Imposter Syndrome is a very real term that has come to light in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it or don’t quite understand what it means, the feeling of imposter syndrome is doubting that your abilities, knowledge and expertise earns you the right to perform in your current role. Thoughts like “who am I to ________” come to mind.
I think Imposter Syndrome has really blown up as a conversation piece because through Instagram we are seeing so many people living unconventional lives and establishing careers that used to never exist, not to mention all those who work remotely. We share our highlight reel online but then don’t feel like we deserve to live it!
Even though I’m an MD and I am definitely qualified in the world of health care, I still experience Imposter Syndrome when writing for my blog and showing up on Instagram. Who am I to tell you what’s going on and to suggest how you live your life? It’s such a crazy feeling and emotion that can definitely be consuming at times.
What Is It?
Imposter Syndrome can be defined as a chronic-self doubt and intellectual fraudulence that overrides our success. We get so caught up in the idea that we’re not qualified or even worthy to speak our thoughts out loud that we inwardly sabotage ourselves!
It’s a brutal quality that can be detrimental to our progress and achievements. Imposter syndrome is common in people who strive for perfect or even fitting in their social circles (which, who isn’t?). But allowing imposter syndrome to consume us also really belittles our capabilities and our recognition of how far we’ve actually come! It can make us feel like the only way that we got to where we are is due to dumb luck. As if we hadn’t actually put in the work to end up where we are today! The feeling further contributes to social anxiety and other fears.
Why Do I Have It? How Did This Happen?
So at this point I’m pretty sure you can relate. And trust me you aren’t alone. Everyone experiences feelings of doubt in both career and social situations.
Circumstances that may contribute to Imposter syndrome include
- Having a ‘not normal’ career or having an established career at a young age. How old you are in comparison to your colleagues can often become a trigger for feeling less-than even if you hold the same career title or sit above them in the office hierarchy. There is something about ‘respect your elders’ that was so ingrained into our minds as a child that we can’t possible assume we could be more talented than someone older than us. However, it’s totally not true!
- Childhood experiences. If as a child you were told that you have to work really really hard to get the things you want, and now all of a sudden you have some success, whatever those may look like, and it didn’t seem ‘that hard’ you’re tricking your mind to believe you didn’t work for it! But remember all those hours you put in learning, or studying or working?! You DID the work! You deserve to be in the position you’re in now!
Depression and Anxiety
We know that one often leads to the other. Anxiety is often caused by the seeming need to overwork and continuously prove yourself to your peers or those around you. It can be especially exhausting and burden you while you’re trying to live out experiences that you truly deserve!
Increased Fear & Mistakes
The anxiety that you experience could lead to an increased fear that you’re not going to prove yourself and that you’re going to mess up in some way. This fear is really what will end up making you mess up or make a mistake. It’s not happening because you’re incapable or not good enough, the fear and anxiety that lies in you will actually just cause you to make these mistakes! You’ll get so distracted and consumed by these emotions that you will find yourself self-sabotaging.
What You Can Do
There’s a lot that you can do no matter what type of mental health struggles you’re looking to overcome.
Talk About It!
Meet with a trusted friend, family member or mentor and tell them how you’re feeling. If it’s someone who cares about you, they’ll listen and likely offer some good advice or help you see the circumstance from a different point of view! If you don’t feel comfortable discussing insecurities or mental health with a friend I recommend that you go talk to a therapist or a professional who can help you out.
Reframe Failure As Learning
Maybe you did make a mistake, and perhaps something hasn’t gone right, and you’re ready to write off your whole career or plan because you’re worried you’ll never be able to make ‘it’ happen! Please, don’t! Just take a step back and look at how much you can learn from this setback. This opportunity to learn will make you an even better student or professional!
Remember What You Do Well
Take a second to sit back and remember what you’re good at. Like, really good at. Maybe it’s related to your career or degree, but perhaps you just make the world’s best vegan brownies. Who cares?! Take some time to do what you’re best at and let that fill you up for a few hours. Then, hopefully you’ll have some renewed confidence to carry on doing what you need to get back to.
Remember That No One Is Perfect
Take a deep breath, in and out, a few times. Then calmly remind yourself that literally, no one is perfect. Especially the people that you’re seeing on social media. That’s only their highlight reel, which is okay! It’s just essential that you remember that there is a whole other part of their life back there!
Imposter syndrome is definitely a part of the overall mental health struggle that we all go through, and it’s okay to admit that. I’m writing about this because it’s something that I’ve experienced and am continually trying to overcome even as I write this blog. But I keep going because I know that if I can provide helpful information to even a few people, then we are worthy of growing and learning together!
Take a blank piece of paper and turn it sideways, drawing a line horizontally through the middle. Put a small circle on the middle of the line. On the left side of the circle brain dump everything that you’d learned, worked through and experienced to get you to where you are now, on the right side write down a few accomplishments you’d like to achieve moving forward. Just like that you can see how far you’ve come, how much you know and how you ARE ALLOWED to play big, stand in your truth and share your passions with the world!
Imposter syndrome is only holding you back from leveling up. When you feel the negative thoughts creep in continue to practice talking them down and counter those thoughts with positive mantras like “I am enough”, or “I’ve got this”! It won’t go away in one day, but one day at a time we can continue to practice remembering our value and our worth.
Have you experienced this in life?
Photos by Zo’e Cole