THE FEELING OF ‘BEING A FRAUD’ IS MORE COMMON THAN YOU REALIZE.
‘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.’—Maya Angelou
The name ‘imposter syndrome’ seems intimidating, and you may have never come across this term before. However, it is very likely that you have experienced it at some point in your life. Have you received a job and thought you were just ‘lucky’ to have been chosen? Have you worked in a group project with your colleagues or classmates and felt like you weren’t as good as the others? Do you feel like you aren’t qualified enough for a task despite your several accomplishments in the field?
Have you ever felt like a fraud?
If your answer to one or more of the above questions is yes, you have very likely experienced Imposter Syndrome yourself. Imposter syndrome involves a pattern of thoughts where you believe that you are ‘not good enough’ despite evidence to the contrary. You may often owe your achievements to luck without acknowledging your own part in it. Imposter syndrome is surprisingly common and is experienced by most people at least at one point in their lives.
While Imposter Syndrome has always been around, its occurrence has become more frequent in recent times, thanks to our exposure to social media. The life that we present on social media is glossy and polished. We cherry-pick the finest moments of our life to put out in the world. Often, we seem to forget about this filtering and assume that other people have better lives than we do. It’s not only social media, even mainstream media portrays a lifestyle – for example, through reality shows- that is too good to be true. This unrealistic portrayal of people’s lives often increases our tendency to feel like frauds in our own lives, by raising our expectations of ourselves and others.
THE EFFECT OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Having Imposter Syndrome can stunt growth in your academic life, your workplace, or your personal relationships. The anxieties born of this syndrome may keep you from trying to reach your true potential. The feeling of not being good enough may hold you back from contributing more to your work because of the fear that ‘others may see through you’ and realize that you are just a fraud. You may be afraid of stepping up and putting yourself out there in case everyone realizes that you are only pretending to be like them, or a part of them. You are likely to grow highly self-critical and keep yourself from taking risks, to play it safe, and become a wallflower. You may lose your self-confidence and lose faith in your own abilities. The feeling that your accomplishments have nothing to do with your effort and hard work may overwhelm you with guilt.
HOW TO OVERCOME IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome is not very easy. Our flawed thoughts and high expectations are ingrained in us, and they cannot be overcome in the blink of an eye. Overcoming Imposter Syndrome is a slow process of convincing yourself that most of your feelings of inadequacy are untrue. It is a long journey of constantly reminding yourself to discard those inaccurate thoughts. Here are some strategies that you can use to deal with the syndrome.
Acknowledge the issue: The first step towards dealing with Imposter Syndrome is admitting to yourself that you have this problem. Only after acknowledging that your overwhelming thoughts may be inaccurate can you begin to overcome the problem.
Recognize your achievements: Since this syndrome makes you feel like what you have achieved was by ‘chance’ instead of your own talents, it is necessary to remind yourself of the facts. You may have gotten a job and maybe feeling like it was ‘just luck’. Remind yourself of all the effort you had put into it, of all your interview performances, of the knowledge and skills that you displayed during the interviews, etc. Remind yourself that had you not shown the potential to be a good fit for that job, even sheer luck could not have gotten it for you.
Accept credit where it’s due: When you receive praise for having done a task well, accept them instead of brushing them off or owing them to other factors. When you feel like a fraud again, remind yourself of the times you did well.
Fake confidence: No one is cut out for a role, but sometimes you can deal with your anxiety about not fitting in, or not being right for the job, by pretending. By following the saying ‘fake it till you make it’ you can learn on-the-go and avoid showing those around you the uncertainty you feel.
You don’t always have to be ‘perfect’: Even if there are times when you truly do not have the skills or the knowledge to contribute to a task, do not be hard on yourself. No one is fully accomplished, and no one expects you to be, either. Accept that you can’t always be perfect in your role, and simply open yourself up to learning new things as you go.
Have realistic expectations from yourself: People with imposter syndrome tend to have very high expectations from themselves, often bordering on unrealistic. You need to be realistically aware of your own capabilities and set your expectations accordingly. With more achievable expectations, you are less likely to feel like a fraud and less likely to beat yourself up over your failures.
Take help from others: Often, people with imposter syndrome do not wish to take help from others in case people realize that they aren’t capable enough, or suitable for the task. Realize that no one is perfect, and allow yourself to learn from those around you. Remind yourself that taking help doesn’t make you any less accomplished or capable- it only makes you human.
Has there ever been a time where you have felt ‘like a fraud’? How did you deal with it?
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