At some point in your life, you will feel like a fraud. We all suffer from it regardless if you are an entrepreneur, stay at home mom, corporate 9-5'er or even areas of your personal life. There is going to be a time in your life where you look at what you are doing and think “Im not good enough for this” or “how did I get here?” “Am I worthy?” OR “I’m not deserving of this.”
The good news is this feeling means you are a human being. It also means that you recognize emotions and have an urge deep down inside to better yourself.
The reality of imposter syndrome is that it stems from lack of self confidence, and is typically rooted in something that you really want success in but for whatever reason, you might be getting in your own way. It was first recognized by psychologist Suzanna Times and Pauline Chance in the 19700s, originally thought to only apply to high achieving women. We are in a world that is surrounded by high achieving women, unstoppable forces of nature. Since then it has become a phenomenon that can hinder creativity, personal growth and overall success.
My husband asked me what the hell is imposter syndrome? The actual definition is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.”
Basically it means fear of being a phony, a fraud, not worthy of accolades. While for some, imposter syndrome actually fuels feeling of motivation but for some in comes in a form of constant anxiety. It can cause you to over prepare, over think, over work and create a vicious cycle where you never feel worthy regardless of your talent, effort or ideas.
Did you know psychologist have actually identified 5 types of imposter syndrome? Which one of these do you fit into?
- The perfectionist. I am in this category. I set extremely high expectations for myself, sometimes unrealistic ones and if I miss the expectation even by like 1%, I feel like I failed. Now over time, I have taught myself to accept that failure, dwell on it for a second and move on. But when you are a perfectionist, any small mistake can make you question your competence and in turn create a paralysis by analysis mentality. You know what i’m talking about… let’s say you are trying to grow your instagram account. You know you have to create amazing content, the color scheme has to be appetizing, the hashtags have to make sense. So many freaking things to do right to get engagement… so it ends up taking you like 20 minutes to create one post. Then you see its final version and think uhh I don’t like that picture. I can make it better. If this is you… my friend you are in the perfectionist category.
- The Expert – aka the smarty pants. I was not a good student in school. Somehow I managed to get into the advanced classes but I was a an average student at best until I got into grad school. However, the expert type feels like they need to be able to go deep into topics to show their worth. The inability to do so in a conversational setting can make them feel inadequate, uncomfortable or even depressed. They tend to do lots a research on topics that are of interest to them, love sharing their knowledge with the world and when they get tripped up on something, that yucky imposter syndrome sets in and their world crashes down.
- The natural genius. Have you even met someone that is just like good at everything and it seems so effortless? This is the natural genius. They are creative, quick on their feet, new skills come easy to them and they have a magnetic personality. I will be honest here and say I wish this was me. In fact, I try and manifest this to be me, but the reality is this is just not me. The natural genius type doesn’t just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations like the perfectionist, they also judge themselves when they aren’t able to figure things out on the first try. When things become complicated, they give up easily because if it’s not easy for them and they feel as if it’s just not meant to be…. Or so they may think or convince themself of that.
- The super woman (or man). They work harder than anyone.. but not always smarter than everyone. They are constantly seeking approval of others for their efforts and then when they don’t receive the praise, it pushes them to work even harder.. sometimes spiraling into a work binge. This was me 10 years ago. Until I became focused in my career, I was this person. I didn’t know what the hell I wanted or what I was good at but I was damn sure to be the hardest working person in any room. I had some insecurities from high school because I wasn’t the smart kid. So I always felt like I wasn’t worthy to have a seat at the table but because I felt the need to work work work, I eventually got myself that seat…. and started seeing myself pull away from peers, even the most talented ones.
- The Soloist. I once had a boss tell me I would be a horrible manager because I can’t handle delegation and i’m not a people person. Here is the thing with the soloist type, asking for help is difficult because we (yes I said we because I do have a tendency to hang out here), we have a problem asking for help because in our mind it feels like we have been defeated. It is almost as if the ability to refuse assistance makes me feel more worthy, even though in the end, it usually bites me in the ass. Do you ever say to yourself “I don’t need anyones help, they will just screw it up.” Sorry my friend, but welcome to the soloist world. Arrogance is strong in this category.
