You may have already heard about it: imposter syndrome is this unpleasant feeling of inferiority that we can feel, when we do not feel in our place, guilty of the success that we may have. A feeling that can develop from childhood. How to avoid it? The answers of Dr Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist and author of The Spiritual Intelligence of Your Child published by Leduc.
Who has ever felt this strange, rather unpleasant feeling that is imposter syndrome? A feeling of inferiority that gives us the impression of not being good enough and of not deserving the place that is rightfully ours. “This syndrome has its origins in childhood. explains Dr Stéphane Clerget, child psychiatrist in Paris. But how can you prevent your child from developing it?
Imposter syndrome in children is similar to that in adults
When developing in children, imposter syndrome resembles that found in adults. “These are children who do not feel legitimate academically.” explains the specialist. “They are good students, even very good students, but consider that their good grades are the result of luck. And on the contrary, each bad rating reflects who they really are.” Putting your child in a prestigious school at all costs can therefore reinforce this feeling. “When a child is only surrounded by other bright children, he can feel devalued, at the slightest ‘less good’ grade, which he will perceive as bad, compared to the others.“.
Beyond the academic aspect, these children may also simply not feel worthy of their parents. “They say they are not wise enough or not sporty enough, not good enough in general” reports the specialist.
Where does this special feeling come from?
Sometimes, imposter syndrome is explained by too much pressure from parents on their offspring. “But it is not always a fault of education, there are also those parents who do not put pressure on their children, but put it on themselves. Children will suffer from imitation“explains the doctor again.
Another scenario: the comparison with the other children of the siblings. “The child works very well, but since he has a brother or sister who does even better, he then develops a feeling of worthlessness.
How can you help your child break out of this pattern?
When you notice that your child is constantly devaluing himself, that he does not recognize his true value, it is important to correct the situation. Dr. Clerget gives us some tips to implement quickly, such as:
- Help your child not to set the bar too high: to do this, we remind him of his successes in other areas and we also list his qualities;
- Value it objectively: without being excessive because the child will not believe it;
- Ask third parties to value it: sometimes, when it comes from parents, the child will tend not to believe it. “You must then discreetly ask loved ones to compliment him on his successes, because generally these are children who are rarely complimented” estimates the specialist;
- Allow the child to associate with other children with more difficulties: “by surrounding your child with other very good children, he may become discouraged by the constant search for excellence and feel less good. It is interesting to bring diversity to your education” underlines Dr Clerget;
- Emphasize your qualities, which are sometimes less valued in general: “a child who listens, who is discreet or kind should be complimented for that. We must recognize these qualities which are important” ;
- Avoid comparisons between brothers and sisters: “for example, we avoid enrolling children in the same extra-curricular activities and we remind them that our love for them is independent of their success” ;
- Put things into perspective, by explaining to them that you can be happy, even if you are not good at everything.