Have you ever felt like a fraud? Do you tend to attribute your success to “getting lucky” while attributing the success of your peers to their hard work? Are you a high- performing perfectionist who feels one step shy of total failure?
If so, you might have “imposter syndrome,” a mindset characterized by a belief that the good work you output happens by chance and that you will one day be “found out” and uncovered as an imposter. This has also been called “the imposter phenomenon” more broadly. It was once thought that more women than men struggled with this issue, but it has been discovered that people across sexes and from all sorts of demographics experience this, even though members of minority groups are more susceptible.
Imposter syndrome can feel even more maddening when we are aware that we have it, but still can’t loosen its grip on our thinking. Acclaimed musician Amanda Palmer wrote vividly about her imposter syndrome, describing an imaginary “Fraud Police” whom she anticipated would show up and accuse her of not knowing what she was doing. Her husband, beloved author Neil Gaiman also publicly struggled with imposter syndrome and told a wonderful story about a meeting with astronaut Neil Armstrong that helped give him perspective on the issue.
Those of us with imposter syndrome tend to suffer quietly. We are so afraid of being discovered as inadequate that we keep our fears to ourselves. However, some have argued that because imposter syndrome is so common it may simply be a natural consequence of experiencing success.
So, now that we know that there is an alternative to living wracked with anxiety over our performance, what can we do to improve our confidence?
1. Keep Track of Accomplishments
Something I’ve personally practiced to avoid feeling like an imposter is to write down my accomplishments—no matter how big or small—for the day or the week. They could be as monumental as finishing major exams or getting a new job or as minuscule as sweeping the kitchen or bathing my dog.
2. Don’t Minimize
One important caveat is that I don’t allow myself to minimise any accomplishments or include any things in my lists that I wish I could’ve also done. Being able to look back on my journal and see the incremental progress I’ve made in life helps me to acknowledge that I’m doing more than standing still in one painful spot.
3. Watch Your Filter
Some of us have a mental “filter” that causes us to internalise criticism and brush aside praise. It’s important to make sure that we aren’t unfairly critical of ourselves while choosing to gloss over any awards, compliments, or honours that we receive. It’s easy to feel upset over our mistakes, but it’s also important to acknowledge everything that we do well.
4. Talk to Someone
When we feel fearful or uncertain, it can be helpful to talk to someone we trust about our concerns. This could be a mentor, a peer, or a friend or family member. Chances are, they will have helpful advice to offer us and may even admit to us that they also struggle with a lack of confidence. When we don’t talk about our negative emotions, they can tend to fester so it’s very important to share how we are feeling.
5. Realize that You’re Not Alone
It is estimated that up to 82% of professionals experience some degree of imposter syndrome. This means that most people who become successful do not feel as if they deserve their success. Or are afraid that they will not be able to maintain their level of success. That means there are a lot of us going about with an air of confidence that we don’t feel. Welcome to the club.
The good news is, that it’s possible to improve the way we see ourselves. We can learn to trust ourselves and to acknowledge that even though we sometimes falter. There are many things we do with excellence. We can start keeping a record of those things and learning to accept it when others reward us for them. Lastly, we can feel more confident in sharing our insecurities with others, knowing that it is an opportunity for all of us to feel less alone.
As you’ve probably realised after reading this post, it wasn’t written by me but rather the lovely Melodi Umoh. She is a fellow blogger on WordPress and we recently decided to collaborate together. As you may have noticed, I rarely do collaborations. But I found “Imposter Syndrome” very fascinating. So I was excited to write about it as well as read her take on it.
I really hope you enjoyed her writing and if you would like to read the post I wrote on imposter syndrome for her blog please click here. I would so appreciate it if you took a minute to go over to her site and read it!
Ps: This post is slightly earlier than usual since it’s a collaboration. We decided to post at a time that would be good for both of us.
For similar posts please click here.
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