Impostor Syndrome is the phenomenon of not being able to internalize your own success so you’re riddled with self-doubt. Sound like you? Read on.
Basically, Impostor Syndrome is when you feel like you don’t deserve your accomplishments or rewards for your efforts and sooner or later, you’re going to be outed as a “fraud” despite external evidence of your competence and hard work. People who suffer from Impostor Syndrome typically attribute their success to luck or clever acts of finesse. Trust Wikipedia to tell it as it is.
In addition, there are supposedly five types of Impostor Syndrome sub-types ranging from “The Perfectionist” to “The Expert.” Personally, I feel like all five – does that make me a Perfectionist type? Lol – but while I do identify with parts of each of them, the Soloist and the Expert rank high in my self-assessment with Natural Genius taking the whole entire cake.
Who has Impostor Syndrome?
According to The Impostor Phenomenon, about 70% of the population at some point of their lives experiences Impostor Syndrome to a degree. Within that population, it’s reported that a third of Millennials and young people suffer from the syndrome in their careers, and some believe it has to do with our social media-oriented culture.
Unlike older generations, Millennials can more easily view the lives of those around them through social media. As a result, we see all the “cooler” things our peers are doing and feel as if we need to do more to be considered achievers. This itself is another reason for the prevalence of impostor syndrome in our generation.
“How Millennials Get Over Impostor Syndrome.”
It’s typically linked with anxiety, shaky confidence, and shifting focus away from your own innate or honed ability to external factors like luck. It can appear like modesty, but it can be taken to a much higher level wherein it becomes dangerous because it messes with your mental health.
How has it affected me?
I see Impostor Syndrome as a vampire that sucks away my energy every time I receive a compliment I don’t know how to process. It creates doubt that I can handle the added responsibilities every time I get a promotion at the 9-5 or make a big move in my own business.
It’s also affected my livelihood—negotiating for a better salary was much harder than it would have been if I had a solid confidence in the skills and experiences I brought to the table. Fairly pricing my products and services was a harder task than it had to be because I felt like a fraud rather than someone who worked hard and knew his craft.
“Who are you to charge that much for a website? You didn’t invent the internet.”
“You know you aren’t good enough to be charging that for a photo project. You just lucked yourself into a good camera. Lower the price or you’ll disappoint your client and yourself.”
“It doesn’t matter how much thought and work went into that design—mark it down! You’re not Balenciaga.”
I was negotiating terms with the client and customer, but I was also fighting with myself.
How am I dealing with it?
I used to think my experience with Impostor Syndrome was unique, but the more I connect with others, the more I realize we’re all just trying to do our best and have fun where we can. Many people I know battle thoughts that chalk every good thing they achieve up to luck and don’t take full ownership of their own awesomeness.
For the last few years, I’ve done better to fight off notions that I am an intruder in the life of someone who’s got his shit more or less together. Most of it was by reminding myself who I am.
I remind myself that I am me. I say my name. I associate it with my good qualities. I’m smart. I’m able. I’m good. I’m strong. I deserve what I have. I say the good qualities I’d like to better embody. Smart-working. Tenacious. Great. Efficient. Caring. I remind myself of my wins, and so on.
How You Can Deal with It
If you live with Impostor Syndrome, you’re already aware of how negative self-talk finds its way into the daily conversation. It’s simple, but you can actually counter bad words with good ones.
We all know that there’s power in words, but words are empty vessels if there’s no belief in them. Let’s look at “awesomeness” as an example.
When someone says to you “You are awesome” but you don’t think they really believe it, it falls flat and nothing changes. When you think they really do believe it, it will last for as long as you can cherish those words, but it will probably break when you do something that feels decidedly not awesome.
While we certainly need our cheerleaders and people to believe in us, they can’t be with you in your own mind where it really matters. So, let’s take that example further by sitting you with the one person you can’t escape: Yourself.
Here’s the formula I use to vibe higher and you can use too:
I am [My Name]. (This is not only a fact, it is an assertion spoken with conviction.)
I am [positive qualities – smart. Kind. Generous. Intelligent.]
I deserve what I have worked for.
[Your wins – I won the spelling bee. I passed all my finals. We lost the game but I improved my shot accuracy.]
I deserve what I am working toward.
[Your goals – My company will grow into a Fortune 500. I will buy my house in 5 years. I have a home full of loving and caring people who are free and empowering and supportive.]
I am [positive qualities you want to better embody – emotionally intelligent. Beautiful. Stylish. Tech-savvy.]
After this little ritual, go on about your day, but catch yourself when your thoughts start to veer toward the negative and replace it with something positive.
An Honest Opinion
Impostor Syndrome is a beast to deal with because you're fighting yourself. You're squaring up against your reflection and your reflection seems like it has the whole world on its side agreeing with its awful assessment of you. But here's the real tea: It's all in your head.
It being psychological doesn't make it any less consequential or its effects less painful, but it does become something more "tackle-able."
If you got to where you are by honest and ethical means, you deserve to be there. Continue to do honest and impactful work while ignoring the naysayers (including your brain!)
If you got where you are by the luck of the draw, you deserve to be there. Fortune was on your side, so now do the work to stay.
If you got where you are by unethiacal means.... do the right thing, I guess? I mean, this doesn't really fall under Imposter Syndrome because you actually are a fraud who should stop being fraudulent.
All that to say: You got this!