Stacey Solomon has revealed she suffers with imposter syndrome, regularly questioning her success and how deserving she is of it.
The former X Factor star said she has struggled with imposter syndrome since finding fame in 2009 on the ITV talent show.
"This goes back to the X Factor. I couldn't believe where I was," she told The Irish Independent.
"When I was on it, they did these masterclasses, and it was people that I'd grown up idolising like George Michael, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston.
"And I just couldn't believe what the hell I was doing and when it was over, I thought, 'OK, this is enough for me,' and every year after that, every venture, every opportunity I've ever been given, I almost have like a slight imposter syndrome."
Solomon went on to say that growing up with limited resources made her believe that the odds were always going to be against her.
"I guess then, if things start to happen, you immediately think, 'Do I even deserve this?' I really work hard to teach the boys that nothing is certain."
What is imposter syndrome?
According to Dr Audrey Tang, chartered psychologist and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience, imposter syndrome is a thought pattern where we doubt ourselves and find it difficult to accept our achievements and successes.
"Somewhat counterintuitively it tends to affect 'high achievers' more, but that could be because accumulation of certificates, medals or goals is symptomatic of feeling inadequate in some way," she explains.
"Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle where the individual, as if in a hamster wheel, simply keeps working to achieve more and more, without feeling the actual satisfaction, pride or success in what they have done.
"Worse still, should they make a mistake - which can happen through no fault of their own, this can consume them with anxiety or defensiveness and they struggle to grow beyond this negative spiral."
Dr Elena Touroni, consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, says many of us will suffer imposter syndrome at some point or other, but some people live with this feeling on an almost daily basis.
"It’s usually what we would call schema-driven and can be traced back to our early childhood experiences," Dr Touroni explains.
"A schema is essentially a blueprint through which we see ourselves, other people and the world around us. Imposter syndrome stems from the belief of not being 'good enough' in some way, and feeling like there’s something inherently wrong with you.
"This can develop into an overwhelming fear of being 'found out' and exposed as a fraud. It can happen following neglect, abandonment or growing up with parents who were extremely critical or who placed a lot of emphasis on outwardly success."
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The pandemic could be causing cases of imposter syndrome to rise, or existing sufferers to feel this way more frequently.
"This has been a challenging year for all of us so it’s only natural that we might find any pre-existing vulnerabilities heighten during this time," explains Dr Touroni.
"Those who suffer from imposter syndrome are likely to find themselves trying to cope with it by either over-working or procrastinating."
Working from home can easily blur the boundaries between work and home life, making it easier for someone to not properly 'switch off'.
"Others might find themselves procrastinating more whilst working from home, beating themselves up about it afterwards." Dr Touroni continues.
This year has also meant that many of the activities that once served as a distraction (or cover) for feelings of defectiveness are no longer an option.
"For someone with imposter syndrome, this might leave them with the sense that they’re not achieving enough," Dr Touroni adds.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
The good news is there are some ways to break free from this negative cycle of thinking.
"The reality is, you aren’t a fake, you can move forwards and imposter syndrome doesn’t have to sabotage your success or mental health," explains mindset coach Ruth Kudzi.
"You can put coping strategies in place to ease those anxious thoughts and stop that monkey on your shoulder from telling you lies and sabotaging."
Recognise that you are affected by it
According to Dr Tang, it is important to recognise imposter syndrome as simply a thought pattern and understand that you can choose to think differently.
"It can help you to reflect on the consequences of the actions that Imposter syndrome drives you to do," she explains. "For example when you are focusing on little quick wins, are you really heading towards your goal or is it just a 'feel good fix'."
Write your thoughts down
It is really easy to have those conversations in your head that convince you that you aren’t good enough, but when it is written down in black and white, you can’t argue with the facts.
"Keep a notebook where you record all your triumphs and wins, and when you are having a wobble, go back and look at just how far you have come," Kudzi recommends.
Quit the comparisons
There is only one you, so you need to stop comparing yourself to other people.
"There are always going to be people that we measure ourselves against, we have been doing it since we were toddlers, but you bring your own special qualities to the table and those things make you unique," Kudzi explains.
"Have you ever stopped and thought that maybe your peers look at you and think you are the one who has got it all worked out and are flying the flag of success?"
Manage your anxiety at others' perceived success
A simple tip is to come off social media unless for work purposes and cultivate the relationships that make you feel great off-line.
"If you choose to remain on social media, reframe the anxiety you feel at someone's success with gratitude," Dr Tang suggests.
"Say to yourself 'I'm grateful I got to see X's happiness,' then use that feeling of gratitude to inspire you to move towards your own goal."
Be your own cheerleader
This might feel like hard work, especially if you are going through a tough time, but it is really important that you are your own cheerleader. "Give yourself a pat on the back when something goes well and share good news so others can celebrate with you too," Kudzi says.
Find your tribe
Once you have found them, be that a close circle of friends, work colleagues, gym buddies or on social media, make the most of their support and the belief they have in you.
"As well as you encouraging them, they will be there to remind you of your successes, and will be proud of who you are and what you have done," Kudzi explains.
Focus on self compassion rather than self esteem
Dr Tang suggests trying to reassure yourself through self-compassion rather than self-esteem statements.
"When something doesn’t go your way try: 'I’m proud of XX elements because I worked hard on them/I contributed creatively/I pushed my boundaries' instead of 'I did XX better than everyone else,'" Dr Tang suggests.
"There is a very subtle difference, but self-compassion focuses on you and your response. It is quite empowering; self-esteem focuses on praise and even acceptance, but in the context of comparison with others."
Build up a “positivity reservoir” of your successes
Screenshot or photograph the times when you have done well, for example when clients have thanked you or the actual product that you have achieved.
"This reminds you to hold that moment a little while before rushing into the next, and in doing this, you remind yourself, subconsciously, that you are doing ok," Dr Tang explains.
Dr Tang also suggests trying to hold onto and appreciate thanks you receive from others, rather than shrugging it off with a 'Oh it’s nothing' or 'It was everyone else.'
"Even if you can’t quite hold the praise yet, simply say 'Thank you so much for saying that – I really appreciate it.' And try to hold that thought for a moment too."