You get hired for this amazing employment position you didn’t think you would get. After you start the position you’re scared, second-guessing your abilities and trying to hide the fact that you believe you don’t know what you’re doing. You receive praise from your boss but you don’t think you deserve it and feel like your incompetencies will be exposed at any moment. You’re an imposter who doesn’t deserve to be here but somehow you got in – or at least that’s what your mind tells you when you’re moving through life with imposter syndrome.
The psychological term goes by many other names such as imposter phenomenon, fraud syndrome, imposter experience and imposter syndrome. It describes:
‘A false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s success are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.”
People dealing with imposter syndrome tend to keep these feelings to themselves. If they were to express these concerns then people might begin to notice how bad they are. Or so they believe. Therefore, these feelings go unchecked and continue to cause unwarranted doubt in the person.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH FEELINGS OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME
To my surprise, as I was researching this psychological phenomenon I identified some periods in my life where I had these feelings of imposter syndrome.
This was especially noticeable near the end of my education in Museum Studies.
Like most college programs, there is a period of theoretical learning followed be a shorter period of fieldwork. For me, this was 4.5 semesters of classroom study followed by a semester working in an actual museum.
I remember excelling in a classroom setting but once I entered the workforce I had this feeling of complete incompetence. While interning with another classmate of mine I often compared how seamlessly she seemed to jump right in and work, while I struggled internally out of fear. I was scared to try new things and take the lead in case I did it wrong. This feeling followed me after my placement and I never ended up getting a position in the museum field (I started my own business instead!).
IMPOSTER SYNDROME: A MILLENNIAL ISSUE?
My own feelings of imposter syndrome led me to wonder if it’s a common problem for many graduating students. Nothing can replace real-world experience and a lot of us spend a huge portion of our early adult life in a classroom. When we finally graduate and enter the workforce it can be easy to feel underprepared and unconfident.
In fact, a study done in the UK discovered that a third of young people suffer from the syndrome (Independent). This is a completely surprising statistic considering criticism of millennials focuses on they’re being overly confident and entitled. It suggests that there is more going on that the generation (my generation) is struggling with.
We’re entering the workforce in a hugely competitive market, are growing up with social media and comparisons to perfectly curated lives.
There is a huge amount of pressure to be exceptional, which is unrealistic and unattainable, especially right out of post-secondary school. What we’re left with are millennials feeling fraudulent while trying to present their best selves to potential employers and current bosses.
7 TIPS TO OVERCOME IMPOSTER SYNDROME
There is no clear way to get rid of these feelings of self-doubt. A lot of the time they will go away on their own, however, how much time that takes is unclear.
Despite this, there are a few suggested steps you can take to help minimize imposter syndrome or help get over it sooner.
DON’T HIDE IT, TALK ABOUT IT
Imposter syndrome lives on secrecy. It gets it. If you don’t tell anyone how you feel, then nobody will notice you’re an outsider.
Don’t listen to your brain in this instance. The best thing you can do to dispel your self-doubts is to go talk about it. More often than not, you are doing a great job and your boss hired you for a reason. Maybe you just need reminding.
DON’T GIVE UP
A common result in a lot of peoples stories about imposter syndrome is that it eventually went away. One particular person who stood out to me is Amy Cuddy.
In her TED Talk from 2012, Cuddy shared her story about a brain injury that completely derailed her progress through school. Over time she healed and was able to get her life back on track but she never felt good enough. She completed her doctorate in psychology at Princeton, taught at Rutgers, Northwestern and eventually Harvard. At Harvard, she came across another psychology student who reminded her of her own imposter syndrome and realized that it was no longer a problem for herself. But it took time. (Source)
The key here is not giving up because you aren’t feeling adequate. Power through until you feel large and in charge!
MEDITATE AND REFLECT
Meditation has so many benefits for our mindset. Simply taking 10 minutes out of your day to sit in silence and reflect on the thoughts that come and go from your mind can help you.
In relation to imposter syndrome, meditating can help you reflect on the origin of these thoughts. When you sit in silence and acknowledge the thoughts that naturally pop up in your mind, you can reflect on them better. Why do you think you’re not qualified? Have you received negative feedback from your boss or has it been only positive? What can you do to change these concerns? Are they real?
Meditate and reflect on the thoughts that are causing imposter syndrome and decide if they are holding you back or helping you move forward.
DO AWAY WITH PERFECTIONISM
A possible cause of imposter syndrome is the tendency for perfectionism. This happens when you accept nothing short of perfection in your work and in your life. Perfectionism is an unhealthy expectation that can cause undue stress and anxiety in your life.
Placing these expectations on yourself is unneeded, most of the time. If you’re working somewhere that places this kind of pressure on their employees than it may not be the healthiest environment to work. In fact, it is workplaces such as these that can cause feelings of imposter syndrome to grow, because you will never meet these perfect expectations each time.
Instead, of expecting too much, remind yourself that you will have good days and bad days. There is also this expectation of growth and learning throughout life. If your feelings of imposter syndrome are coming from a sense of perfectionism, change this mindset.
FAKE IT ‘TIL YOU MAKE IT
Oh, the old cliche. “Fake it ’til you make it” is one way to combat feelings of imposter syndrome when used correctly.
I’m not telling you to lie about your skills to land a job you’re completely unqualified for. Instead, enter employment that you landed because you had the skills, with the mindset that you are successful. Celebrate every single small victory. Be confident that you can successfully tackle new tasks that you have never done before.
With time, this mindset will help build your confidence in your abilities. As you grow in your position there will be a time you won’t have to fake this confidence anymore.
VISUALIZE YOUR SUCCESS
A useful positive mindset strategy that a lot of successful entrepreneurs use is visualization. It can reduce anxiety and help you reach your goals. By visualizing, you’re imagining your future and success before it even happens. This technique can help reduce feelings of self-doubt by going through the scenarios in your mind and imagining yourself succeeding at them.
There are two ways you can use visualization: creating a vision board and meditation.
While laying still with your eyes closed, visualize your success. Run through scenarios in your mind and see yourself succeeding at them. Whatever that looks like for you, this is a great way to help shift your mindset from one of doubt to confidence.
LEARN ABOUT IT, AND BE AWARE
Lastly, one of the best ways to dispel imposter syndrome is to be aware of it and how it is affecting your life. Read this blog post, or do a Google search of articles on the psychological phenomenon.
Hopefully next time you’re feeling like an outsider you can look back on what you learned and realize you’re being hard on yourself.
BONUS: LOVE YOURSELF
Okay, I lied, learning about it wasn’t the final point. The final point is to have patience with yourself and love yourself.
And yes, I borrowed ending my points with “love yourself” from Jen Sincero’s book You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life.
Do you have a mindset of imposter syndrome? Have you found ways to manage these feelings and succeed? I want to know. Share in the comments below!
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