Attention all Imposters: There’s Nothing Wrong with You

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Think about the answer to these questions:

  1. Have you ever known you needed to schedule a meeting, but been afraid that the person you’re meeting with would sniff you out as ignorant, unprepared, or simply unworthy of their time?
  2. Have you ever left a networking event completely overwhelmed with how amazing everyone else was while feeling that you’re completely inadequate next to them?
  3. Have you ever hesitated to put yourself forward for a job or project because you know how much of a total newb you are?

If the answer to any of these questions was YES, I hereby diagnose you with the oh-so-common, but ever-so-insipid Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome via wikipedia: (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud."

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that there’s no medicine I can give you to get better. Fortunately, you don’t really need to go to a Dr. (and I’m not one anyways), and the cure is completely in your own hands (or mind).

According to Sakulku and Alexander, (International Journal of Behavioral Science), 70% of people experience some form of imposter syndrome in their lives. Fear is a normal human emotion and its existence makes sense when you think about it... Large predator? Quick! Run! Food stores getting low? I could starve! I must work hard to prepare for winter. While fear is evolutionarily designed to keep us alive, it’s important to not let it prevent you from fully living. Don’t let it get in the way of doing the things you need to do in pursuing your dreams.

So how do you know you’re struggling with imposter syndrome?

  • You lack confidence
  • You’re nervous
  • You question your credibility, your knowledge, your poise, etc.
  • You might even get the standard physiological responses associated with fear, like sweaty palms, elevated blood pressure, and a faster heart rate.

The fear of being found out as inadequate will prevent you from trying, taking on new things, or speaking of yourself in a way that conveys confidence and inspires opportunity. And yet… to build credibility and expertise, you’re gonna have to do those things. It’s a vicious circle, but we all have to deal with it.

So, how do you prevent this invisible and unconscious roadblock from tripping you up?

  • Check in with yourself: Stay aware when you’re feeling self-doubt creep in so it doesn’t catch you off guard.
  • Reframe your self-talk: When you hear yourself saying or thinking, “I can’t do that...I’m nervous...I’m not an expert,” flip it around and go ahead and state, “I am doing this...I’m nervous because it’s new, but I will learn something and be amazing at this...I will speak/share things that I know about and I know what I know.”
  • Phone a friend: Share your doubts for a friend and ask them to pump you up like Coach Taylor and the Dillon Panthers.
  • Break it into pieces: When you’re feeling especially powerless, cut it into smaller steps and work through them one by one, to avoid stressing about the “big” project.
  • Eat the frog: Break the challenge into the smallest of pieces and try to take that first teeny baby step first thing in the morning. Your brain will likely be well rested and you’ll feel more emotionally resilient than after a full day’s work and stress.

What do you do when you’re feeling like an imposter?

-- Kara Davidson, Cofounder, wolf & heron

Kara DavidsonComment