Do You Feel Like a Fake Even When You Succeed?
Everyone feels like an impostor at one time or another. It’s what you do with those feelings that count.
Impostor Syndrome might be an unfamiliar term to you, but if you’ve ever questioned your own abilities … maybe felt that you don’t know nearly as much as everyone gives you credit for, or worried that sooner or later people will find out you’ve been faking it all along, then you’ve experienced it firsthand.
In extreme cases of Impostor Syndrome intelligent, high performing individuals come to believe they don’t deserve the successes they’ve achieved, and manage to do such a thorough job of convincing themselves that their accomplishments have somehow been fabricated or a fluke, that they end up creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Their career begins to plateau, or worse, falls into a nose dive.
Of course to some extent, we are all impostors. The truth is displaying a public image is simply part of the normal human condition. It’s only when we allow nagging doubts to take over that we risk undermining our personal growth
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- I secretly worry that others will find out that I’m not as capable as they think I am.
- I sometimes shy away from challenges because of nagging self-doubt, or fear that I will be exposed as a fake.
- I tend to attribute my accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” me.
- I hate making a mistake, and tend to over prepare in an effort to be perfect.
- I feel crushed by any form of criticism.
- I often compare myself to others I view as smarter and more capable.
Part of me suspects that I’m a loser, and the other part of me thinks I’m God Almighty. ~John Lennon
The most important thing to realize is that once you recognize these feelings for what they are, you can work with them.
- Acknowledge and value even small accomplishments: The obvious benefit of acknowledging your accomplishments is to increase confidence and provide proof that you are in fact, not a fake. While it may feel uncomfortable, even a bit egotistical, to think about keeping track of your achievements, consider this … by discounting or ignoring your own accomplishments you’re much more likely to end up viewing the accomplishments of others as far greater than they actually are.
- Break the habit of negative self-talk: A little self-criticism is not such a bad thing if it serves as a reality check to encourage growth. The problems begin when the criticism becomes a habit, and seeds of self-doubt are planted that begin to take on a life of their own. Self-awareness is the key to catching destructive internal messages. Whenever you begin thinking negatively about yourself, stop immediately and ask yourself if you would say that to a friend. Then take the time to write out what you’ve said to yourself. Seeing it on a piece of paper will make it more obvious how self-depreciating your thoughts really are, and why you deserve to treat yourself better.
- Learn to keep criticism in perspective: It’s rarely pleasant to be on the receiving end of criticism, even when it’s “constructive,” and delivered with kindness and empathy … worse yet, odds are that at one time or another you’ll be on the receiving end of harsh, even ego bruising criticism. Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it’s not. The point is to learn to detach from your defensive feelings, and the assumption that the criticism is validation that you’ve been right all along about being a fake. Learn to keep criticism in perspective, give yourself some space to regain your center and calm nerves, and then try in earnest to see what you can learn from the experience.
- Fake it till you make it: Ironically, one way to work through Impostor Syndrome is to actually “fake it” till you make it. Putting this in perspective, this is not about lying or doing anything unethical. It’s about taking a leap of faith relating to the value of your knowledge and expertise. One of the best explanations I’ve seen of “fake it” till you make it states that it is about predicting the outcome of a situation by behaving in a way that leads to that prediction coming true. Indicating, yet again, that the beliefs you hold have an impact on what happens to you.
Ultimately working through Impostor Syndrome is about becoming more attached to our successes than our failures. Have you ever felt like an impostor? What makes you feel that way? What reminds you of the truth about yourself?
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