Ok so where do you fall? I see a little bit of myself in every single category. So how the heck do we get over this shit?
Listen, just the fact that you are seeking to better understand yourself and fully realize your potential; you understand that you aren’t perfect and there is room for growth. There is always room for growth. That means you are already overcoming imposter syndrome without even realizing it.
First and foremost…. Your validation, your confidence and your self worth has to come from yourself. I know that’s easier said than done. Perhaps this is the biggest hurdle we, as women have to overcome. Even the most beautiful, strong, confident and successful women at some point look outward for validation. So I want you to do something that seems so simple and maybe silly but will help you out.
Get out a piece of paper or even a post it note so you can stick it somewhere thats visible to you daily. What is the one thing that is weighing on you that you feel you need to accomplish this year or even in this life? It can be spiritual, superficial, physical or even extremely private….
I know you have something in your head right now. Maybe you don’t want to say it out loud but if you are by yourself, then say it out loud.
“I want to be a millionaire by the time in 40.”
“I want to write and publish a NY times best selling book by the time i’m 40”
“I want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro before I retire”
“I want my daughter to be independent and not in need of a man when she graduates college
Set real big goals here.
Next, take your post it note and write the same goal but instead put I WILL in front of it.
“I will be a millionaire but he time i’m 40”
“I will write and publish NY times best selling book by the time i’m 40”
You get the picture right?
At the core of our insecurities is our self limiting beliefs that we don’t have it in us to do whatever it is we really want to do. You have to visualize it, write it down, remind yourself of it every single day and believe that you can make it happen.
Next – understand that feeling insecure about something is 100% natural. Did you know 70% of people experience this at some point in their career? Instead of dwelling on something that is missing from your skillset, turn it upside down and make a plan to make yourself whole.
I had been beating my head up against a wall for the last year because I hated my website. I couldn’t afford a designer to build it, so I researched for hours on how to build it myself. But then the more I looked at it, the more I kept thinking “why the hell can I not have the website that I want?” What is stopping me from learning how to code? With all of the opportunities online to learn now, I can do this. Its going to take time but damnit, I can do this. And you know what? Its pushed me, it made me doubt myself at times, but the reward is seeing my hard work and true effort paying off. The proud feeling I get when I now look at the finished products isn’t because I had the money to pay someone. It’s because I utilized my brain, my creativity and my persistent nature and I made it happen. The gratification of looking at it now is such much sweeter then if I would of had someone build it.
I want you all to feel that. I call that a breadcrumb to confidence. Gaining that true internal confidence doesn’t just appear overnight. Life gives you breadcrumbs, little victories that compound over time, slowly building confidence from within. Take these challenges are opportunities to realize your true capabilities.
If you recognize that imposter syndrome often gets in your way, thats a big step towards progress. That means you recognize it’s a problem, which also means you can work to move past those feelings.
The comparison trap often folds into this equation because during this time in our life, where our successes and failures are just out there for the world to see, we are often comparing our work, our products/services/etc. to others in our field and thinking to ourselves “oh shit mine isn’t that good.”
Guess what? What you have to offer is different than her. There are probably 1 million bloggers, podcasters, influencers out there.. but what content I put out there is different and its 100% authentic to me.
The online business space is becoming pretty crowded but every single freaking person has a different talent, ability, idea and conversation to bring to the table so don’t ever discount what you have to give because nobody can take that away from you.
One thing I learned that might even be controversial is taking someone else’s idea and improving upon it to make it your own. Do you think Starbucks was the first company to come up with a coffee shop? Heck no. They did not invent the concept, they just took the idea and flipped it totally on its head and made it their own and turned it into a billion dollar business.
Also stop fighting your feelings. Embrace them, cry it out, suck it up and move on. Acknowledge they are there and let them fuel your fire. Allow those feelings to motivate you to push yourself even more. No matter how much you feel like you don’t belong, keep going and refuse to stop. Not by anybody or anything.
And finally remember that if you are feeling like an imposter or start think is what i’m doing isn’t good enough, it means you are getting into the game enough to recognize you are a player. You are putting yourself out there which is more than most people do and you are challenging yourself to level up. So keep on pushing yourself!