Ever feel like you’re not as smart as people think you are? That you weren’t the most qualified person for the job you have or the raise you received? Is it frightening to think about someone calling you on it? If so, you’re in good company. These nagging, low rumbling feelings are known as impostor syndrome, and an estimated 70% of people experience them at some point in their lives, according to findings published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.
“The root of impostorism is thinking that people don’t see you as you really are,” says Bryan Stewart, a professor at Brigham Young University, who just completed a study about how the phenomenon affects young people in the workforce. “We think people like us for something that isn’t real and that they won’t like us if they find out who we really are.”
It’s the self-doubt that often keeps you from enjoying your accomplishments. And what’s worse, impostor syndrome tends to wreak havoc on the boldest among us (creative people, entrepreneurs, etc.) because they’re constantly in a state of ongoing growth and discomfort. With technology and social media evolving so fast, most of us are learning something new on nearly every project we work on. That could easily make you feel like you don’t have the expertise you should.
Meanwhile, an email from LinkedIn about someone’s promotion or even a breezy “out of office” social media post can make it seem like everyone else has got their shit together while you’re treading water trying to fool everyone. But more than likely, your perception is skewed. And nearly everyone you admire feels the same way when they look in the mirror. Neil Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Tom Hanks and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz … they’ve all spoken about feeling like a fraud. How?! Because, this is a human trait and it doesn’t discriminate. It turns out, no one has everything figured out. We all feel slightly out of our depth at times. All you can do is try to do your best with what you’ve got.
How to Turn It Around
Accept that you have these feelings
Don’t try to deny them or beat yourself up about them. Chalk it up to humility and be grateful that you’re not so conceited that you think you’re untouchable and perfect.
Regularly review your own accomplishments
Leadership coach Melissa Lamson suggests writing them down so that you can better focus on them. This will help you identify strengths that you can utilize in life and on the job.
Embrace your mistakes
People who suffer from imposter syndrome fear mistakes, but they are an important part of the learning process. “Straightforwardly admitting them, but not dwelling on them or looking for excuses or blame, can actually increase your esteem and respect,” says Aaron Nurick, professor of management and psychology at Bentley University.
Ask for feedback from a mentor
Look for a trusted advisor whose opinion you trust and value. The more you hear about the value you’re bringing to others, the more you can internalize it, according to Lamson. And hearing it from someone who also provides constructive criticism can help you digest the praise better because it feels authentic.
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