you as a business person.
When is imposter syndrome bad?
In the worst case, imposter syndrome can limit you to the point of making you paralyzed and unable to make any decisions.
In these cases, rather than working as a constructive paranoia, the imposter syndrome works as a limiter for growth.
In these cases, it is essential to analyze why you’re getting too paranoid and what you can do to use this feeling to improve.
Dunning-Kruger effect vs. imposter syndrome
The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone with low talent, skill, or ability overestimates their own competence.
In describing the difference between the Dunning-Kruger effect and imposter syndrome, many explain that one is simply the opposite of the other.
Employees who suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect experience a cognitive bias where they overestimate their skills, abilities, or knowledge.
Compounding the effect is a lack of self-awareness that would enable them to first identify and then fix their errors.
They may also fail to recognize the actual competence of others and their somewhat arrogant nature can cause conflict in the workplace.
Employees with imposter syndrome underestimate their skills, abilities, or knowledge.
Many of these individuals are high achievers, but they may feel like a fraud, doubt their abilities, or question whether they are deserving of any accolades.
In other words, they feel like imposters. Like the Dunning-Kruger effect, the individual may be unaware that they are impacted by imposter syndrome.
The Dunning-Kruger effect is based on the idea that the knowledge one requires to be competent at a task is the same knowledge one needs for self-awareness.
This explains why employees who suffer from the effect are unable to comprehend how poorly they are performing.
There are two other drivers of the Dunning-Kruger effect:
- Lack of metacognition – metacognition is the ability to analyze one’s behavior more objectively. Victims of the Dunning-Kruger effect lack the self-awareness to develop a realistic assessment of their abilities.
- Overconfidence – this can also lead to poor performance or subject knowledge. While these employees are usually ignorant, their overconfidence causes them to believe that the knowledge they do possess makes them an expert. Think of a start-up entrepreneur who launches one successful company and then believes that all future business endeavors will be successful.
- The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias where someone with low talent, skill, or ability overestimates their own competence. Someone with imposter syndrome, on the other hand, doubts their talents, skills, or abilities despite their ability or competence.
- The Dunning-Kruger effect is based on the idea that the knowledge one requires to be competent at a task is the same one needs for self-awareness. Overconfidence and a lack of objectivity also cause the effect.
- Imposter syndrome tends to be present in competitive environments or where one’s performance is measured in some way. Several types of imposters hint at possible explanations for its presence.
- Dr. Doubtful – The Underestimated Medical Prodigy: Dr. Doubtful is a medical student who consistently excels but constantly doubts their abilities to become a successful doctor.
- Luck-driven Leader – The Accomplished Executive: This executive attributes their achievements to luck, feeling undeserving of promotions and recognition despite a remarkable track record.
- Self-Doubting Creator – The Talented Artist: Despite producing exceptional artwork, the Self-Doubting Creator questions their talent and feels like an imposter in the art world.
- Fearful Business Dynamo – The Successful Entrepreneur: A thriving entrepreneur who fears being exposed as a fraud and believes their success was merely luck.
- Unsure Champion – The Skilled Athlete: An accomplished athlete with a track record of winning championships, but plagued by self-doubt and fear of future performance.
- Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequateness of an individual in a specific situation, making that person unable to make any decisions.
- In some cases, the imposter syndrome can lead to constructive paranoia, which leads to growth.
- In other cases, it can lead to complete paralysis.
- The imposter syndrome is the opposite of the Dunning-Kruger effect, where someone overestimates her/his own skills for a given task, thus making bad decisions or more risks for the situation at hand!
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