Impostor Syndrome is a real thing. And you’ve probably felt it before. It’s that thing where you feel like a fraud when people acknowledge some of your successes but you kinda think they are wrong. They give you a seat at the table but you feel like you don’t belong because you haven’t earned it yet. Yes, it’s that feeling. It will leave you believing that you don’t deserve some of the things you are credited with, and that you are just lucky.
Can you relate? Honestly, I can. And so can many other people around the world. You’d be shocked to realize that many successful people identify with being bugged by impostor syndrome at some point in their lives.
The question you are probably asking is why do I feel that way? Right? Well, most people struggle with feelings of self-doubt and unworthiness. But when your achievements are a result of your own hard work and skill, and you still feel like a fraud, then that’s likely impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome typically happens to people who haven’t learnt to internalize their successes. There are different reasons why people don’t do this. Sometimes, it might be because they are perfectionists and they set extremely high expectations for themselves and anything below this is a failure.
Other people might be “lone rangers” who don’t count anything as a success if they had help from other people. A different category are people who expect to know everything before they can count themselves as successful in a particular venture.
On some other occasions though, you may feel like an impostor when just about everyone at that level of success is different from you. For example, if you are a woman at the top of your career in a male dominated field, you are more likely to feel like an impostor there.
But whatever the reason, people who don’t own their successes as their own may end up feeling fraudulent when they get recognized for this success.
Does that describe you? Not to worry, we’ll share a few helpful thoughts that can help you deal with these feelings.
1.. Firstly, recognize your feelings of being a fraud as what they are – feelings and not facts. You see just because you feel some type of way doesn’t mean that what you are feeling is true. Feelings are not facts, and understanding that helps you put things in perspective. So I would say to you, acknowledge whatever you feel in those moments as just a feeling, and remind yourself that they are not facts. If not, you will underperform in that role and reinforce your beliefs about being a fraud.
2. Always take stock of your achievements. Sometimes, your imposter syndrome may happen because you don’t track our successes. If you don’t have an idea of how much you have achieved, it’s very easy to feel like a fraud when you see the results of your hard work. Beginning today, start recording your wins and keep them at the back of your mind. Even better, celebrate and reward yourself for them too. That helps to reinforce them in your head.
3. See failure as an opportunity to learn. It’s very true that failure at some project or task may leave you feeling like a fraud. After all, if you were that good, you would have done well on that task. Right? No! You see failure is a normal part of life, and you should stop seeing it as an indictment on your abilities and start looking at it as an opportunity to learn.
4. Remember that you are not alone. Can I be honest for a second? Just about everybody feels like an impostor sometimes. From athletes to career professionals and politicians! I do too sometimes. You know, I even found a survey that said up to 70% of people have suffered from it at one point or the other. So you are no different. And reminding yourself of this can be very helpful. For me, one thing that helped me is hearing my mentors in my field talk about their own feelings of being an impostor and I find a lot of courage in that.
5. Let go of your need to be a perfectionist. Like I mentioned in the introduction, if you are a perfectionist, you are very likely to develop feelings of being fraudulent. This is because you have set such a very high pass mark for yourself that other people don’t subscribe too, and when you get rewarded for something you didn’t do well at by your own standards, you feel inadequate. I think you should recognize when your standards are too high, and how they might be feeding your impostor syndrome.
6. Be kind to yourself. If your impostor syndrome shows up as the inner critic in your head that berates you with negative thoughts then it’s time to practice self-compassion. Thoughts like “you’re not good enough” or “you’re not as smart as your boss thinks you are” can leave you feeling so frustrated and stressed that your productivity and creativity is reduced and then your feelings of being a fraud are strengthened. Practicing self-kindness and self-compassion can help you learn how to silence those thoughts. To learn more about self-compassion, read my article here.
The highlight of impostor syndrome is that because you are afraid of being discovered to be a fraud, you avoid opportunities to ask questions where you may be in doubt, or overcompensate for your weaknesses. Such behaviors only tend to affect your own productivity and by extension, that of your team. Acknowledge what you feel, own up to them, but don’t let them stop you. Instead, keep moving in spite of them – that’s how you rise above your impostor syndrome.