I don’t remember the first time I felt inferior to someone, I only know that it started when I was really little, and it’s something I continue to struggle with to this day. I couldn’t put words to it until a few years ago, when I first heard about “imposter syndrome.”
Also known as fraud syndrome, it’s commonly classified as a feeling of being consistently inadequate, even after a series of successes, which ultimately leads to a damaging cycle of self doubt that has the potential to prevent someone not only from taking advantage of valuable opportunities in life, but on a base level, from ever having an accurate picture of their own self-worth.
On a personal level, I’ve felt like a fraud almost my entire life. It doesn’t matter if I’m specifically told I’m doing a good job at work, or if someone tells me that recent photo I posted looks good- or if they liked that last blog post I wrote. There will always be a tiny voice at the way back of my head going:
Did you really do THAT good of a job? Probably not. That one person you ran into at the coffee machine is the smart one, they’re the one that belongs here. You’re going to get fired any day now, everyone will eventually see the truth. No one likes your photos, because no one actually likes you. Did you see that one girl’s Instagram- that’s who everyone actually wants to follow, NOT YOU. And your blog sucks, there are much better blogs out there.
But you want to know something about that voice? It used to be louder. Again, not sure when, but somewhere along the line, I reached out blindly, and found a tenuous thread of inner strength. It didn’t feel like much at the start, but with careful handling, I come closer and closer each day to weaving my own warm little self-love blanket.
It takes work. And I’m not going to tell you that you’ll just wake up one day and be ready to roar like a lion, stand in your own power, and know your worth like the badass you truly are. I’m not even there yet. But, if you keep the following in mind, you’ll have a handy mental health roadmap to make the journey less scary:
Who do you think you are?
Yep, I went there. See, imposter syndrome typically affects high achievers, those preoccupied with perfection and terrified of failure or of disappointing people that have been designated as “important” in their personal or professional lives.
In order to make any forward progress, the first step is to release whatever idea you’ve got of “perfection”- because it isn’t an accurate assessment of you or anyone else, for that matter. Even if the concept was real, it wouldn’t be you or I that would be making that judgement call!
It’s not like you’ve been sitting around doing nothing.
…..Unless you have (I’m kidding.) A key step on the road to beating imposter syndrome comes when you can recognize the fact that you have actually succeeded at things- and are able to isolate your role in each event. Too often, those of us suffering from poor self image defer the glory to those we deem as “more worthy”- enabling them by default to take credit for our hard work!
It helps to make a list. Signing that big account? Sure, that took a village, but the presentation you put together really sealed the deal. Write it down. You can look back on the list not only to give you confidence when you’re feeling low, but also as fuel for that promotion you’ve had your eye on- it’s easier to confidently negotiate when you know why you deserve it.
No one else really knows what they’re doing, either.
Yessiree, we are all just ants crawling around on this giant floating ball, figuring it out one crumb at a time. No one gets it all right, all the time. It’s one of the hardest lessons to internalize when it comes to imposter syndrome, but it’s true: no matter what we believe, our coworkers, friends, and family are every bit as conceptually “lost” as we are.
It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to let one or two screwups color the narrative of your entire life. Those around you have made similar, or even worse mistakes- and they’re still here- because any environment in life is a learning experience. The ones who advance are the ones who are able to gain insight from their successes and failures.
That ugly little voice reminds me every day of what I could be if I allowed myself to sink, and reminds me exactly why I fight so hard to swim.
I know it’s a personal topic, but just know- I’m here if anyone wants to talk! Also, you’re a smart, driven individual with the potential to crush it, no matter what.
Keep it real,