Ever feel like the great things you’ve accomplished in work and school aren’t due to your own talent and competence? Feel like you don’t deserve the praise or raises in salary and title you receive? You’re not alone.
A lot of hardworking people feel that way from time to time. Psychologists actually have a term for it: imposter syndrome. Some studies suggest that about 2 out of every 5 successful people have felt like imposters at some time. I know I have.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is basically the feeling that what you’ve accomplished is because of good luck; you were in the right place at the right time, or you managed to convince important people that you were smart when you really aren’t.
People who deal with this phenomenon usually have several similar behaviors and feelings:
- they have to work twice as hard as other people in order to “keep up” with the responsibility of the image they don’t feel they deserve
- they’re a phony, and that pretty soon, everyone’s going to find out they are not as smart, competent, or innovative as they think
- they use their abilities to make important connections and to stand out in the work environment, but when they are praised for it, they feel it’s because of their charm
- they downplay themselves and don’t show confidence in their abilities, believing that if they do, they will be disliked
If you want to learn how to quit feeling like a fake and embrace your accomplishments, keep reading.
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome
ACCEPT the fact that you feel like a fraud
Keyword here: “feel”. Our mind is forever processing endless thoughts and feelings. While that happens in the background, some of them become more prominent and then shape our conscious experience of the world around us.
Feeling like a fraudster is one of those unwanted feelings bubbling up to the surface now and again. But those thoughts are not who you are. They are just what you may be EXPERIENCING right now.
Rather than dwelling on your feelings and writing them off, practice accepting them for what they are. Forcing yourself to not have negative feelings can become a negative feeling in itself.
You feel like a fraud. You try to not feel like a fraud. You can’t stop it. Now you a fraud that sucks at not feeling like a fraud. You convince yourself that you fine. Now you’re a fraud at not feeling like a fraud.
Just for fun, try saying it out loud to yourself: “I feel like everything I’ve accomplished is because of dumb luck and not because I’ve worked hard.” Seriously, go ahead and try it.
You may notice immediately how weird it sounds. Seriously? EVERYTHING you’ve accomplished is due to dumb luck? That’s basically impossible. Sorry, the universe doesn’t like you that much.
Once you’ve accepted your feelings, it’s time to start letting them go.
LOOK at the now
An accomplishment is just another beginning. Consider this, you’ve been putting in the extra hours at work. You’ve consistently gone the extra mile for your clients. Your effort eventually pays off and you get asked to manage a big team.
That’s a fantastic achievement, of course, and you deserve to enjoy every bit of it. But there was a reason for you to get promoted and that wasn’t to a polish a trophy once a week and remind your subordinates that you’re the big boss now. You meant to empower and inspire your team to become just as effective as you had been until this point.
The meaning of fame, power, money and titles pales in comparison to what you make out of what you have TODAY. Excessively ruminating over whether you’ve really earned your achievements could mean that you’re getting stuck in the past.
So, the next time when imposter syndrome hits you, acknowledge those doubts, decide to deal with them some other time, and ask yourself how you can be the best version of yourself today.
POUR coconut oil over it
Paying gratitude is like the coconut oil of personal development. It has so too many benefits to list them here. You also have to experience it for yourself. The more you do it the more it will override and prevent imposter-ish feelings from taking over.
I don’t doubt for a second that your achievements are unearned. And I strive to not do that to myself either. Let’s say I try. But at the same time, it’s important to remember that we didn’t do it all by ourselves.
I do believe in the concept of grace. Some would call it the universe. I see it when good things just happen without me really having done anything to bring them about. I see it in the form of friends, family and strangers who have supported me in my journey. Without them I wouldn’t be writing this article.
In the greater scheme of things being a fraud is really not the worst place I could find myself in – though I’d still prefer to avoid it. I would find it far worse to be that person who can’t give credit where it’s due, where it’s all about what I, I and I did.
RECOGNIZE your achievements
Coming from corporate, I understand the desire to do more, earn more, and live better off. Achieving all of that takes work; sometimes, really hard work at the expense of having a life.
But sometimes receiving praise for hard work from others made me feel uncomfortable – as if I now had to earn the right to be praised. My own feelings of inferiority kept me from accepting the praise.
I would often shrug it off as the result of some other circumstance. Worse yet, I would even think that people were “just saying that” to make me feel better. As if anyone had time to cater to my ego.
I suggest writing down what you’ve accomplished ever so often, and what it took to get there. At the same time remind yourself what you can do better going forward.
Yes, maybe you got a bigger slice of the cake than you should, but nothing stops you from inviting others to the party.
A fraud is some who deliberately deceives other. Was that your intention? As long as keep striving to improve yourself and make the best of what you already have, you are far from that!
RATIONALIZE and out-logic your imposter-ish feelings
Remember that exercise from earlier? The one where I asked you to state your feelings aloud to realize how kinda-sorta ridiculous they were? The reason that works (usually) is because it’s when you pull thoughts out of your mind and pour them out into the world that real logic kicks in.
Do you feel that people are just trying to make you feel good? Write down all the reasons that’s not logical. Maybe the person giving you praise hardly knows you and therefore has no reason to want to pump you up.
Feeling that you didn’t work hard enough on a project to deserve praise? Make a checklist of all the tasks you completed in order to get the job done on time (even mundane things like skipping lunch out). Seeing just how many things you did do can help you realize that you did put in the honest, hard work to make things happen.
The more you accomplish, the more often you may find yourself feeling like a fraud. I believe that, in the society we live in, we’re taught to believe that good things require really hard work and persistence. This is true, of course, but sometimes other aspects of our lives, personalities, talents, grace and the support of amazing people can contribute as well. Don’t discount any of these things and how they lead to your success.
Learn to own it and keep on rising.