"It's only a matter of time before people figure out I have no idea what I'm doing."
"Sure, I work hard, but anyone could do what I do. It's mostly just luck."
"I'm not afraid of a challenge, but I'm terrified of failure."
Impostor Syndrome is that internal voice telling you that you don't deserve the success you've created, you haven't earned any of it, and that it's only a matter of time before people figure that out. It's often associated with high achievers. Ironically, the more they achieve, the more of a fraud they feel like. They are usually highly intelligent, competent people, who feel that because they haven't been challenged, success "just happened" for them. People often describe an internal fear of inadequacy and failure, and constantly waiting for the "other shoe to drop." Here are five ways you can undo those feelings in your work, relationships, and at home:
1. Mentor someone.
OK don't go offer unsolicited advice to an unwitting coworker! Depending on your field, there may be volunteer organizations, alumni groups, or online forums full of people who are seeking advice. If you can help someone make their way up in their career, it will remind you of how much you have to share, and how much you have accomplished. You won't feel like a fraud after all, when you are able to offer your wisdom and experience to someone else and really help them.
2. Find a mentor.
Not easy! Some would say it's not even something you can do on purpose. Think of that person who you admire, or who intimidates you, or you want to be like when you grow up. Offer to buy that person coffee or lunch. Depending on how close you are, it can be just to catch up, it can be a working lunch, or to ask them about what project they're working on (people love talking about their passions). You might get some good advice, or ideas to think about for your own work. At the very least you'll learn that even the most "perfect" looking finished products go through lots of trial & error.
3. Try something new.
There's nothing like getting WAY out of your comfort zone to remind you how good you are at things that sometimes feel difficult. Don't believe me? Take your first guitar lesson and then tell me how easy it feels to write that report at work.
4. Choose a project.
Create your own evidence that you're not a fake after all. The time will pass anyway, what if you had something specific to show for it? This project can be work related, one of your hobbies, or a personal goal. (Host a holiday meal this year, learn how to reupholster antique furniture, start a new department at work, run a marathon.) Making incremental progress toward something is a good way to remind you of your strengths. You will need creativity, resourcefulness, decision-making skills, and a lot of patience. If you don't have those - you'll practice them! In 6 months' time, you'll have created something out of nothing.
5. Practice gratitude.
This is cheesy, but it will cultivate a mindset of abundance and generosity. When you feel like a fraud, you might grasp at anything to prove that you aren't one - the wrong job, the wrong relationship, a task that doesn't challenge you, or one that challenges you too much. Let those opportunities go on to find the right fit for them. They won't serve you, and you'll feel more burned out than you did before. Instead, practice gratitude by listing 1-3 things you're grateful for each day. When you start to focus on your strengths, you (and those around you) will pay more attention to opportunities for you to use them.
If you feel like you can't overcome your fear of inadequacy despite having success, therapy may help you uncover and heal the sources of that anxiety. Call (562) 704-4736 for a free consultation. Prospect Therapy welcomes individuals and couples of all genders and orientations in Long Beach, CA.