What Is Imposter Syndrome? What Causes It & How Do You Overcome It?

Posted on 10th April 2023

The truth about the imposter syndrome. This #BrainFactMonday highlights what happens in your brain when you experience imposter syndrome and its cause.

By "๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜€๐˜†๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฒ", we mean that feeling of self-doubt, inadequacy, and fear of being exposed as a fraud, even when there is evidence to the contrary, that many people, especially in the corporate world, experience.

The imposter syndrome is rooted in the ๐—ฎ๐—บ๐˜†๐—ด๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฎ, the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response. When we encounter a situation we perceive as a threat, the amygdala triggers the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare our body to respond to the threat but also affect our cognitive processes, leading to anxiety, self-doubt, and negative self-talk.

Now ๐—น๐—ฒ๐˜'๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ธ ๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ for a moment: if you've been raised in a family that highly valued achievements or with parents who flipped back and forth between offering praise and being critical, you probably suffer from the imposter syndrome (controlling or overprotective parents may have triggered it too). ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ

As you can see, your imposter syndrome has ๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด to do with the reality and the value you bring into the world. It's rather a false perception dictated by the early exposure of your brain to unhealthy parenting and is in no way related to your performance. And that's good news, isn't it? ๐Ÿ˜œ

It's true, though, that if you made career choices dictated by the need for validation vs choosing a career that resonates with your nature, you are immersed daily in an "element" that is not yours. And that's bad news, because it means you're rarely in the ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ณ๐—น๐—ผ๐˜„ and you cannot benefit from the help of your intuition in your job. All this contributes to your negative, false perception of your value.This situation is perceived by your brain as a constant state of threat, triggering the amygdala fight or flight response with its consequent reduction in cognitive function. ๐Ÿ˜ž

It all becomes a ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ณ-๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฐ๐˜†๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ฒ that impacts your life and career.

But the other good news is that it can be sorted out, and you will, indeed. 

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