The Nature of Things – How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Ever found yourself super excited about an accomplishment, filled with the pride that comes with reaching a goal that felt unattainable once upon a time? And then… you panic.

You start to doubt yourself, ask yourself questions like “Do I deserve this?” “did they make a mistake?” Am I ready for this?”. If you have experienced this feeling. You are not alone… in fact according to the International Journal of Behavioral science 70% of people will experience this phenomenon at some point in their life and it’s called impostor syndrome.

 Impostor syndrome a psychological pattern in which individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. It makes you doubt yourself and the credibility of your achievements. It gives the false sense that you were only able to achieve that promotion, project, or a new job because of ‘luck’.

It happens to the best of us…

Personally, I felt this myself when I had a rapid career progression that cut through my 3-year plan in about 7 months. I found myself with a completely new level of responsibility. After the dust had settled and the initial excitement had faded I was left with a feeling I could only describe as extreme, unrelenting doubt. Despite knowing the amount of work, effort, and sacrifice it took to get to where I had gotten I was ready to dismiss all of it in a matter of seconds. Suddenly all the confidence that I had acquired was gone and I found myself essentially waiting for my superiors to realize that they messed up and for me to be ‘found out’. Thankfully, I was able to get my sauce back and the feeling of being an impostor faded and I was able to accept that I did the damn thing and deserve everything that I have been able to attain and more!

So how do we overcome that niggling feeling that we don’t deserve what we have? Here are a couple of tips:

  1. It’s All In Your Head

It is kind of interesting how our neuroticism can play tricks on us. Our anxiety about how we are viewed by our peers is probably one of the biggest drivers for why impostor syndrome exists. We tend to place WAY too much emphasis on how we ‘rank’ amongst our colleagues and friends and that can lead to a sense of insecurity and that insecurity can then lead to feeling like a full-blown impostor. So if the only thing in your mind is how you compare to your colleagues it is only natural that doubt will creep in. An off-hand comment or criticism will suddenly sound like a full-blown indictment on your character and it starts to creep into your psyche. How to overcome this:

  • Get a trustworthy mentor to keep you in check with constructive criticism and encouragement so you always have someone to talk to when that sense of doubt creeps in.
  • Record your goals so that you can keep your eyes on the prize and not get distracted by anyone else’s journey. It will also give you something to look back on once doubt creeps in you can see the things you have something to look back on to show you how far you have come.

2. No One Is Perfect.*

One thing that I like to remind myself now and again is that it is completely natural to want to look like the best possible candidate. We are all guilty of jazzing up our resume a little bit to paint ourselves in the best light. It has been reported that 38% of people lie about their work experience in some compacity on their resume (so you guys giving yourself imaginary roles at companies that no longer exist so it can’t be verified… I see you!). I think that everyone’s slightly polished resumes tell us one thing… None of us are who we say we are on paper. People may do this because we often feel like we have to be the perfect candidate just to get our foot in the door. The irony is, sometimes it works and instead of being happy about it, we can find ourselves panicking that suddenly we cannot handle it.

It is one of the most cliché pieces of advice you will ever hear but that does not make it any less true. No one is perfect so if you are waiting to feel like the perfect pick or to be completely prepared before venturing into the unknown, then you are wasting your time so say yes when that opportunity comes and figure it out later!

There are a whole host of factors that make us feel inadequate so much so that rather than lamenting on why this feeling exists it makes far more sense to consider how we deal with it. So when you are feeling a little out of place take a second to consider all it took to get you where you are. Talk to someone you respect, review your journey, and lastly, trust yourself.

*Except Beyoncé & Thierry Henry

By John Okunola

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