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Imposter Syndrome, Anxiety, and You, pt. 2: Who Does Imposter Syndrome Affect, and Why?

Welcome back to my three-part series on imposter syndrome! If you joined me last time, you’ll remember that we briefly discussed what exactly imposter syndrome is and how it was originally defined by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes back in 1978.

If you haven’t read that post already, I encourage you to check it out and then come back here so you’ll have a better understanding of this phenomenon and its history within the world of mental health.

What Groups of People Are Affected By Imposter Syndrome?

To preface this, it goes without saying that anybody can be affected by imposter syndrome, just like how anyone can be affected by anxiety disorders or depression or any other mental illnesses or symptoms. And, as I mentioned in my previous post, imposter syndrome isn’t exactly a diagnosable illness; it’s more of a toxic thought pattern that involves perpetual self-doubt and anxiety.

Still, studies have shown there are certain groups of people who are disproportionately affected by this phenomenon. For example, imposter syndrome has been observed to affect high numbers of ethnic minority students and professionals. This is now understood to be a result of lower representation of Black, Asian, and Latinx individuals within academic and corporate spaces due to racial discrimination, the experience and internalization of racist stereotypes, and lack of access to financial aid.

Additionally, LGBTQ people are also hit hard by imposter syndrome, particularly LGBTQ women of color. This is also a side effect of a lack of representation within academic and corporate spaces as well as pervasive sexist and racist stereotypes that still, unfortunately, exist today.

While imposter syndrome can affect anyone, it’s clearly more prevalent amongst groups of people who, for whatever reason, have been made to feel as if they don’t belong.

Whether it’s due to racial discrimination, harmful stereotypes, lack of representation, lack of access to critical resources, or a combination of one or more of these factors, minorities of all kinds tend to be hit harder by feelings of self-doubt and perceived fraudulence.

Why Is Imposter Syndrome Linked With Anxiety Disorders?

Finally, it’s also worth noting that people with anxiety disorders and depression tend to be impacted by imposter syndrome more significantly than people who do not struggle with clinical anxiety and depression. Comorbidity of anxiety and depression is very common, and treating imposter syndrome must involve addressing and treating its underlying causes.

It makes sense that people with anxiety disorders would be disproportionately affected by this phenomenon; as someone with panic disorder, I find myself questioning my abilities as a writer all the time.

Perfectionism plagues so much of what I do because of how much my anxiety causes me to second-guess my abilities. When I do experience success, I’m immediately suspicious. Am I actually skilled, or am I just skating along due to pure happenstance? It’s a ridiculous notion when I actually spell it out, but I know others with anxiety disorders and imposter syndrome feel the same on a regular basis.

It’s also well-known that people with depression are known to have increased rates of low self-esteem and self-doubt, which naturally goes hand-in-hand with imposter syndrome.

Essentially, if you’ve ever been made to feel like you don’t belong--or have a mental illness that causes you to feel like you’re not good enough (or both!)--chances are, you’ve experienced imposter syndrome at some point.

Up Next, Part 3: How Do We Overcome Imposter Syndrome?

Now that we have a better understanding of what exactly imposter syndrome is and who is most affected by it, join me again next time for part three of this series.

In part three, I’ll be addressing what we can do to address and overcome these sinister feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt and work towards getting rid of imposter syndrome for good--or, at the very least, learning to live with it in a healthier way.

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