While Millennials are said to suffer from a variety of issues because of the things we have experienced during our time, nothing may be more prevalent than a condition known as Imposter Syndrome. This is a condition in which people have feelings of inadequacy and a general negative sense of self-worth. For some reason, Millennials are suffering from this condition much more than those of the Baby Boomer Generation or Generation X. Some people may write this off by claiming that Millennials are just thin skinned and need to toughen up, but this is not a condition to be overlooked. The blame is most likely to be placed in the hands of the parents and guardians that raised Millennials, and on the rise of new technologies such as social media.
Imposter Syndrome does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, from every walk of life, at any point in their life. It is a phenomenon, mostly experienced by high achieving individuals, in which the sufferer is unable to internalize and accept their successes and achievements. According to a study by the International Journal of Behavioral Health, 70 percent of people suffer from these feelings of inadequacy and fraud. Many feel as though their accomplishments are more likely the result of dumb luck than of their abilities and they fear that someone else will discover that they are not as accomplished as they are. Despite not being recognized as an official diagnosis in the DSM, most psychiatrists and behavioral experts acknowledge the phenomenon as a real disorder of intellectual self-doubt. This syndrome is often accompanied by severe anxiety and depression.
It is no surprise then that Millennials suffer from this syndrome more than other generations. Several studies have shown that nearly half of all Millennials surveys hold moderate to high superiority beliefs about themselves. A large part of this can be blamed on our parents. We were doted on as children and given a trophy when we excelled AND when we lost, in an effort to not damage our self-esteem. It is not surprising that Millennials are also referred to as the Trophy Generation. As kids, we received a healthy dose of over-praise or criticism. According to the American Psychological Association, these mixed messages from parents tend to increase fraudulent feelings in adulthood. So when someone of the Millennial Generation does rise to some level of prominence or fulfill a major accomplishment, it is no wonder that they feel as though they are undeserving or got there with luck rather than their talents. When everyone places such a high price on success, and you finally “make it,” the success becomes hollow and unfulfilling as we question whether or not we deserve to have accomplished something in the first place.
Perhaps an even more significant factor in why so many Millennials are suffering from Impostor Syndrome is the fact that we grew up during such an explosion in technology and the dawn of social media. Everyone is looking for someone else to compare their life with and social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram offer young people easy ways to do just that. According to this article on the Telegraph, 62 percent of young people said that sites like these made them feel inadequate in their own lives and achievements. Constantly comparing your accomplishments to those of other people defeats the whole purpose of what you are trying to accomplish in the first place. You are doing it to better yourself, no one else. Nevertheless, these feelings of inadequacy are more normal than you think, but should still be handled in a positive manner. Take time to acknowledge the great things you achieve and the reasons you achieved them.
As Millennials, we must take time to acknowledge that what we are striving to achieve in our lives is the result of our desire to do it. When we do accomplish great things, we must take the time to realize just how far we have come and reflect on what WE did to get there. While it may have ultimately been our parents coddling and growing up in the age of social media that has caused us to suffer the effects of Imposter Syndrome, it is our responsibility to overcome them. Take pride in your accomplishments. No one but you achieved them. Finally, stop comparing yourself to others on social media. When 62 percent of young people say that social media makes them feel inadequate, realize that the person that you are comparing yourself to online may also be suffering from the effects of a pretty crappy disorder just like you.