Unlocking ADHD writer Indhu Jayabaskaran explores impostor syndrome and how to manage it.
What is impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome (IS) refers to feelings of inadequacy or fraud, as if any success achieved is through luck, when it is not the case. People struggling with IS often tend to focus on past mistakes, worry about future failure and doubt their competency.
Link to ADHD
People with ADHD often find themselves working harder than others to complete tasks and tend to hide these struggles. They usually already have a history of underperforming and receiving negative feedback, and experience feelings of anxiety when beginning new tasks. This hinders their performance as they question their abilities and fear that they may not meet expectations. As a result, whenever they finish a task successfully, they tend to attribute their success to luck and not their own effort. This initiates a cycle of self-sabotage, where they limit themselves due to fear of failure and judgement.
Symptoms of impostor syndrome
- Feeling that any achievements made were through luck or other external factors
- Fear of being discovered as a ‘fraud’
- Criticising every detail and obsessing over what didn’t go well instead of what did
- Inability to accept/ feeling unworthy of compliments
- Feelings of not living up to expectations
Managing impostor syndrome
There are several ways to manage impostor syndrome so that it does not control your life.
Validating your feelings and addressing your concerns is important in overcoming IS. Being mindful of negative thought patterns, replacing them with positive affirmation, and building good self-care habits can help to overcome impostor-like thinking. Group therapy may be effective as realising you are not alone in your struggles will help with feelings of isolation.
Learning to manage ADHD
People with ADHD often struggle with executive function. Developing tools to work with these struggles could vastly improve mental state, as well as increase self-confidence and motivation.
Recording your accomplishments
Looking at the bigger picture will help with recognising the roles you have played, identifying your talents, and acknowledging that the successes you have achieved were a result of your own work and not just dumb luck. This will also help with focusing on your strengths instead of your weaknesses.
When feelings of IS arise, take a moment to look back on the work you’ve done so far and remind yourself of the effort you put in. Avoid comparing yourself to the people around you as everyone has their own pace and different circumstances. Most of all, remember that you are not alone when facing IS. Talking to your close friend or relative will help you see things from a third-person perspective and rationalise your thoughts.