You know the feeling: you’ve put in the work and achieved the thing that you worked so hard to achieve. You battled your doubts and insecurities all along the way, positive that once you had the thing they would finally go away. Then you get the thing and you feel like you don’t deserve the thing. You feel like an imposter, someone playing make-believe in a successful role.
What is imposter syndrome?
It’s an isolating feeling, yet hardly a unique one. Imposter syndrome is something of an epidemic these days amongst people who outwardly seem to be living the dream, yet inwardly feel like they are living in a dream destined to end. Studies have shown that up to 70% of North Americans experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. Image what the majority of us could be achieving if we truly believed in ourselves!
There are five types of imposter syndrome that tend to rear their ugly heads:
- There are those who are perfectionists for whom no success ever feels like enough and even the smallest of mistakes can feel like they erase any positive.
- There are workaholics who constantly feel like they can’t match up with their colleagues and put in endless amounts of extra work to prove that they deserved their job (which never feels like enough).
- There are those who are intensely independent and never willing to admit fault or ask for help, leaving themselves in a constant state of panic as they struggle to measure up to their own impossible standards.
- There are those who are obsessed with being experts and knowing everything about a topic before daring to attempt to tackle it, constantly feeling like they need to learn more before they ever try.
- There are those who were gifted young students for whom grades came so easily early in life that when they start to struggle at difficult tasks as adults, they instantly feel like failures.
Regardless of the specific brand of imposter syndrome that drags you down, there is only one person to blame, challenge, and overcome the issue: yourself. Across the board, anyone struggling with feelings of being an imposter can be accused of being too hard on themselves.
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This is where things get tricky because, in order to succeed at absolutely anything, it’s vital to be tough on yourself, work hard, and push your limits. However, whenever you do reach a peak or even the next rung on the ladder, it’s equally important to take a moment to appreciate what you’ve done. Any accomplishment big or small is something to celebrate and be thankful for.
What can you do about it?
There’s no easy solution for those who suffer from imposter syndrome. It’s a constant battle – but one that is worth it. Perhaps the best way to help get over this particular brand of insecurity is to realize how common it is.
If this doesn’t help, consider picking up just about any autobiography of someone who you admire. It’s almost impossible not to find moments of doubt or confusion in the life story of any successful figure. It’s part of every journey. The trick is to embrace these feelings and treat them as fuel, rather than letting them drag you down.
No matter how unprepared you may feel for a new job or how much further you think you need to climb, it’s absolutely vital to realize that you got to your current position for a reason. It’s important to see that you’ve already done something huge, even if it’s not the thing that you need. It’s important to love and appreciate yourself. Sure, you’re not perfect. Sure, you’ll almost certainly screw up eventually – we all do. But that doesn’t mean you don’t belong there. Merely being there is a sign that you deserve it.
Of course, this type of self-examination and care isn’t easy. It takes work to love yourself. There are arrogant and undeserving imposters in massive positions of power everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that you are one of them. Generally speaking, those who truly are imposters don’t realize it. Try to focus on that during moments of doubt and if they don’t go away, use that to fuel yourself to show what you can do rather than wallowing in what you can’t do. Self-doubt and self-pity accomplish nothing but self-harm. They need to be pushed aside, no matter how difficult that push might feel.
Life is a journey that’s messy and imperfect. If you spend your life striving for the impossible, you’ll never appreciate all of the amazing things that you make possible along the way.