Waiting for the day when everyone discovers you're not the expert they think you are? Read this!
If you feel like a fraud or fake who has duped your way into a life of success, perhaps accompanied by the fear that it’ll all blow up in your face someday soon, then this is undoubtedly just what you need to hear right now.
You may have imposter syndrome.
High achievers commonly find it difficult to accept that they’re intelligent or talented. People with imposter syndrome are unable to internalise their accomplishments and have a knack for downplaying their success. They also feel like others’ perceptions of them are exaggerated, and only they know the truth: that they’re undeserving. It differs from low self-esteem because someone with imposter syndrome’s feelings of inadequacy contradicts external proof that the opposite is true: that in reality they’re more than competent.
To find out if this is you, see if you relate to one of these three manifestations of imposter syndrome:
1. Believing you’re getting away with deceiving others
So you believe you’ve charmed your boss (and teachers) into giving great feedback (and grades). Either that or you’ve somehow manipulated them by carefully playing into what they want to hear (in presentations and projects) and thereby created a world in which they’d naturally favour you.
Another belief is that you worked really very hard and anyone, if they worked as hard, could achieve the exact same thing as you. Ergo, there’s nothing special about you. In other words, people are disillusioned about the greatness of your accomplishments.
2. It’s a lot of coincidences that came together at the right time.
There was an opportunity, you were compelled into doing it by someone who was able to convince you - so it’s really actually their contribution that made the difference. Your presentation went last, and it’s the one the board remembered best, so they chose yours as the best. The news broke while you had the late shift and everyone else was home, so you received the credit. It was simply 'the right place at the right time' kind of luck and there’s nothing exceptional about your abilities.
3. You just cannot accept compliments.
If you have imposter syndrome, you probably avoid showing confidence in your abilities out of fear of being ostracised for being different. No one likes a snob, show-off, or big-head who toots their own horn (and people who usually do this typically exaggerate their accomplishments anyway). Besides, do you have any idea how much more many others have achieved in comparison? Now they're exceptional!
Living a life trying to prove that you aren’t any different or more capable of success than others holds so much power that you eventually and subconsciously start to believe that you really aren’t talented or intelligent and don’t deserve your success.
Why you need to overcome imposter syndrome
For the aspiring professional, these beliefs could jeopardise your career trajectory. Imposter syndrome has the potential to hold you back and curb you from realising your full potential. The fear of being ousted means you're likely to refrain from taking chances, applying for the promotion, expressing your idea, explaining why you deserve more, and so much else.
Those with imposter syndrome typically stick to one job role because stepping out of their comfort zone makes them anxious.
How to overcome imposter syndrome
Be aware that what you feel doesn’t necessarily reflect reality.
Stop thinking: If I feel so stupid. I am stupid.
Start thinking: The fact that I feel stupid does not mean that I really am.
Just because you lose sometimes, doesn’t mean you’re not a worthy contender.
Stop thinking: I got this wrong. I’m always wrong.
Start thinking: Professional soccer players don’t even make all their shots; My boss sometimes gets the stats wrong; Everyone messes up sometimes, but they’re still good at what they do.
It’s okay to admit when you don’t know something. No one knows everything.
Stop thinking: I’m not an expert. People thinking I am are misinformed.
Start thinking: I might not know everything but I definitely know plenty.
Stop comparing yourself to others’ outsides, and start thinking about their journey too.
Stop thinking: I wish I was like that person that has it all figured out.
Start thinking: Nobody knows what they’re doing. Everyone, even famous pioneers, second guess themselves.
Remember that your version of reality (beliefs, opinions, standards, etc.) is merely one version. It’s not the only existing or valid version.
Start by trying to understand where that voice is coming from, what happened in your history that makes you believe you’re inadequate, and why other people believe you’re exceptionally awesome.
By failing to recognize how awesome you really are, you’re really only overemphasising everybody else’s achievements by failing to recognize the internal battles and struggles they've experienced on the road to success.
Talk to someone you trust and respect. Explain your fears and feelings. They’ll not only tell you that you’re being unfair towards yourself as well as overly critical, but they might also tell you they feel exactly the same way.
And you’ll realise, you really aren’t a sinking ship. You’re doing perfectly well and deserve all you have and have the potential to climb so much higher.
Read: Improve your confidence
And if you still don’t believe you’re awesome, create a diary of the compliments and achievements you’ve received over a period of time. Read over that list every New Year’s Eve. You’ll see, there’s a pattern that'll prove you really are awesome.