Tackling “Impostor Syndrome” in 2018
“In a lot of ways, I’m still proud that I’m getting jobs. Because of falling into a job, you always feel like you’re a fraud, that you’re going to be thrown out at any second” — Robert Pattinson
In the last year or two, the feeling of being out of place in my workplace was frequent and overwhelming. I would be sitting at my desk working on a project, when suddenly I would get so anxious and nervous. The emotions would wash over me, leaving my mind wondering, “Does everybody else know? Am I good enough? Am I going to be let go?”
That feeling — of being wrong, misplaced, confused — was so heavy in my life that I even began going to therapy to try to understand what was happening. I never knew it had a name.
Impostor Syndrome. It’s that feeling where you cannot internalize the accomplishments you have made in your life, making you feel out of place, like one day somebody is going to look at you and realize you’ve been a fraud all along. It fills your gut with butterflies throughout the day as you wonder when somebody is going to look at you and ask, “How did you get here? What exactly have you done in your life to get to this point?” But the problem is, you’re so overcome with feeling like an imposter that you’re not even going to be able to answer the question.
I’m someone who has struggled a lot throughout my life with anxiety and depression. This had led me to bouts of low self-esteem and feeling like, no matter what I do, I will never be good enough to succeed.
From December 2016 to November 2017, this feeling of imposter syndrome was exacerbated for me. I dealt with three job losses. After each one, I allowed myself one day to mope, then threw myself into the job search process again. I redid my resume constantly; even when I got a new job, I could feel the anxiety swell inside of my heart. I knew that I needed to prepare myself for the next inevitable loss. It made me a worse worker; I was always trying to figure out what to do in the future rather than focusing on what was happening in the present. I felt lost and scared.
But Jess, you’ve GOTTEN 3 jobs, at the very least! You’re clearly capable or people wouldn’t hire you! People would tell me that, but to me, it wasn’t the ability to achieve the job that meant a lot, but the ability to keep it. With every round of layoffs, I felt more and more like a failure — even though the layoffs had nothing to personally do with my performance.
It took me a while to realize I’m not alone. Imposter Syndrome affects a lot of people. Do you ever sit at work and think about whether or not you’re accomplished enough? Smart enough? Motivated enough? Do you hope that you’ll be acknowledged for your work, while simultaneously fearing that someone will think it isn’t good enough? Imposter Syndrome makes you feel uncomfortable in your own environment; everything is a threat and you can’t figure out why things are going your way.
It’s time to conquer this and escape the jail cell that Imposter Syndrome forces us into.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Coined by clinical psychologists in 1978, the term imposter syndrome refers to a feeling in which people feel that they are not capable enough, smart enough, intelligent enough, or any other such quality to achieve the position that they are in in life.
This feeling of inadequacy can affect people of all ages, socioeconomic background, and races; it doesn’t discriminate. Actress Michelle Pfeiffer once said, “I still think people will find out that I’m not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.”
How Do I Know if I Have Imposter Syndrome?
Are you a perfectionist? Do you feel that your high achievements are due to luck, rather than effort? Are you nervous that you’re never doing enough? Do you struggle to believe you deserve accolades when they are given to you?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions (let’s be serious — I answered yes to all of them), you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome!
But Can I Fix It?
Sometimes I’m sitting at my desk at work and I’m so far in my own head that I could probably reach out and poke my brain if I wanted to. I’m also someone who likes trying new things, whether it be activities or business ventures (like my recent foray into freelance writing)! But it can be difficult to throw myself into something new when I’m held back by fear.
And I know I’m not alone. A lot of people struggle with feeling like they don’t belong.
I’m not going to tell you that it’s easy. Or that it’ll change overnight. That isn’t realistic, nor would it be helpful. However — with time and effort (and a good support system!), you can be on your way to conquering your Imposter Syndrome and kicking its ass.
- Recognize it. Yes — that does mean you need to start calling yourself out. I know it isn’t easy. One of my favorite things in the world is pretending like I can’t tell when something is wrong with myself. But if you want to beat Imposter Syndrome, you have to acknowledge that your thoughts are wrong. Recognizing when and where your fears start to override your thoughts is an important part of learning to reframe the way you think. So if you say, “I don’t deserve _____; I’m not good enough,” ask yourself WHY you think that. Then tell yourself that you DO deserve it. You deserve good things. You deserve to be rewarded for the fruits of your labor.
- Speaking of reframing… one of the biggest things my therapist has taught me is to reframe my negative thoughts. For example, if I think, “I must be terrible at my job. That’s why I lost 3 jobs last year,” I need to reframe it in my head as, “I have enough talent and capabilities that, despite going through 3 rounds of layoffs, I never went a pay period without a check, and I was able to learn new skills.” Nobody is perfect (even though sometimes we like to think that we are). So recognize that, when you’re experiencing Imposter Syndrome, it’s an opportunity to rewire what’s going on in your head, learn, and grow!
- Make a list. As someone who has a lot of trouble acknowledging when I do something well, I’ve taken to making lists every day. These lists go over things that went wrong, as well as the positives of my day. For every 1 bad thing you can write down, write 3 positive counterpoints. This helps me not only adjust my thinking in a more positive way, but actually have to write down things that I did well. Even if I didn’t finish that project at work, I still managed to update 40 documents with new information. When you start making lists, you’ll see where you’re excelling and where you can improve.
- Use your support system. If you’re too nervous to speak to friends or family about it, consider trying out a therapist! Remember — going to therapy doesn’t mean you are broken. It means that you’re ready to start bettering yourself, or that you need an outlet. There is nothing wrong with either of those. Being able to utilize your support system will help you address your fears. It feels good being able to get those out rather than just keeping them inside.
5. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Did you roll your eyes when you saw that? Yes, you might be thinking that, especially now in the world of social media, it’s incredibly difficult to not compare yourself to other people. With the spread of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more, it is so easy to look and say, “I wish I had that life.” “I wish I was that successful.” But realize that many of those people are putting out their best image — and a lot of them struggle the same way that you do. Stop trying to be someone else or to live their truth. It’s time to live yours.
6. Love yourself. Loving oneself is a journey — but a necessary one. You are an amazing person. Unique. Creative. It might sound cliche, but there is something about you that makes you special. Something that you may think isn’t that great, but can mean the world to somebody else in your life or to a company that you work for. If you’re spending all day doubting yourself, you’re not being who you truly are, and you aren’t going to be able to achieve what you’re capable of.
If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else? — RuPaul
Imposter Syndrome can be almost debilitating. You’re constantly questioning your work, yourself, and your place in the world. But you ARE good enough. Smart enough. Capable enough. And with enough time spent on trying to change your thinking, you can spend the rest of 2018 pushing that pesky syndrome right out the door.
How do you deal with Imposter Syndrome? Tweet me your thoughts!