- Do you sometimes feel insecure, that you are not qualified, or have the necessary skill, experience or expertise for a job?
- Do you sometimes sabotage your effort in a job, relationship, or life because you feel people might discover that you’re not good enough?
- Are you limiting your interactions with people because you fear to make mistakes?
- Do you sometimes feel somethings are meant for specific types of people, and it’s not meant for you?
- Do you feel some people are just lucky, and not you?
- Are you avoiding pursuing your dream career, relationship, or other endeavors in life because you feel you’re not worthy?
- Or do you feel your success or successes are based on luck and there’s nothing special about you?
If you’ve ever felt any of the above or if you always doubt and compare yourself with other people, it could be as a result of what is tagged as imposter syndrome. It is said that about 70% of people feel this way even when they fail to admit or recognize so.
Maya Angelou, the American author, and poet once said: I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out’. Why would someone so successful, with three Grammy awards to her name, and a nomination for both Pulitzer and a Tony Awards think or feel this way?
There are so many things that can debilitate someone in life and imposter syndrome is one of them. It often also leads to depression and sad feelings because a person is usually not in tune with themselves. A lot of imposter syndrome from my personal experience stems from the fact that most of us do not know our worth or rather do not value our abilities, talents, and experiences. We feel we are not good enough, not qualified enough and so on. It then leads to many of us withdrawing from taking on our dream jobs, careers, relationships, or business opportunities. We undercharge and undervalue our worth.
We feel we are just lucky that in fact, things might go wrong soon.
When I started off as a consultant and coach, I used to fear telling people what I do for a living because I felt not worthy enough or that I can be asked for a solution and I won’t be able to provide it. I used to fear that I’m not as qualified as every other consultant and coach hence I always try to find an excuse and ways not to put myself out there. This feeling sometimes made me sick and exhausted because deep down I knew I had the skills, knowledge, education, and experience. It is one of the worst feeling when you’re starting off in life, especially when switching careers, or even when looking for a date.
Succeeding in life does not only require talents, knowledge, experience, and skills, it also requires you to believe in yourself, your abilities, and a change in mentality. There are so many qualified people roaming around confused and depressed because they haven’t accepted themselves, and their abilities. They question everything they do; they over rationalize, compare, and doubt their abilities.
Looking back at those days when I easily get immobilized by fear, I cringe at how useless and unfounded my fears were. It’s funny how one can have a lot but still lack. I say a lot because most people have what it takes to be successful in life, they have the talent, knowledge, beauty, skill, and experiences and so on. Yet, we allow fear to overcome us, we doubt, and most times never get to do anything worthy in life.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is simply the feeling of not being worthy, that you might be discovered to be a lie, incapable or a fraud. Although it is widely used and associated with career people, it can also be experienced in other parts of our lives like in a relationship, and so on.
Imposter syndrome makes you feel that your success or successes are due to luck, and not because of your qualifications, experience or because you merit it. Majority of people feel this way, it is not just poor or unqualified who feel this way, most successful people also feel the same. Seth Godin, the marketing expert once admitted that he still feels like a fraud even after publishing so many bestseller books.
Why do People Develop Imposter Syndrome?
According to a post on times, it is said that there is no direct reason why people develop imposter syndrome. From my own personal opinion of myself and also in working with a lot of other people, I can say that it can be largely attributed to either your upbringing, anxiety, negative self-talk, environment or lack of knowledge about ourselves. Sometimes it could be experienced by people transiting into a new environment or career.
- Negative Self-Talks
Negative-self talks can be attributed to one of the main reasons why most people develop the imposter syndrome. Talks such as I’m not good enough, I’m not that smart or intelligent, or that I’m just lucky this time are some of the negative ways we undermine ourselves. These negative self-talks can easily lead to insecurities, fears, and unnecessary doubts.
- Lack of Awareness
It is very easy to develop an imposter syndrome when you don’t know your values and self-worth. A lot of reasons why most of us develop an imposter syndrome is because we’ve not truly understood who we are, our abilities, talents, and experience.
- Your Environment
A person’s environment has a great influence on their life, especially the company you keep, and the things you listen to. People who live in low-income areas can develop imposter syndrome especially when they interact or mingle with people, they perceive to be higher than them. Also, people who associate with people they feel are more qualified can easily develop an imposter syndrome.
People who feel they can do all things or love being on their own can develop an imposter syndrome when they feel a problem is beyond them. They get scared of asking for help because it would only portray them as a failure or fraud.
It is very easy to feel like an imposter in a world like ours where everyone seems to be successful on social media. We like to compare ourselves with other people, we judge our abilities base on what we see on media or even in our environment. This comparison can become unhealthy and lead to one feeling like an imposter within their environment.
Being a perfectionist is another reason why so many people develop an imposter syndrome.
Perfectionist fear to make mistakes, they feel that things aren’t yet as good as it’s supposed to be, and maybe other people might discover that they aren’t so good as they portray themselves to be. This constant worry of trying to get things perfect can often lead someone to feel inadequate or less worthy.
