Leah Williamson previews England's EURO 2022 opener
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Having first played in the European Championships back in 2017 the Arsenal centre-back will make her first major tournament start in England’s opening Euro 2022 which is being held at Old Trafford. And even better, she will do it as captain. However, having gone from being a fan and mascot for her beloved Arsenal to a key player for the team, and the first name on the team sheet for her country, Williamson admitted that she feels like an impostor.
Speaking to fellow Arsenal legend Alex Scott for a new BBC documentary, Willamson shared: “When I was younger, I was the girl that had my role models in football – you, Kel [Kelly Smith], Yanks [Rachel Yankey].
“So now to be in that position, I feel – what’s the word – a bit of an impostor because I don’t see myself anywhere near what you guys were when you were playing.
“Now somebody’s looking up to me. They come to watch me week in, week out, so I’m a bit like, ‘tough shoes to fill’.”
Williamson’s appointment as captain replaces Steph Houghton, who has not been picked in Sarina Wiegman’s final 23-woman squad after only just recently returning from an Achilles problem.
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Yet with the support of her team behind her, including Houghton who said that she was a “driven leader” with “all the attributes an England captain needs to be successful”, Williamson is far from an imposter.
“The game has blown up. The opportunities that now come with it, obviously we benefit from them, but it’s never been what I thought I was going to grow up into – the complete landscape has changed,” she continued to say.
“Now we are all footballers and that’s what we do – we don’t have another job, we don’t have to graft. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
“It wasn’t people recognising you on the street.”
However, with notoriety comes criticism, especially via social media, something that the young football star is aware of. Admitting that she has “absolutely” avoided the comments section in the past.
Although everyone might feel like an imposter at some stage during their lives, imposter syndrome (IS) is a term described by psychologists to describe high achievers who are unable to internalise and accept their success.
Often, individuals will attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually “unmask” them as a fraud.
It is important to note that though the impostor phenomenon isn’t an official diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) , psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.
In fact, impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression. Some of the other common signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome include:
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors
- Berating your performance
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Sabotaging your own success
- Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short.
Although for some individuals these feelings can fuel motivation to achieve. For others, it can lead to constant anxiety and stress. Even doing well at something does not change an individual’s mind or beliefs.
One 2016 study, for example, showed that US medical students with feelings of imposterism also tended to demonstrate “increased levels of exhaustion, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and depersonalisation”, symptoms very similar to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) definition of burnout.
In the earliest studies on the phenomenon, researchers found that imposter syndrome was connected to factors including early family dynamics and gender stereotypes. Subsequent research has shown, however, that the phenomenon occurs in people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders.
Although some parenting styles have been connected to the development of imposter syndrome in the past, more research is needed to support this.
In addition, certain personality traits have also been linked to a higher risk of experiencing imposter syndrome. These include:
- Low self-efficacy: Self-efficacy refers to your belief in your ability to succeed in any given situation.
- Perfectionism: Perfectionism plays a significant role in impostor syndrome. You might think that there is some perfect “script” for conversations and that you cannot say the wrong thing. You probably have trouble asking for help from others and may procrastinate due to your own high standards.
- Neuroticism: Neuroticism is one of the big five personality dimensions that is linked to higher levels of anxiety, insecurity, tension, and guilt.
Imposter syndrome and social anxiety are also very closely linked. A person with social anxiety disorder (SAD) may feel as though they don’t belong in social or performance situations. However, although symptoms may be similar for both, this does not mean that everyone who experiences imposter syndrome has social anxiety or vice versa.
In order to cope with imposter syndrome, Verywell Mind recommends, confronting some of those deeply ingrained beliefs you hold about yourself. For those who may find this particularly difficult, they are also recommended to try sharing their feelings with others, seek professional help and take it one step at a time.
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