I want to personify imposter syndrome as a monster for a minute...a big, scary monster that sneaks in and preys on our doubts and insecurities. A monster that makes us feel like we are fakes and frauds. A monster than hides in our deepest fears and holds us back from doing incredible things. A monster who looks like us so closely that it's hard to know where it ends and we begin.
Have you had an encounter with this monster?
Everyday we have to do dozens of things. Some that we have to think about and some that we don't, because we do them so often. Every now and then when we begin to do something new or something outside of our normal routine, the monster strikes and points out all the ways we are not qualified and will surely fail.
Have you ever felt like you shouldn't be the one doing what you're doing? Like for some reason you aren't qualified and everyone else is all of the sudden going to figure it out? Imagine this like the dream where you walk out on stage to speak and realize you're naked...except this time you aren't physically naked, but others can see right through you and they are all realizing you're not as qualified as they thought.
Even if you've done something a thousand times already, it is easy to feel like there's someone more capable or you somehow don't have what it takes! And all those qualifications you've collected and buttons telling the world where you've been featured, still don't feel like they make you an expert.
Imposter syndrome isn't a diagnosable disorder in the DSM, but it often occurs in high-functioning individuals and correlates with both anxiety and depression. If you think about that, it makes a lot of sense. Imposter syndrome is really just anxiety based on our doubts and insecurities of not being _______ enough.
How does imposter syndrome work?
Dr. Carole Lieberman, who is a psychiatrist and author says that "[Imposter syndrome] occurs when people are asked to function in a capacity that they don't feel ready to handle." Which sounds about right for anyone who is facing a new challenge or pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. She goes on to say that "someone with [imposter syndrome] has an all-encompassing fear of being found out to not have what it takes." So half of imposter syndrome is fearing that you aren't good enough and the other half is fearing that you will be found it.
In the 1970s Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance did research on imposter syndrome and found that is occurs most among people who are both high achieving and cannot accept their own success. They also realized that imposter syndrome can become a cycle and stated that "the cycle, worry about intelligence -- hard work and cover-up strategies -- good grades or performance -- approval and temporary good feelings, is reinforcing." However, the success is an empty one, and the good feelings are short lived because the underlying sense of phoniness remains untouched.
Dr. Imes mentions that people who feel like imposters grew up in an environment that glorified achievement that they felt like they could never measure up to.If you are struggling with being found out as a fraud, you can develop perfectionistic tendencies and spend an enormous amount of time working on something as a result. If you are successful, you may believe it's because of how hard you worked and that the effort and stress it caused you paid off. Afraid of being discovered as a fraud, people with impostor feelings go through contortions to do a project perfectly. When they succeed, they begin to believe all that anxiety and effort paid off. Eventually, they develop beliefs that "good luck" is why they have succeeded, instead of realizing it was due to their abilities and hard work.
If you've been reading this and been like,"yep, that's totally me!", you are worthy of pushing the creating things that have never been done. And you are also worthy of accepting your success. There is nobody who belongs here and has the ability to share things the way you have.
Wanna hear from some people you may know who struggle with imposter syndrome too?
“The beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
“I have written eleven 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
“I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”-Natalie Portman
“Very few people, whether you’ve been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They’re not going to tell you that, but it’s true.” -Howard Schultz, President & CEO of Starbucks
It's time to stop asking "who am I to do this!?" and beat the battle with the monster once and for all. If you're ready to stop p, here are some simple ways to start!
1) Keep pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone! I am always one to find the good in everything, but each time you are feeling like an imposter it's because you've pushed yourself out of what feels safe. Each time you push yourself to do something, you also reinforce that you are capable of doing whatever it is you're doing.
2) Failure doesn't make you a fake. Each time you experience a failure or set back, learn from the situation, but keep moving forward. Failing doesn't make you less credible, in fact, being able to share how you've failed and kept trying makes you more credible.
3) You don't need a fancy title or awards to prove you know what you're doing. Don't get me wrong, there are times when you really need a degree and license, but you don't have to have a degree in photography to be a photographer or a background of 10 years in marketing to be an awesome marketer. Labels and titles are meant to help us understand things, not assign value to them.
4) Everyone feels like an imposter. Nobody really knows what they are doing all of the time. We all put on fronts that we have somehow figured it all out. Stop looking for other people who are doing what you're doing "better". You can easily scour the internet and feel like you don't measure up.
5) Find an accountability partner who you can open up to and share how you're feeling! When you talk it out with someone else, you may get a good dose of truth and realize that feeling like an imposter comes from doubts and insecurities!
6) Embrace the areas where you are an expert! And that isn't going to be everything, but when you know your stuff, be okay admitting it! If you know something and do it well, don't be ashamed of that! Calling yourself an expert can actually help you feel more like one.
Be sure to join the FREE Facebook Community and continue the discuss there! What other struggles are you currently battling with as you navigate your small business journey? I would love to help! Feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions you may have or topics you would like to see covered in future posts.