- Fear of making mistakes
Our world is full of so many experts yet it is often seen to be controlled by people we call “not qualified”. Experts fear taking up new ventures, starting a new career or business, they fear taking a risk because they feel everything has to be perfect before they make the leap.
We often hear that mistakes are a necessary part of life, yet, most of us fear to make one. People who have a severe fear of making a mistake, or being laughed at would always hide from pursuing their dreams and get debilitated. This feeling of making mistakes or fear of being judged or laughed at can easily make one feel insecure in life.
- Trying out something new
For people who are career-oriented, it can be easy to feel not qualified when they venture into a new career or business. It can be quite easy to feel out of place when trying out new things in life, there’s that tendency to feel unworthy or unqualified because you’re not accustomed to that particular environment.
What are the effects of Imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can have so many effects on our lives if not properly handled or mitigated. It could lead to:
- Lack of commitment.
- The feeling of being unworthy.
- Lack of confidence.
How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome
To deal with imposter syndrome, one must first become aware of themselves, their thoughts, and actions. Awareness brings everything to light, you get to understand and question your negative thought patterns, and you become clear of what’s real and what’s not.
The following are other ways in which you can deal with imposter syndrome:
- Take stock of your experiences, talents, knowledge, or qualifications and judge if you’re being rational or irrational about yourself
In my case, one of the easiest things I could have done in my early days as a consultant and coach was to evaluate my potential and expertise. For instance, I have two degrees, have completed so many courses on coaching and personal development, I read a lot, and I belong to a lot of professional bodies. If I had truly listed these things out and ask myself if I’m truly unqualified, chances are, I wouldn’t have felt like an imposter.
So, to help you deal with any sign of imposter syndrome, try listing out all your qualifications and abilities and judge accordingly. Understand that your perception of yourself isn’t real, they are simply your imaginations.
- Question your thoughts
Just like listing out your abilities, you should also question your thoughts, ask yourself if they are real or simply unfounded. A great way to do this is to truly understand yourself and your abilities. Understand what you have and recognize that you are as worthy as anyone else on this planet. You deserve success, you deserve the job, relationship, or even business. You deserve happiness and as such, you shouldn’t question your abilities.
- Have Positive Self-Talks
We humans are often our own worst critic, we talk down on ourselves, devalue our qualifications, knowledge, talents, and experience. We place others on a pedestal and devalue ourselves.
Just like we said earlier, you need to become aware of your thought patterns and question every negative thought.
Engage in positive self-talk, write down every great thing about yourself. Say them repeatedly to yourself and believe in yourself. Never question or say negative things about yourself. When you catch yourself engaging in negative talks, quickly discard them, and tell yourself all the great things you love about yourself.
You failed doesn’t mean you are a failure. It simply means you are growing, evolving and becoming better. You suck at something doesn’t equate to you being a sucker, all it simply means is that you are learning or haven’t found the right way yet.
- Stop the Comparison
Comparison is the greatest thief of joy. There is nothing as debilitating as negatively comparing yourself with others. It reduces your value and puts more pressure and anxiety on you. Anytime you find yourself comparing yourself with other people or things, kindly list out all the great things about you, read them, and be grateful for all the things you have.
Limit how you use social media because from my own experience, I’ll say that a lot of insecurities usually stem from social media. We compare ourselves with people we perceive to be more successful and accomplished. You are unique and special. Always remember that.
- Be Grateful for who you are
Gratitude is a way of showing appreciation, it’s a way of acknowledging your abilities, and it forces you to be proud of them. Understand that no two people are equal on earth, everyone has their limitations, fears, worries, anxiety, and that no one has it all. Not even people you compare yourself with. Be grateful for what you have, and if for any reason you are truly not qualified, simply work on whatever is lacking and avoid being critical of yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
- Talk about your feelings with someone
Try to share your feelings with people you trust and cherish in your life. It is often said that a problem shared, is a problem half solved.
A coach or a mentor can be a great way to deal with the feeling of imposter syndrome. They are people with experience or knowledge of how the world works and can provide you with tips and techniques to deal with your feelings.
- Accept that no one is perfect and that mistakes are necessary if you must succeed in life
Accept that no one is perfect and that mistakes are unavoidable. Forgive yourself when you make one, learn from them and avoid placing labels on yourself. Recognize that failures are learning experience and they’ll teach you how to become better.
Reframe failure as a learning opportunity.
- Visualize yourself as being successful and deserving
Visualization is a powerful technique that can help you overcome imposter syndrome. Whenever you feel insecure about yourself, kindly visualize yourself as being successful or deserving of whatever you seek or want. Eliminate all negativities, and engage in positive affirmation.
Imposter syndrome is something most of us experience even when we don’t acknowledge it. It is said that about 70% of people get to experience feeling like an imposter in their lifetime. People who feel this way must recognize it for what it is and stop beating themselves up.
Always appreciate yourself and abilities, and avoid judging yourself base on other people’s standards or even from your own unhealthy standards. Recognize that mistakes are a necessary part of life, avoid negative situations and environments.
Appreciate yourself. Believe in yourself, and trust yourself.
You are Unique!