How to deal with impostor syndrome?
If there’s something I know to be true, it’s that I never give myself enough credit and I don’t believe in myself. No matter how good I get at putting words down on a page, how many opportunities I receive on merit of my work, how many people tell me positive things and compliment my work, it’s really hard to believe it.
To a certain degree, some cynicism about your own work is fine. It wouldn’t do to be fawning over yourself and not believing you can do any better than you’re already doing. Self-belief is great; refusing to take constructive criticism and refusing to grow isn’t.
However, I’m talking about the well-known phenomenon ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and ‘The Fear’ that goes with it. Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
What Does ‘The Fear’ Look Like?
For me personally, having The Fear means that I may hold myself back from doing certain things professionally. So, I may wish to pitch an article to an amazing, well-known publication, but choose not to because I am scared of being rejected. I also fear that other people in my field are better, more qualified than me – whilst this to a certain extent might be true, I know rationally that this doesn’t make my input any less valid. This all ties in with my Impostor Syndrome feelings that what I do and what I achieve has somehow happened by sheer dumb luck and even (on my bad days) feeling like people only say good things to me about my work because they pity me.
I absolutely know I’m not the only one.
Anyone can suffer with Impostor Syndrome and fearing they’re not good enough – it happens from people right at the start of their careers, to those right at the top. You know, the ones that look like they have absolutely everything in control. Spoiler alert: most people don’t actually know what they’re doing and are just trying to muddle through like the rest of us. And that’s FINE.
I spoke to a couple of people who are in the same boat as me:
Jordan, 32 said: “I ALWAYS have The Fear! It has definitely held me back professionally. Sometimes I will stay silent in meetings because I feel like what I want to say is stupid. Then someone else will say it, get the credit and I’m left kicking myself! I’m trying to have more self-belief.
Max, 25 said: “Oh dear, yeah I have almost missed deadlines before, because I’m working on something and am too worried to turn it in in case someone hates it. I will revise it again and again until I end up sometimes making it worse because I’m working so hard to ‘improve’ it.”
How To Deal With Impostor Syndrome and Get Over ‘The Fear’
Whilst I do struggle with these feelings on an almost daily basis, importantly, I’ve realised how I feel and why and am making moves to eradicate this fear from my life, slowly but surely. Slowly being the operative word – none of these items below are a quick-fix to feeling like you’re not good enough at what you do, but with anything, practice makes perfect.
#1 Talk It Out
As you can see, a lot of people suffer from this. Although it can feel like it at times, it’s honestly not just you. If someone tells you they NEVER doubt themselves, they’re probably lying! Opening up the conversation can really help to give yourself a wider perspective on your own efforts. I always try to remember – it’s likely no one is going to criticise you harder than you criticise yourself. Have the conversation over a drink with friends and I’m sure you’ll all have your own stories of lacking that self-belief.
#2 List Your Accomplishments
Sometimes, seeing all you have achieved down on paper is enough to give you the boost you need to carry on excelling. I’m not talking about just degrees and awards (although these are fab!), but also things like being able to organise your week well, your time management skills and being kind to people. It’s easy to get into a place in your head where you’re being super down on yourself, but just as easy to pull yourself out if you put the effort in to try.
#3 Flip The Script
There’s nothing worse and more of a buzzkill than negative self-talk. If you keep telling yourself you’re not good enough, chances are you’ll start to believe it! Mindset Coach Lauren Tamayo says: “When you experience a negative thought, negative feeling or emotion…take a couple of minutes to pause. In this time allow yourself to breathe, acknowledge that these thoughts, feelings, and emotions are coming up for you while reminding yourself with this affirmation “Thank you, I am safe and I am capable.”
At times when you’re feeling super concerned about The Fear and feeling that you’re not good enough to do something, take my advice and JFDI. This is…just f*cking do it! What’s the worst that can happen? You may face rejection, but that is a LESSON. And at least you would have put yourself out there and tried.
Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome or The Fear? How do you deal with it? Let us know in the comments.