Have you ever felt like a phony, fake, or inadequate no matter how successful you really are?  It’s often referred to as Imposter Syndrome. You feel like you aren’t truly good enough to be the leader, great parent, or friend and once everyone figures it out, it will all be over. 

You are not alone in dealing with Imposter Syndrome. Over 70% of people will deal with it at some point in their lifetime. Several very successful people have come out to discuss their own dealings of feeling like an imposter including Neil Armstrong, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and Maya Angelou.

Types of Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome can fall into several categories but often look something like this: 

“It has to be perfect.” This person feels like they are a failure if they don’t complete a project or task perfectly. They may lead a very successful community event and feel like a failure because there was feedback on improving the parking situation. If it’s not 100/100 then it’s not good enough. 

“I trick people.” These people feel like they don’t deserve the promotions, accolades, and recognition that they receive. They feel like they have fooled or deceived others into thinking they are more successful than they are and have high anxiety that they will eventually be “found out” or discovered. They may feel like they come across as more competent than they really are. 

“I’m lucky.” These people attribute their success to luck or others and often downplay success altogether.  They don’t feel like their hard work is successful; instead, they feel like they stumbled into success time and again. 

“I should be a great juggler.” This person feels like they should be able to juggle all aspects of their life perfectly. They are extremely hard on themselves when they let a role in their life slip, (spouse, parent, friend, student, employee). They expect themselves to nail it all, all of the time. 

“I’m only a winner if I win.” If this person doesn’t make the MVP list, win the award, or is recognized for their contribution, they feel like they aren’t good enough. They also see asking for help as a sign of weakness in themselves. 

Your environment plays a heavy part

Imposter Syndrome is not a mental disorder; instead, it’s rooted in how we react to an environment and stimuli. Here are a few of the common environments that help push us into this space. 

  • A new job or work environment: There is added stress in not knowing everyone or everything. You also likely won’t be executing your job at full efficiency for a while. Compound the problem by comparing yourself to your new co-workers. 
  • Online and social settings: Comparing your real self to the best versions of others on social media or during social gatherings. 
  • Academic: Comparing yourself to other students as far as grades, success, ease, and acceptance. 
  • Relationships: Comparing yourself to yours or the other’s expectations in the relationship both friendly and romantic.

Identity and connections fuel the fire

Think of your environment as the wood in a fire pit. It’s just there and nothing will happen if it’s left alone. Your connections and identity are the fuel that starts the fire. Consider these connections and how they play a role in how you react in the environments above:

  • Family expectations
  • Overbearing partner/ overprotective parents
  • Perfectionism
  • Depression, low self-esteem and anxiety
  • Gender, racial identity

How to break the cycle

You can break out of the Imposter Syndrome cycle. The first step is obviously to know that you are dealing with the issue (Self Awareness). Here are some other things you can do to lessen and potentially eliminate feeling like an imposter:

Talk it out with someone. Imposter Syndrome loves to live in isolation inside yourself. Talk out your feelings and thoughts with a trusted friend, advisor or mentor. 

Be kind to yourself. I have seen some of the kindest people beat themselves up for their perceived shortcomings. Give yourself the same forgiveness that you give others and be kind to yourself. Let someone besides yourself be your worst critic. 

Understand that your thoughts and situation are not unique. Remember when you run into a bout of doubt that others are likely going through the same. Know that it’s not just you and that it’s temporary then step up and do well.

Learn from failure. To our Baton Carriers that are perfectionists; It’s okay to fail. You need to fail to keep learning and growing. Use failure as a learning opportunity and move on. Don’t dwell on failure for failure’s sake. 

Go small. Focus on the smaller tasks and the accomplishments that come along with it instead of focusing on the larger issue. It can help you stay focused in a positive direction. 

You are not an imposter. Understanding what Imposter Syndrome is and how your environment and connections impact your thought process will help you understand where you need to start to recover from this type of thinking. Lean into others to help you break the cycle.

Make a better tomorrow.