Have you ever stepped into a room full of peers and immediately felt like you had no place to be there? “They’re all so much more qualified,” you think, “Any second now they’re all going to know I don’t deserve to be here and tell me to leave!” What you’re feeling is something almost every professional struggles with at some point: Imposter syndrome.
The short answer to this is that imposter syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud or a fake, no matter how qualified or experienced you are. The phenomenon can be broken down into 5 subcategories:
Someone who falls under this category focuses mainly on how things are done and often feels like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves. If you find yourself feeling like a task is a complete failure even if it is 99% perfect, you may be a perfectionist.
Someone who is an expert’s main focus is on what and how much they know. You may fall under this category if you constantly feel like you should know everything and feel like you will be exposed as a fraud if you do not have an answer.
To a soloist, a task only counts as an achievement if they completed it without any outside help. If you fear that asking for help will expose you as a phony and that you have to figure everything out on your own, this is where you land out of the 5.
Someone who bases their accomplishments on how fast and how easily they complete their tasks is a natural genius. Do you feel like a failure whenever you have to tackle a task that does not come naturally to you, even if it is brand new? Then you might be struggling with being a natural genius.
Someone who falls under this category bases their worth on how many roles they can juggle and excel in with perfect ease. If one ball drops, then they believe they are a failure overall. Does downtime induce feelings of stress, rather than relaxation? Do you take on larger workloads than most with little regard for your mental health? Then you might struggle with having to be super.
The feelings of imposter syndrome can stem from a few different places. If you were constantly told growing up that you were the smartest or the strongest or the prettiest, you may have started struggling with being a perfectionist as the bar rose throughout life. These affirmations, though they seem positive, actually induce feelings of either having the talent or you don’t, no matter the effort.
If you find yourself being a minority among your peers, such as being the only woman, only POC, only individual who is LGBTQ, it’s easy to start feeling like you need to work twice as hard for the right to be there. Not only for yourself but for the sake of your whole group. This is often exacerbated if you are the first of your group to enter that space.
Another source of imposter syndrome stems from people being far too aware of the process of meritocracy. The only way to come out on top is to be compared to others, and you may begin to doubt whether or not you truly earned it. You may even find yourself thinking that they must have picked you because there was no one else or because the other candidates were so bad that therefore you must actually be mediocre at best when compared to “good” candidates.
Now that you know what imposter syndrome is and where it stems from, it’s high time that you found a solution for it. Though it is uncomfortable and embarrassing, imposter syndrome is in fact a very normal feeling. The shame surrounding it only has power when we don’t talk about it, so don’t be afraid to open up. When one person speaks up, countless more breath a sigh of relief and think, “Thank goodness it’s not just me!”
Next, endeavour to separate how you’re feeling from the facts. You may feel like a fraud that hasn’t earned their place but for them to trust you as they do, your peers and clients must in fact see you as a competent, intelligent individual.
Finally, expect some failure and accept that it is completely acceptable to not know what you’re doing. All those you compare yourself to have stumbled at some point in their career. They weren’t born knowing how to land clients or design beautiful deliverables. If you’re comfortable, take some time to ask them about their journey and their struggles
At the end of the day, the insecurities that cause imposter syndrome will not be solved instantly. Like every step of a career, it will take hard work. But you’ve done that hard work and earned your career, so you’ve earned the right to celebrate the success you’ve found without shame. Finally, remember, even the best of the best have had to fake it until they made it, so it’s okay for you to do so every once in a while too.
Jan 8, 2021
Have you ever stepped into a room full of peers and immediately felt like you had no place there? “They’re all so much more qualified,” you think, “Any second now they’re all going to know I don’t deserve to be here and tell me to leave!”