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stressed young Latinx woman struggling with imposter syndrome at work

How Does Imposter Syndrome Affect Latinx Mental Health?

Being Latino in the United States means making a greater effort both to find a place and to adapt to academic and professional environments. And due to the high demands they face, the development of impostor syndrome in Latinos has increased.

70% of American workers have experienced impostor syndrome at some point, but it tends to affect minorities, such as the Latino community, mostly. Latinos represent 18.7% of the population and 17.3% of the workforce in the United States, according to figures from the official 2021 census.

“It wasn’t that good, I just did my job”, is a very common phrase to hear and it can seem like an expression of humility. However, behind it is really hidden a condition of stress, anxiety, insecurity and even depression.

What is impostor syndrome?

When listening to “Impostor Syndrome” it is often thought that it refers to deceiving others, pretending to be something other than what it really is. But it is certainly the opposite, it is involuntarily thinking that those around you have a wrong idea of who you really are, and that you are not capable enough to perform certain tasks or hold important positions.

Psychologists Joe Langford and Pauline Clance (1993) define impostor syndrome as the belief that “achievement did not occur through genuine ability, but as a result of being lucky.”

The symptoms of Imposter Syndrome can vary from person to person, but they are generally:

  • Believing that achievements are not deserved, that they are fair but a matter of luck, or to receive help from others.
  • You doubt your own abilities
  • There is a constant fear of being singled out as a fraud
  • Guilty feeling
  • Feeling that you have failed even when you have overcome and achieved success Lack of confidence in their abilities
  • Strong feeling of anxiety, depression and hopelessness
  • Permanent dissatisfaction

Types of impostors

The expert researcher in impostor syndrome is Dr. Valerie Young, in her work she has classified five groups of people prone to this disorder:

Perfectionists: They are usually people who set very high goals for themselves, so they always think they could have done better.

The individualists: These types of people refuse to receive help, since they take it as a symptom of weakness. They feel that if they ask for help they do not demonstrate their value.

Experts: These are people who think they have known how to sell ‘too well’, who have not been honest in their selection and fear that it will be discovered.

Natural geniuses: They tend to be people without patience, they get stressed and overwhelmed if they don’t do things smoothly, quickly and the first time.

Superhumans: These people seek to work harder than others to maintain themselves and continue to measure up. That is why their physical health and their social life are usually the first to suffer the consequences.

How Impostor Syndrome Develops

The development of impostor syndrome is linked to perfectionism and the high level of self-demand that is applied to the person. It is usually triggered by trying to meet and exceed standards, as well as conforming to some stereotype.

Psychologist Pauline Clance states that the most important cause of the development of impostor syndrome is a sense of insecurity. In his study he points out that “some of these causes are internal (low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence) and others are external (family patterns, stereotypes and salary differences)”

Other research also indicates that racial identity is one of the important causes for the development of impostor syndrome, especially among high-achieving minorities.

Imposter syndrome is usually associated mostly with women, however, new research shows that it can affect anyone regardless of gender and age.

A study by Heriot-Watt University and the School of CEOs found that more than half of the women surveyed said they felt like impostors, compared to only 24% of men.

On the other hand, younger people are also more likely to feel like impostors. The study by Heriot-Watt University and the School of CEOs confirmed that 45% of young people said they doubted their skills, compared to 30% of professionals. older.

Latinos in the United States and the impostor syndrome

Various factors cause the development of impostor syndrome in Latinos in the United States. It usually comes from feeling different due to discrimination, as well as being limited to conforming to a stereotype.

A study conducted at the University of Texas at Austin indicates that impostor syndrome in Latinos is usually linked to anxiety given by stereotypes associated with their race.

This syndrome mainly affects Latin women in their development in the professional and academic areas. Since, they are not represented in leadership positions, both because of sexism and because of their identity.

According to a 2020 report by and McKinsey & Company, only 71 Latina women are promoted for every 100 men moving up to management positions.

Always having the thought of the stereotype leads Latinos to worry about adjusting to it in a negative way about their social group.

So they are constantly looking to confirm that they are not good enough whether it is at work, at school, or any other task that requires them to show off their skills.

This syndrome affects the mental health of Latinos, since they develop a high rate of anxiety and depression. They also have strong feelings of hopelessness and dissatisfaction even when they achieve success.

Imposter syndrome and mental health

Psychologist and TedTalk Elizabeth Cox explains that “the psychological mechanisms of those with impostor syndrome activate internal brakes that make it impossible to share great ideas, apply for certain jobs or ask for well-deserved promotions. It is a virus that attacks talent and reduces opportunities.”

Impostor syndrome deteriorates people’s mental health, causing them to develop pathologies such as anxiety, low self-esteem, insomnia and even depression. And as a consequence, work life, personal life and even social relationships are affected.

Therapy to overcome impostor syndrome

Although the impostor syndrome is not established as part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, it is necessary to take it into account and treat it in time. Since being trapped for a long time in these thoughts, they trigger the development of other conditions.

Psychologist Valerie Young explains that “Finding support is essential, especially if you are the only one, or one of the few”, to overcome impostor syndrome. For her part, Elizabeth Cox explains that the best way to combat impostor syndrome is by talking about it, communicating it with others.

When suffering from impostor syndrome, the fear of asking about their performance is greater, since they fear that all their thoughts will be confirmed. And even listening to positive comments does not soothe feelings of fraud.

That is why, to overcome impostor syndrome, it is appropriate to go to a mental health professional with whom you feel confident. In this way, the expert will make an appropriate evaluation of the case, to carry out psychotherapy by implementing the appropriate techniques for each particular case.

Everyone has a different history and experiences, which is why a professional guide is necessary. In this way, he really discovers what are the thought distortions that revolve around the feeling of insecurity, in order to treat them appropriately.