Wikipedia defines Imposter Syndrome as ‘a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a "fraud".’
There have been many times throughout my career I’ve wondered when I was going to get ‘busted’ for being a fraudster and not knowing what I was doing. I even asked a recruiter once if they were sure it was me the job was being offered to and I hadn’t been mixed up with someone else!
Over the years, I’ve learned that many of us experience imposter syndrome throughout our careers, regardless of age, gender or position held.
I am frequently blown away by what people achieve but continue to feel below par and that they’re not good enough; often believing someone else can do it better. It’s a complex piece that I don’t pretend to fully understand, but for me, imposter syndrome is about a fear of failure, not fitting in, not being liked or accepted and not having that secure feeling of belonging.
Despite external evidence to the contrary, many people struggle to see their own capabilities and feel good about themselves. Often citing that they’ve just been lucky or compliments coming from family and friends are meaningless. External validation from strangers or a figure of authority can often be easily accepted though.
Perhaps there is an element of us thinking we’re arrogant or bragging if we recognise our own achievements and instead just put it down to luck and circumstance. We have been taught that we’re not better than anyone else (true enough) but perhaps we take this to an extreme where we don’t believe we excel at anything. And that we won’t be liked or accepted if we do.
People suffering with imposter syndrome can struggle to see in themselves what others see. They worry that others ‘big them up’ more than they are – more intelligent than they believe they are, more confident than they themselves feel and therefore feel like a fraud. “I’m not who you say I am.”
Is this fed by a need to be perfect ever validated by social media? A constant comparison to others’ and being told what perfect is? And that perfect is what we should all be? Intellectually, we get that the answer is a big fat “No! I don’t want to be perfect” but on some level we are comparing ourselves to something or someone and feeling like we don’t measure up.
So how do you overcome imposter syndrome? The focus needs to shift from comparison and measuring to self-acceptance, self-love, being unapologetically you, allowing yourself to make mistakes without judgement. Recognising your worth, focusing on you. Look at previous achievements, look at what you had to overcome to get there.
What evidence do you have that you are capable?
What would you tell your best friend in the same scenario?
How would the pressure shift if you talked to someone about how you were feeling? Processing our emotions is key to being able to move forward and grow, perhaps talking about it would help achieve that.
All the time we focus on being like someone else and striving for 'perfection' we are telling ourselves a story - one that says we're not good enough as we are. No wonder we start looking at what we perceive to be our inadequacies and feeling like a fraud.
So, what if we started telling ourselves a different story? A story that supports our uniqueness, individuality, worthiness? A story that empowers us and inspires others to do the same? How would it be if we all celebrated each others' uniqueness and the value that has in our communities and teams?
Enjoy being perfectly you, no-one does it better.
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