Dressed in robes and talers, model and actress Emily Ratajkowski gave an emotional speech to graduates. She spoke about Hochstabler syndrome, in which those affected – including the model – have very strong doubts about their (professional) achievements. She told Hunters College graduates: “It’s hard for me to celebrate myself, not as an embodied impostor, but as a soul deserving of joy. And I bet some of you do similar here.”

People who struggle with imposter syndrome, like Emily Ratajkowski, believe they are not as intelligent or competent as other people make them out to be. And that those around her would soon find out the truth about her abilities. The feeling of being an imposter often affects those who are very successful.

While objective factors such as academic degrees certify success, people who feel like imposters cannot match this outside view with their own abilities. You are plagued by constant self-doubt.

Instead of attributing (professional) success to one’s own skills, it is blamed on good timing or luck. So the image of others does not match your own perception. The syndrome is usually mentioned in a professional context, but people can also feel like imposters in other life situations – for example parents. The syndrome was first described in 1978.

Imposter syndrome is not a mental disorder. It is described in research as a cognitive bias.

Experts assume that personality traits such as perfectionism or low confidence in one’s own abilities can promote distorted self-perception.

Upbringing and the way someone was raised also likely play a role. If parents have put a lot of pressure on their children to do well at school, always sharply criticized mistakes or praised successes and criticized them at other times, this can be partly responsible for the imposter’s feelings of inferiority.

Self-doubt and fear of failure can cause emotional stress. Seeing yourself as less valuable in a professional context can also mean that those affected do not really feel that they belong, thus further reinforcing this assumption. In addition to the imposter syndrome, mental illnesses such as anxiety disorders or depression can also occur.

In order to help yourself, it can be helpful if those affected keep a diary with all the things they did during the day. The preparation of the muesli or getting up should also be noted. In addition to these completed tasks, it should be noted when the feeling of inadequacy arises. This can be useful to visualize what small and big successes one has made and one can question why doubts have arisen in certain situations.

In addition, you should do something nice every day, like a walk or a delicious meal. In this way, those affected can learn that beautiful experiences in everyday life are not linked to completed tasks, but that these small moments are unconditional.

Those affected can also help by talking to friends or other affected people in forums or groups. In the context of psychotherapy, people who feel like impostors can find out what causes their thought pattern to be based. Therapy can help to become aware of your own distorted perception and to learn new behaviors.

Sources: Instagram Emily Ratajkowski, AOK, Oberbergkliniken, Psychology Today, Healthline