5 signs you might have Imposter Syndrome & how you can overcome it
Have you ever heard of ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
I first came across this term on a Youtube video on The School of Life ’s channel (if you don’t know about it you should definitely subscribe to them) In short, Imposter Syndrome is the phenomenon (particularly among high-achieving individuals) when you’re convinced that you’re a ‘fraud’ in what you do, and do not deserve the success you’ve achieved. This can happen in personal life but is often more prominent professionally — Imposter Syndrome is also more prevalent in certain demographics (women, especially women of colour ), suggesting that stereotypes and social norms may also cause members of certain social groups to feel unworthy or unqualified.
In fact anyone is susceptible to Imposter Syndrome. There are so many underlying reasons, but ultimately a lot stems from the lack of self-confidence and unhealthy comparison between yourself and others.
I remember first experiencing this feeling of ‘fraud’ at a very young age: growing up reserved and not the most confident student, I often regretted not raising my hands or shouting my answer out loud, even though I was so sure of being correct. Whilst getting high marks in exams, I’ve always felt the need to announce the effort I’ve put into revision just so it seemed like I’ve validly ‘earned’ my achievements. I had another ‘wave’ of the syndrome when I entered second year of university, where I began to worry about not being able to graduate or achieve a high grade like everyone else (even though I was always getting the marks I needed and ended up graduating with a decent distinction).
Imposter Syndrome can be extremely detrimental to your career, especially for young adults who are just beginning their professional life. Now older and with a bit of stubbornness, I believe I’ve kept it under control (most of the time) — and so I want to share with you my thoughts on how to overcome this feeling of being a ‘fake’ in whatever you do.
5 signs you might have Imposter Syndrome
1.You’re in fear of being ‘discovered’ as an imposter in what you do
Do you find yourself thinking that you’re not in fact ‘what others think you are’? You may already be few years into a certain work field yet you still somehow feel like you’re not REALLY in it. For example, a graphic designer may feel incompetent and experience imposter feelings even though they’ve been in the industry for a period of time & have earned a stable income from what they do. They might question themselves by the tools they use, the techniques or style not matching to ‘industry level’, or think that their lack of experience make them less of an ‘actual’ designer.
2.You try not to act confident all the time
People going through Imposter Syndrome may avoid acting confident in what they do, or showing confidence in their intelligence — they may tell themselves that believing in their own abilities can lead to rejection by others.
3.You constantly explain your success by luck, timing or help of others
How much do you believe that your own abilities and skills can be attributed to your success? People experiencing Imposter Syndrome may feel the need to explain most of their success to external / environmental factors as they believe that their effort or abilities are not to be credited for.
4.You constantly think of how you’re SUPPOSED to achieve something
‘Am I doing this the right way?’ ‘Am I doing this properly?’ ‘Is this how everyone else in my industry does it?’ If you ask yourself these questions all the time and you constantly think of the ‘standard’ way of achieving in what you do (even though you’re not failing in any way), chances are you might be going through Imposter Syndrome.
5.You question yourself by thinking what the ‘professional’ in your field is like
Do you compare yourself with a particular ‘professional’ in your work field with your working style or techniques? People who are undergoing Imposter Syndrome may question themselves by overthinking about the ‘ideal’ model in their field — for example, an athlete may feel like they’re an ‘imposter’ just because they’re not training the same way as the top achievers in the particular sport; similarly, high-achieving students with imposter feelings might experience doubt because they do not follow a certain study schedule that everyone recommends.
If most of the above sounds familiar to you, chances are you might have experienced / you’re currently undergoing the Imposter Syndrome. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from getting rid of the imposter feeling and regaining the confidence in what I’m doing, as well as the sense of agency in my achievements.
Understand that other people are just as uncertain as you
The very first thing you have to let yourself understand is that people around are just the same — not in their working style, not in their skill levels, but their occasional self-doubt and drop in confidence — which is completely OKAY! You may feel inferior because you go through your own worries, but not what’s going on in other peoples’ mind. As natural and ordinary other people may seem like, chances are they may feel like an ‘imposter’ just as much as you do.
Understand that there are no one ‘standard’ way to succeed
No matter if you’re a writer, a graphic designer or a YouTuber — as long as you’re producing quality work, who cares if you’re not using the same equipment or tools to produce work as the other people? One of my favourite tech YouTubers Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) used to give advice to new YouTubers joining the community, and the one thing he would emphasise is that he would never recommend his current camera gear to beginners. There might be tools and techniques that a lot of people swear by, but ultimately your skills will, and should be what largely determines your success.
Surround yourself with people who can elevate you
Apart from encouraging words and sentences you might consider looping to yourself everyday (I’m joking — but keeping them in mind do help!) it’s of course important to surround yourself with people that help you improve. Not only does this mean friends or communities that will support you no matter what, but also people who might be in your field that can provide constructive feedback and stay objective when assessing your work. This is important so that you don’t get lost in the idea that you’re receiving compliments only because ‘they like me’ or ‘they’re my friends’.
Expose yourself to the community you’re stepping into
If you feel like one of the reasons why you’re doubting yourself is the lack of experience in your professional field, try and expose yourself to the community you’re hoping to be in part. Don’t just look up on instructions or guidelines on how the industry works, but get a real taste of it by reading about other peoples’ struggles and experiences on how they overcame it. For example, here in Copenhagen an event called FuckUp Nights Copenhagen invite individuals to share their failed startup stories and how they overcame the difficulties. The more realistic you see the industry (not just in the outcome, but the failed processes that are hidden from others’ achievements), the less of an ‘imposter’ you will feel — because chances are you will fuck up at least once or twice, perhaps even more. And THAT’S TOTALLY FINE& COOL.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever experienced the ‘imposter’ feeling? How did it begin and did you overcome it?
PS. Another way to think about it is that, if you feel like an ‘imposter’ at the moment — hey, at least you’ve already achieved enough to let yourself be in doubt!
(This post is republished from INTENT.)