You know that feeling when you think you’re a fraud?
Even when you know your stuff, even when you’ve practised, even when you’ve been given good feedback from everyone else – but for some reason, that nervous voice in your mind still tells you that you’re not good enough?
Whether it’s a mean comment from childhood that pops up again, a time we failed that still haunts us or a general crisis of faith, we all suffer from imposter syndrome sometimes. This has never been more true for me than right now!
Going back to university and teaching master’s students, I feel wildly unprepared. I’m actually writing this to you before sunrise and before I need to start getting ready to drive across to campus. There’s a part of me that knows I’m actually very well equipped and have a lot to offer – but there’s a bigger part of me that… isn’t so sure.
Imposter syndrome is described as the internal feeling of not being capable which doesn’t match up to how other people perceive you from the outside. This disconnect between our inner and outer worlds – what other people see vs. what we see – is unnerving and isolating. Doubt creeps into all of our inner dialogues sometimes, especially when we’re sensitive, passionate and want to deliver the best results for the people that we’re serving.
There’s a link between perfectionism and how likely you are to experience imposter syndrome, and the same is also true for social anxiety. For those of us who have had anxiety, depression, eating disorders or bullying/abuse of any kind, these familiar feelings have a tendency to fall back into place once we’re under pressure.
You are likely to experience imposter syndrome more often if:
- You came from a family that put a big emphasis on personal achievement
- You always had to sidestep criticism from friends or family members
- You felt as though you had to work hard or alter yourself to get praise
- You’re starting a new role or trying something for the first time – this insecurity in an unknown situation forces our brain to reach for old coping methods
- You always feel like the odd one out, so getting acceptance from others has been tricky
Imposter syndrome isn’t recognised as a diagnostic disorder, but rather, a mental event that happens to us sometimes. It makes it harder for us to recognise and internally accept our successes because it always feels as though we’ve just ‘made it through without anyone realising’. The deep, deep, deep beliefs hiding underneath imposter syndrome can be hard to see, harder to change and insidious to our own personal experience of success – even if we’re hitting the landmarks of success on the outside.
The way that I try to coach myself out of imposter syndrome is to remember what achievements got me to that position in the first place. What have you done well in? What same compliments do you always seem to get from different people? It’s likely that they’re not just a coincidence if everyone agrees about something that you’re great at. What can you bring to the table that you know no-one else will be serving?
You have so many gifts and there’s no need to wrap them up in self-doubt. Our time, however, is limited, so it is important to share what you really need to share with the world. As The Darkness said about love, imposter syndrome “is only a feeling” so don’t give too much credence to a fleeting thought that isn’t rooted in reality.
Whether other people believe in you or not, your skills are valid and your right to be here is not up for debate. When the anxious thoughts are taking over, instead of trying to replace them with positive ones, try emptying your mind of thoughts altogether. Take a quiet moment for yourself and you might find some space to try on a new outlook.
And always remember…
You are so, so, so worthy – so trust. And have faith.
You really are meant to be here.