You may have experienced imposter syndrome when you got a promotion or are started a new job, but the lesser-known imposter syndrome is the one that can show up in your relationship.
You might feel like your relationship is too good to be true, or that your partner will change their mind about you. Perhaps you feel like if you show your true self, your partner will no longer want to be with you. Imposter syndrome, also referred to as imposter phenomenon, was coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. Essentially, it refers to the belief that you are not qualified, or do not deserve your accomplishments, and have fooled others into thinking you are worthy.
In relationships, imposter syndrome is the recurring feeling that you’re not enough or that you accidentally deceived your partner into being with you. These feelings can show up in either long-term relationships or on first dates. Read on for how imposter syndrome might be showing up in your relationship, and how to (finally) overcome it.
5 ways imposter syndrome might be showing up in your love life
1. Questioning someone’s intentions when they ask you on a date
Picture this: You’ve been swiping forever and you finally match with someone who you’re actually excited about. Your small talk is great and you enjoy chatting to them, but then they ask you out. Suddenly, doubt creeps in and you begin to wonder if they are actually interested in you (Is it just a hook up? Did they think you looked a different way?). When you do go out on the date, you spend the whole time worrying they will lose interest or that you are letting down their expectations.
2. Doubting that they really want you to join outings (even ones they invite you to)
You’ve made it to the meet-the-friends-and-family stage of the relationship (exciting!), and your partner begins to invite you out to group activities and events. Maybe they’ll invite you to a hangout with their friend group or a birthday dinner for their sibling. You’re excited to take that next step, but you catch yourself wondering if they want you there, or if they are inviting you for another reason (Are they just being nice? Did their friends/family pressure them to invite you? Did you make them feel like they had to?).
3. Seeking constant reassurance of your partner’s feelings
Most of us have experienced insecurity if we don’t get “enough” reassurance. Maybe you only feel secure when your partner is reassuring you and verbalizing their feelings about you. For example, if they haven’t told you that they love you in a day you assume they changed their mind, or you assume something’s wrong if you don’t hear from them for a short period of time (even if they told you they’d be busy studying). While words of affirmation is an important love language, requiring a constant reminder of your partner’s feelings in order to feel secure is likely a sign of imposter syndrome that can lead to toxic patterns.
4. Being aware of how other people view your relationship
Sometimes the imposter syndrome doesn’t only make you question how your date or significant other sees you, but how other people see you two together. Do you ever find yourself out with your partner or a new date and feel insecure about what people around you are thinking? Maybe you assume that your date is obviously out of your league and other people can see it, or you assume that your significant other’s family members or friends will think you’re not good enough for them.
5. Changing behavior out of fear of your partner or date’s reaction
Ah, the games we play in relationships. Playing hard to get is all too common in dating (important side note: Stop playing games and go after what you want!). You may be thinking the person won’t be interested if you come on too strong, or maybe you censor your personal beliefs out of fear that your date will think less of you. But a healthy relationship requires honesty and open communication. Changing who you are for hopes they’ll like you more is not only destructive to your self-confidence, but it’s a complete waste of time.
4 ways to overcome imposter syndrome
1. Practice self-awareness and identify triggers
Once you pinpoint these feelings of inadequacy and begin to recognize them, you can tune into what triggers them. For example, do you always question your relationship after being around a certain friend or family member? Or maybe you have trust issues from a past relationship so not receiving a text for a certain amount of time triggers negative thoughts. Once you notice where these thoughts are coming from, strategize how to limit triggers. It could be a matter of setting boundaries with certain people who bring out insecurities, or simply communicating your needs to your significant other. Social media can be a common trigger too. If you find yourself comparing your relationships to the relationships you see on social media, reevaluate the accounts you follow and which ones not are serving you.
The balance between opening up about your feelings but not requiring constant reassurance can be difficult. The key is to communicate worries to your partner in a way that makes them know you want to move past it and do not want it to get in the way of your relationship. A conversation with your partner about your doubts (and where they come from) may be enough to feel reassurance in the future, without needing them to constantly verbalize it again. Communication is key. Plus, your significant other is more likely to give you those words of affirmation in the future now that they know it is important to you, but more importantly, you won’t be holding in feelings, which can make any insecurities worse.
3. Ask for help
While there are many steps you can take on your own to help improve overall confidence and improve the way you feel about yourself in your relationship, we don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do anything alone. Confiding in your friends or the people closest to you might help put your insecurities into perspective so you can see your relationship from an outside perspective, but a therapist or dating coach can help you overcome a lot of the negative thoughts or patterns holding you back. If all else fails and you don’t feel comfortable reaching out, imagine what the people you love would say. What would your mom tell you if you were worried your significant other was too good for you, or what would your best friend say if you needed constant reassurance? Even if you don’t believe it, the most positive beliefs will eventually replace the negative ones.
4. Keep a running list of compliments about yourself
At the end of the day, imposter syndrome comes down to confidence and knowing what you deserve instead of questioning whether you deserve it. Instead of questioning yourself in relationship to your partner, focus on you as an individual. You know how people say to make a list of everything you want in a partner as a way to manifest your ideal relationship? Make one about yourself. Keep a list of everything you love about yourself and that you are excited to share with someone else, including all the things you’re proud of as well as all the wonderful things that make you unique. Write out all your favorite qualities and refer to them when you are feeling doubtful.