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Tackling impostor syndrome by less scrolling, more living

By Dr. Lena Bucatariu (*)

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Have you ever scrolled through social media and felt like you’re not good enough? Or doubted your accomplishments and worried that others will discover you as a fraud? You could be suffering from impostor syndrome, a psychological experience of feeling like a fake despite evidence of real achievements and success.

Generally, impostor syndrome is associated with people in successful roles such as business leaders, famous writers, academics, actors, and sports figures, as well as those in special circumstances such as people with disabilities or ethnic minorities. Impostor syndrome has been found to affect as many as 70% of people.

One aspect of modern life that can make impostor syndrome worse is overusing social media. In recent times, Vietnam has experienced a significant rise in social media with 70 million active users and it is projected to grow until 2029 by a total of 13.9 million users – an increase of 16 percent.

This high rate places Vietnam in tenth position worldwide (out of 150 countries and regions) in terms of social media usage, and third in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines. While the average Vietnamese user spends about two hours and 32 minutes every day on social media, the most avid consumers are Generation Z who spend up to four hours daily on the platforms.

On Instagram, which is home to 16.61 million Vietnamese people, users experience social comparison and the desire to appear perfect by posting photos, quotes and content that represent their ideal selves. As beauty and lifestyle blogger Bella Gerard revealed in 2024, her real self struggles with depression and anxiety and sometimes it’s hard to get up in the morning while her Instagram posts paint a positive picture that she is just having a lazy day at home.

The blogger goes on to confess that she uses three apps to enhance her pictures (for editing, filtering and preview) and is concerned about weight gain and body image, which makes her feel undeserving to accept some followers’ comments such as ‘You are so beautiful’ even when they are genuine.

Feelings of inadequacy are not limited to lifestyle networks such as Instagram, but also appear in work and career-oriented platforms such as LinkedIn (2.58 million Vietnamese users) as found in a UK study. LinkedIn users expressed lack of confidence in their professional skills both when they read other people’s posts and when they communicated about their own credentials and accomplishments.

As expressed in the study: “Our findings show the negative well-being effects of social media are not only because we compare ourselves to others, but because we believe others think more highly of us than we think of ourselves,” said Dr Ben Marder, University of Edinburgh Business School.

One way to overcome impostor syndrome is to use social media less – PHOTO: PEXELS

To overcome impostor syndrome, we need to stop looking outside at what other people are posting and start focusing on our own strengths and achievements. Here are a few tips:

1. Remember that everyone is also human
The people you follow on social media are not perfect, they have editing and filtering apps, they also have hardships and bad days, and maybe they also feel inadequate sometimes.

2. Spend less time on social media
Set an alarm to limit the time you spend scrolling through social media, for example set a timer for 30 minutes and stop as soon as the alarm rings.

3. Be grateful
Spend some time reading about gratitude from the great master Thich Nhat Hanh, for example “Touching peace: practicing the art of mindful living”. Every day, make a list of three things that you are grateful for: they can be as simple as being able to breathe and having clean water to drink.

4. Post more authentic content about yourself
Instead of highly curated pictures of external beauty and possessions that may make other people feel subpar, sometimes you can share a difficulty you are experiencing or a photo that is not flattering of you.

5. Follow more meaningful content creators
Stop following people who make you feel bad about yourself, and instead follow more inspiring accounts (mindfulness and meditation, motivational speakers, self-care) or consume positive content such as Are You a Potato? – a funny animation created by RMIT Vietnam students to help others overcome impostor syndrome.

(*) Dr. Lena Bucatariu, Lecturer in Professional Communication, School of Communication & Design, RMIT Vietnam

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