“I don’t deserve this success. Sooner or later someone’s bound to call me out and everyone’s going to find out I’m not worth it.”
“I don’t belong here. I feel like I’m in someone else’s shoes and living someone else’s life.”
You might not know this yet, but impostor syndrome is a thing.
Impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience is a psychological pattern where the individual in question has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
An impostor, by definition, is a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, and especially if a personal fraudulent gain is at stake.
You get the promotion at work, and your inner voice presumes it’s because they must have been short on candidates. Or calls them stupid because they can’t see that what you’re doing is the bare minimum. Your standards for yourself are much higher and their expectations are too low. You’re not that good. Sure you gloat about it sometimes, but you just can’t accept the fact that you’re actually good at your job, even though you’re the youngest person holding your position. It can be completely derailing. And it’s exhausting. It’s the impostor syndrome.
You just don’t think you’re good enough, and you’re afraid you’re going to be found out for what you really are. But tough luck, kiddo. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way.
And I understand. You want to start reading this article feeling like an impostor and finish reading it and not feel like an impostor anymore. That’s not how it works. And I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure feelings are going to be among the last to change in this case.
Whether this COMPLETELY resonates with you or you can’t relate at all to what I’ve been writing, you are encouraged to do the following:
1) Acknowledge your thoughts and put them in perspective.
“Simply observing the thought as opposed to engaging it,” can be helpful, psychologist Audrey Ervin says. Knowing that just like things you overhear everyday could be false, sometimes you need to stop yourself from engaging in the thought further. Most people experience moments of doubt and that’s normal. The important part is not to let that doubt control your actions. Ervin also lets us in on a little secret escape from that thought spiral: think to yourself “does that thought help or hinder me?” as a tiebreaker. And then… turn it to positive thinking. Accentuate the positive.
With that in mind, don’t let these thoughts limit your courage to go after new opportunities and explore putting yourself out there in a way that will help you get to know yourself a bit more – and with that, grow.
2) Consciously remind yourself that you are here for a reason.
Life doesn’t just give out free opportunities and chances to random people. Accept that you have had some roles in your successes, because you did. You’ve put in the work to end up here. You could’ve been given a silver spoon when others weren’t, but you did do something to get where you are right now. You said yes when you could have said no – or the more challenging scenario: no when you could’ve said yes.
3) Keep a record of the nice things people say about you.
Something you can revisit. Because as cheesy as this seems, it works. No matter who you are or how bad you think you are, I know for a fact that at least one person’s life was affected because of at least one thing you’ve done. You’ve been there for more people than you think, and having something to help remind you of the time someone sent you a heartfelt message or hugged you extra tight because of something you’d said to them or looked you in the eyes like no one’s ever looked at you before… is important. Hold onto that. Some take pictures of these moments, some jot them down into notes on their phones, some reflect at the end of their day.
4) Stop COMPARING.
That’s it. I’m serious. Stop comparing. How many times are we going to repeat this: we don’t know the whole story. We don’t see the whole picture. Everyone’s doing their own thing, and we don’t know what the “other” is going through to be able to compare. You’re not here to live someone else’s life. You’re here to make the best out of yours.
Separate: feeling from fact. And while perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel, the trick is not to obsess over everything being just that. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens; be kind to yourself… you’re only human. Remember those standards I mentioned above?
5) Expose yourself. (mhmm)
Kyle Eschenroeder writes: “part of the twisted arrogance that causes impostor syndrome is the – usually unconscious – belief that you have extreme powers that the world couldn’t handle. Or maybe it’s just that you think you are a freak. You certainly have the ability to offer the world something no one else can… but really it’s not that wild! You are not nearly as much of a freak as you think you are. Again, come off it, you’re just not that special.”
6) Realize that you are never really you.
You are constantly changing. You’re constantly becoming a different person, forming new thoughts, opinions. You might feel like you’re a different person with different people, but that’s what life is about. Adapting. Authenticity is a hoax. Speaking in a language those you’re dealing with would understand. You’re not tricking those around you by being who you’re being. You’re not fake – and if you feel like you’re not acting like yourself, you can do one of two things: embrace it or change it. Either way it’s in your control. Remember that.
7) Act confident and no one will question you.
Borrowed for life from YouTube vlogger and self-proclaimed Internet Princess @sarahs_day, this motto is a keeper. The “fake it till you make it” attitude works sometimes, and it doesn’t make you a fraud. If you physically force yourself to smile more often, your body will generate the happy hormones to actually make you happier. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your attitude first, and allow your confidence to take over from there.
You’re doing you – and no one will ever be able to do a better job at that than you. Accept it.
You’re not alone.