I don’t deserve to be here and other lies
Friends, I have a dirty little secret.
I discovered something that scares me. It keeps me up at night. I walk around, with bated breath that I will soon be found out.
Sometimes, I think I’m inadequate. A complete fraud.
Hmmm…yes. I struggle with imposter syndrome.
What is that?
I’m unable to internalize and own my successes. I convince myself, sometimes with success, that I simply got here by sheer luck.
Haha. Crazy, right?
I downplay all the education, skills, networks, and experiences I’ve gained over the years — as a multimedia storyteller and communications professional — to prepare me for the tasks and challenges I currently handle.
A lack of knowledge, in stuff I think I should know, spark feelings of failure, shame and that ‘I do not belong here’.
A small mistake in an email, a document I was writing or a typo in a video caption that I was reviewing and I will spend hours questioning my competency.
I am always in a loop to learn more and more every day. I can’t be caught flat-footed. I just can’t be found out as being inexperienced, unknowledgeable or just winging it.
Do you feel the same way too?
I struggle with that feeling that I am good but not good enough. Or the fixation with flaws and mistakes which leads to self-pressure and anxiety. How about the hesitation to ask a question or speak up in a meeting because of the fear of ‘looking and sounding stupid’?
Yes, you too?
Do you also have that constant struggle to push these thoughts as far back in your mind and heart so that you come across as being competent and confident?
I am so glad, I/we are not alone.
Imposter Syndrome: A two-lettered phrase that manages to tuck in so many feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety, panic and walking around feeling like a fraud and out of your depth.
Maya Angelou sums it up nicely: “I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
Imposter syndrome was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. In their paper, they theorized that women were uniquely affected by impostor syndrome. But research has since shown that both men and women experience impostor feelings.
Dr. Valerie Young, an expert in the field has categorized it into five that you can read all about on this Instagram Post.
While I cannot point out the source of my fraudulent feelings aka imposter syndrome, I have 17 ways that I use to cope.
- I recognise imposter feelings when they creep up. Being aware of the feelings helps to keep track of the triggers and where possible address them. When this happens, I say an affirmation prayer: “I know God will never leave me nor forsake me. He is with me.”
- As much as possible, I own and celebrate my achievements which in turns helps to boost my self-confidence. I have a folder labelled: “You did that” where I fill it with complements and great things I have done or people say I did. When Imposter Syndrome kicks in, I refer to this folder. Yes, please: collect your wins.
- I accept that I have a role in my successes.
- I have accepted that I am constantly learning and this means I will make mistakes, which I now take in stride. It is part of the process. I am trusting the process.
- I know there can never be a perfect time to do something, in part because imposter syndrome will give me all reasons not to do it. I push myself to do things when I am afraid and act before I am ready. For instance, I have been thinking of starting out a video series of all the cool things I am learning but I am too scared of it failing, even before I start. Well, good thing is, I am going to do the video series while afraid and scared. I will share more details soon.
- I am learning to take constructive criticism. It is not an attack on me.
- I see failure as a learning opportunity.
- I am a work in progress. This means I am on a journey of learning, unlearning, re-learning and building newer skills every day.
- I do not know everything and that’s okay.
- I am practising ‘just-in-time’ learning, that is, gaining a skill when I need it instead of hoarding a lot of knowledge for comfort sake which then gnaws in my mind if I don't use it.
- I always try and ask for help. I also stepping in to help and mentor others.
- When I get the chance, I talk about my imposter syndrome feelings, such as through this post.
- I have accepted that to err is human.
- I reward myself when I get things right. Big or small.
- I try and not to compare myself with others. I try. Comparison is, truly, the thief of joy. Plus, I came across this line as I was researching on this article: “Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides” when we do so, we end up judging ourselves short.
- Every day I am realising that nobody knows what they are doing. Success, if you think about it, is about tinkering, adjusting and reworking ideas and concepts until you get to the sweet spot. So yes, try out that thing — job, opportunity, going out on a date, trusting your intuition more. Highly likely it may work but also, it may fail. But you never know until you try.
- There is more to me and you than credentials and titles. So much more.
- How do YOU cope with imposter syndrome?
So now, you know my dirty little secret. It’s okay, you can tell others, who may find this useful.
Before you go, I would like to share one final line.
Come closer, let me tell it to you.
Dealing with imposter syndrome is similar to a child learning to walk. The child will not stop walking because they fell down a couple of times. I’d imagine, their parent wouldn't say, look, this child will never walk. The child, encouraged by the parents and those around them, often gets up and continues to walk. Wobbly feet and all.
I hope you too, continue to walk.
“But for us, I think we need to learn that we are enough and actively put ourselves into spaces,” says Candice Carty-Williams.