“I know I am not alone in this and there are many who feel the same way. I want to tell you, don’t be afraid,”
Have you ever had a feeling of ineptness? Feeling you are not good enough? Felt like you don’t belong somewhere and if you do, it’s not because of your skills or talents but pure luck.
If you have, well you have something called The Impostor Syndrome my friend.
Don’t worry, it’s not an illness. It is what psychologists refer to as an Impostor Phenomenon and almost 70% of us have gone through it at some point in our lives.
Impostor Syndrome as defined by Wikipedia means “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.”
These individuals despite their evident success and achievements, feel they are not good enough and got what they have by luck, which is not true in most cases.
You must be wondering, why am I writing about this particular syndrome, because as it happens yours truly is suffering with the same for quite sometime. I have been fighting this feeling for a few months now, even though I am well-aware of the term and everything it entails. I did not want to acknowledge it.
I kept feeling inadequate and this feeling has lingered for many days. I gave myself a break from work, tried to gather my thoughts, hoping that this phase will pass but unfortunately it hasn’t. It has affected my work-flow and made me very aware of my shortcomings which seem more in comparison to my skills. The feeling that I don’t have enough skills even stops me from committing to new projects(which is obviously not good for a freelance writer).
I have started to realise my feelings are completely inaccurate because I know I have the skills and even if I don’t, I can easily acquire them. But then what keeps me from getting over this feeling?
As usual, I googled my way around it. Read every possible article out there about Impostor Syndrome and how to fix it. The phenomenon was detected by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It was published in their paper “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention”, in which they found the prevalence of this phenomenon in over-achieving, successful women who felt like a fraud. Even though the women felt like phony’s, their partners, colleagues and work places had complete opposite stories to tell.
Later on, they found the syndrome is not restricted to women alone, it can affect men as well. It is applicable to anyone who isn’t able to internalize their own success resulting from hard-work and talent.
Impostor Syndrome can happen due to a number of reasons, the constant expectations thrust upon you since childhood from your family, the unreasonable comparisons with your friends, peers and partners, or your own unrealistic expectations. All these can act as a trigger for feelings of inadequacy even when you have reached your desired goals.
So what do we do break this pattern of judging our own achievements as fraudulent?
Impostor Syndrome expert Valerie Young and author of the book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, has a 10 step process to help you overcome the feeling of being an Impostor.
One of the first things she says is to Break the Silence, which means to acknowledge your thoughts about these feelings of being a fraud. Knowing that you are feeling a certain way and coming to terms with it is beneficial in dealing with it.
I am here doing just that, breaking the silence about my feelings to you guys. I know I am not alone in this and there are many who feel the same way. I want to tell you, don’t be afraid. This is just the first step. Your competence and intelligence does not require validation, your success is a reminder of that. These feelings are transient, it stays only for as long as you want them to. So let it go and dwell in your achievements, internalize them and make them your own. You deserve it.
As I say these encouraging words to others, I am publicly announcing it to myself too. I am making a promise to myself to not let these feelings take over my mind and hinder my work. I haven’t been able to concentrate properly on my work which led me to research and write this article about Impostor Syndrome.
Another step Young mentions is to Accentuate the Positive, which translates to not being too harsh on yourself when mistakes happen and focus on the good parts. Being a perfectionist can sometimes lead you to fuss about every small detail but it’s okay to not have everything right.
Humans make errors and that’s how we learn.
Don’t let one small setback pull you down. We get up and keep working, we learn in the process. A great example of that is babies learning to walk, they fall down a thousand times before they take that first step but do they give up due to the falls? Never.
We tend to do a lot of negative talk in our minds, so Change the Narrative. This is something I have noticed in my daily discourse. If I fail at something, I start brewing up a lot of negative thoughts about it and blame myself, “How could you do this” “This is not at all good” “Now they’ll know that I don’t have any skills”. Instead of saying that such negative words, try to change the narrative of your thoughts, “It’s okay if it’s not good, I will do better next time” “You did your best” “I have skills to do better than this”.
The positive talk not only brings in a sense of fulfilment, it also boosts your confidence to give your best each time. It protects you from spiralling into the negative thought pattern that you might fall into. Reassert your achievements, it is a great way to encourage yourself and break the self-deprecating mindset.
For more useful steps, go read the article by Valerie Young in this link.
Impostor Syndrome is a hidden barrier in our lives which prevents us from giving our best in places we are good at. Recognise the pattern if you are going through it and don’t let it stop you from achieving success and owning up to it. Seek help either from friends, family or professionals if you can’t deal with it alone.
Hope you found this article helpful. Let me know if you have overcome Impostor Syndrome and how did you break the pattern.
Would like to know more about this? Leave a YES in the comments below.
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