Imposter Syndrome in Relationships: What Is It?
Every relationship has its ups and downs. However, some partners have a hard time feeling like they belong or are worthy of their significant others. In a nutshell, this is imposter syndrome in relationships. If left unchecked, imposter syndrome can devastate even outwardly healthy relationships and lead people into unhealthy spirals and breakups. Relationship health is a key part of both mental and emotional wellness, and it’s something you can’t ignore. Today, let’s look at imposter syndrome in relationships, explore how it affects relationships, and how you can overcome it if you’re experiencing this issue.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the feeling of not being “right” or “enough” for a given position, relationship, or life stage. Imposter syndrome is usually experienced and talked about in the context of jobs. For example, you might get an unexpected promotion at work and experience imposter syndrome if you feel that you aren’t up to the task or that you lack the skills and qualifications for the promotion in the first place. Ultimately, imposter syndrome is rooted in feelings of inadequacy, fear, insecurity, and other negative emotions. Imposter syndrome is somewhat the opposite of overconfidence, where you feel you are overqualified for a position or can’t do anything wrong. But while imposter syndrome is mostly experienced in professional contexts, it can also occur in relationships.
How Does Imposter Syndrome Manifest in Relationships?
Many people have imposter syndrome or feel its effects in the context of romantic relationships, like a long-term girlfriend or boyfriend arrangement or a marriage. Imposter syndrome manifests in relationships by making the person feel negative emotions about the relationship and its strength.
Let’s take a look at some of the more specific symptoms you might experience if you have imposter syndrome.
Feeling Like You’re Not Good Enough
Many with imposter syndrome feel that they aren’t good enough for a given relationship. For example, they may feel that they are “not in the same league” as their significant other, either in terms of attractiveness, intelligence, skills, or both. That the person’s significant other chose them first doesn’t usually matter. Imposter syndrome is not rational and can make people in romantic or other deep relationships feel unsatisfied, sad, or scared, even if outward signs are positive.
Feeling That You Have To Be Perfect
Imposter syndrome may also cause people to feel that they must be perfect or else their partner will leave them, or a relationship will otherwise take a downward turn. For example, a husband may feel that he has to be perfect for his wife, or she will abandon him for another man. Alternatively, a wife may feel that she has to be perfect for her husband and kids, or they will no longer deem her worthy of love and affection. This feeling that one has to be perfect can gradually become toxic and stifling, leading to bitterness on the part of the person with imposter syndrome.
Those with imposter syndrome usually feel consistent insecurity and worries about their relationship, their place in it, and the opinion of their significant other or family member. Insecurities can manifest in many different ways, including insecurity about:
- Money or finances
- Job or career path
This constant insecurity can wear on one’s psyche, causing them to become bitter, fearful, self-sabotaging, and more.
The fear of rejection is another common characteristic of imposter syndrome. Specifically, those with imposter syndrome fear that their loved ones will leave them because they aren’t good enough, because something else will come along, or for some other reason. In some cases, this fear of rejection can spiral out of control. For example, someone with very heavy imposter syndrome may decide not to enter a new relationship at all. They are so afraid of the relationship ending or being rejected when asking someone out on a date that they don’t even try.
Self-sabotage is also very common among those with imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome can inspire some people to try to “pop the balloon” before anyone else can, so to speak. They may assume that the relationship they are currently in is doomed, so they’ll try to end it ahead of time, so they stay in control of the situation. In some cases, imposter syndrome can cause individuals to end otherwise excellent relationships, leading to a lot of heartache and cycles of repeated breakups.
Other Signs of Imposter Syndrome
In addition to the above imposter syndrome symptoms, you might also notice these signs in yourself or in others experiencing this mindset.
- Assuming that a partner or family member always has bad intentions
- Frequently ignoring relationship problems
- Checking out emotionally from a relationship
- Being defensive around a partner
- Having a hard time trusting a partner
- Not acting honestly or genuinely with one’s partner
How Can I Overcome Imposter Syndrome in a Relationship?
Imposter syndrome can be very difficult to live with, but there are ways to overcome it. Practicing each of these strategies can help you deal with your imposter syndrome and gradually understand that you’re great just the way you are!
Self-compassion is a key part of emotional, mental, and intellectual wellness, and it’s also a cornerstone effort in overcoming imposter syndrome. Self-compassion essentially means giving yourself a break! For example, did you not get a job promotion or a pay cut because of the economy? Don’t let your brain convince you that your partner will think less of you because of it. Cut yourself a break. Practice self-compassion and remember that you’re trying your best and have many positive elements to display to the world and your partner or family members.
Have an Honest Conversation
Another great way to overcome imposter syndrome is to have an honest, heartfelt conversation with your partner or family members. If you’re feeling insecure, ask them:
- What they find attractive about you
- What they specifically like most about you
Any partner worth your time will be happy to answer these questions and make you feel great! Furthermore, you should be honest that you are feeling insecure or that you’re experiencing imposter syndrome. Almost everyone experiences this from time to time, and your partner may be able to emotionally support you once they know what’s going on. Communication is key to any long-term relationship, whether or not imposter syndrome gets in the way!
Remember That Your Partner Chose You
Above all else, if you suffer from imposter syndrome, remember that your partner picked you out of everyone else in the world to be with. Whether or not your relationship lasts for the rest of your life, your partner chose and is actively choosing you for the moment. For example, if you have imposter syndrome because you believe your new long-term girlfriend or boyfriend is out of your league, remember that they certainly don’t think so! They see you for your positive attributes and elements and believe you are worth spending time with out of everyone else on the planet.
Everyone is vulnerable to imposter syndrome at one time or another. But even if you experience the symptoms of imposter syndrome, you don’t have to give up. Instead, you can try to work past your imposter syndrome, see the value you bring to your relationship, and feel grateful for your significant other. Imposter syndrome can be tough to handle, but it is something you can overcome with the right mindset and effort. It’s all part of getting 1% better each and every day. For more advice on relationships, mental and emotional wellness, and other aspects of a holistically healthy life, check out 1AND1’s resources today.
Yes, Impostor Syndrome is Real: Here’s How to Deal With It | Time
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome | Harvard Business Review