Chances are, you know the feeling. You started a new job and during your first week, you became convinced that everyone would figure out that you were a fraud. You really must have fooled them because you aren’t as smart as you appeared during the interview. You knew it was only a matter of time and they’d figure it out and fire you. Or perhaps you’ve worried that you did not live up to the expectations of friends, or a partner, and may have tricked them into liking you.
Stop! What you are likely feeling is known as Imposter Syndrome. It may be comforting to know that up to 70% of people may experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their lives, so you are in good company. It’s especially common in intelligent, high-achieving individuals. Imposter Syndrome is likely to occur in the workplace, academic settings, new environments, social interactions, or relationships (either platonic or romantic).
Whatever the case may be, it can be very isolating because it’s something people are very tight-lipped about. Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Maya Angelou once famously said “I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out. I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now.’”
That begs the question, how can you start to conquer Imposter Syndrome when you recognize it in your own life? The good news is that there are some simple things you can start incorporating in your life now to change your mindset.
- Recognize your feelings of failure and fraud as they emerge. As with most life changes, awareness is the key. Sometimes it’s okay to just sit with your feelings, acknowledge them for what they are, and understand that insecurity is a normal human emotion. Remember to practice good self-care when those feelings materialize.
- Count the positive things! This may seem easier said than done, but for someone who struggles with Imposter Syndrome, they may not feel like they deserve or have truly earned the positive feedback they receive. It might be tempting to let your inner perfectionist list all the ways a project could have been better, but try not to do that, and simply listen to positive comments. Go back to them as often as you need positive reinforcement.
- Talk about it. Many people feel shame in admitting their fraudulent inner voices. However, it can be helpful to know that friends or family have been there, and they did to cope. Opening up to others can help provide unexpected relief and clarity to what you are going through.
- Change your inner dialogue. Many people with Imposter Syndrome think they always need to be right, and they always need to have the answer. Understand that you also deserve to ask for help when you need it.
- Be patient. Change doesn’t occur overnight, but if you are mindful and gentle with yourself, these feelings of failure can and will begin to fade. Remember that it may never completely go away, no matter how high you rise. In 2018, Michelle Obama, former First Lady of the United States, said, “I still have a little impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me. It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know? I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.”