Imposter Syndrome is scary, but you're not alone in this
This November, I’m challenging myself to write every day. You can read them all under the “Shorts” category, where each post should be around 500–1k words. Think of them as “less polished” than my usual longer blog posts. This is Day 26.
Do you believe you're not ready or that you don't deserve to apply for a job that requires five years of work experience, but you only have four? Do you fear that one day someone will reveal you as a "fraud", even if you've been working well or have been getting positive feedback? Or perhaps you simply do not feel worthy of success because you think you haven't done enough? Congratulations — welcome to the Imposter Syndrome club.
You know you have imposter syndrome if you have feelings of self-doubt and insecurity that cause you to doubt your skills and accomplishments, or fear someone is going to expose you as a "fraud". Stop that. You're too good for that. (insert spider-man pointing at spider-man meme)
It's funny because imposter syndrome is a paradox. You don't believe in yourself because you believe you're an imposter, despite the fact that other people do believe in your abilities. In response to others, you do believe yourself to be an imposter. It's self-sabotaging behaviour in a never-ending vicious cycle. However, if you do have doubts about yourself, shouldn't you also have doubts about your imposter syndrome?
I believe we all have felt like an imposter at some point in our lives, whether it was doing something new or at work. Not sure where you fall? There are five types of imposter syndrome that you can compare yourself to:
The expert: You're never satisfied with your level of understanding. You want to learn and know everything. Even if you're skilled in something, you still feel like you're not.
The natural genius: Even if you're already "talented" in something, you still feel ashamed when you need more time to revise your work. After all, you should already be "perfect".
The perfectionist: You obsess over the details. You focus on making sure your work is of the highest quality. If not, you'll feel like a failure despite having done a good job already.
The soloist: You like to work alone. You're afraid to ask for help because you see it as a sign of incompetency.
The super person: You don't believe you've accomplished enough. You want to be the best at everything you do, so you push yourself as hard as you can.
Now that you've identified your type of imposter syndrome, the next step is to determine the reason behind those feelings. Are you afraid of not being good enough? Do you feel guilty or ashamed for not achieving enough compared to others? As the saying goes, nobody is perfect. I've come to realise that a lot of people are just winging it. They have a decent set of skills and knowledge, but they chose to do their work anyway with a little more courage. Know that you're not alone in this.
Doing self-reflection to know yourself better, setting realistic goals, and being kinder to yourself can help you to a certain point, but it may be enough. What we need more of is getting support from others by really talking and listening to each other as intently as we can. From there, we can easily see that even the brightest minds have their own set of fears. We're not alone, and that should help give us more courage to believe in ourselves a bit more.
Some years ago, I was lucky enough invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.