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A therapist who works with high-achieving men to manage stress and anxiety due to work performance, say's imposter syndrome is a type of anxiety characterized by “fear regarding feeling inadequate about your own capabilities.”

Initially thought to affect women, there is now a mountain of evidence that men experience imposter syndrome just as much as women.

Here’s how to identify what you may be experiencing, what causes it, and what to do next.

THE FIRST TIME BRIAN REMEMBERS FEELING LIKE AN IMPOSTER, HE WAS IN THE THIRD GRADE.

“That was the year we started getting letter grades instead of ‘satisfactory’ or ‘unsatisfactory,’” he tells Inverse.

When he got a B on a test for the first time, it was devastating for him. A teacher asked what was wrong; Brian said it was the B.

“He reassured me that I did well, and a B was a good grade,” Brian says. “My response was something like, ‘Yeah, ‘but a B isn’t as good as an A.’”

Brian has imposter syndrome. He’s now a 44-year-old living in Maryland (he requested Inverse use only his first name) and has worked hard since childhood to shake the feeling he isn’t quite good enough.

Back then, it wasn’t just some schoolroom insecurity: It was the beginning of a life-long battle between who he is and how others perceive him and how he perceives himself.

James Marrugo, a therapist who works with high-achieving men to manage stress and anxiety due to work performance, tells Inverse imposter syndrome is a type of anxiety characterized by “fear regarding feeling inadequate about your own capabilities.”

Initially thought to affect women, there is now a mountain of evidence that men experience imposter syndrome just as much as women.

The research also suggests men are more likely to have more severe anxiety due to that feeling compared to women. A 2018 study suggests gender can “potentially exacerbate the negative effects” of feeling like an imposter at work.

It’s essential to understand and address the underlying causes of imposter syndrome, says David Reiss, who is a clinical psychologist and trauma expert, because it’s often a symptom of a more serious issue — low self-esteem.

Here’s how to know if you have imposter syndrome, what causes it, and the one question you need to ask yourself to start breaking free.

WHAT IS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?

First described by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, “imposter syndrome” is the name given to the feeling when a person, despite their objective successes, has persistent self-doubt and anxiety about being exposed as an “imposter.” They believe they are “unworthy” of their position and others’ positive perceptions.

Reiss points out that imposter syndrome is not a clinical condition recognized by the American Psychiatric Association but rather is a manifestation of a different issue: low self-esteem.

It’s this core issue that demands attention, Reiss says, because “low self-esteem can, in a vicious cycle, engender increased anxiety and depression.”

For Brian, alcohol played a starring role in that vicious cycle. When his imposter syndrome was at its worst, Brian self-medicated with booze. His problem with drinking really took off in his 30s, he recalls.

“My drinking got worse in my 30s due to increasing job responsibilities and the resulting stress,” he says. Hangovers started to affect the quality of his work, which only made him feel like even more of an imposter — exacerbating the issue.

COMMON SIGNS OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Because the root causes of imposter syndrome can be complex, different people might experience the sensation differently. But most people share similar underlying feelings of inadequacy.

Marrugo says common fears associated with imposter syndrome are:

  • Fear of not being good enough for a job or task
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of some loss (loss of income, employment, relationships)

WHO IS MOST VULNERABLE TO IMPOSTER SYNDROME?

High-achievers are often most susceptible to imposter syndrome, Marrugo says. But that isn’t the only factor at play.

Studies have found that, in addition to gender, race and socioeconomic status also contribute to feelings of being an imposter.

“Groups that are vulnerable to overt or covert system social degradation, withholding of acknowledgment, or opportunity are more likely to develop issues and conflicts regarding self-esteem,” Reiss explains.

Explore more of the article here:

https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/imposter-syndrome-one-question

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