Imposter Syndrome, and how to deal with it.
Have you ever experienced the overwhelming feeling that you are a fraud? That you're receiving praise or recognition that is undeserved because you are actually just fooling everyone around you into thinking you're worthy when you're really not? Well, my friend, you are not alone. And this feeling is so common, it even has a name: Imposter Syndrome.
I'll give you my own story: I graduated several years ago, with honors, from The Atlantic College of Therapeutic Massage. And yet the whole time I was in school (and for years afterwards) I felt like I was not as accomplished as my classmates and professional peers. I felt as though they all knew WAY more than me, that they had grasped and retained the information from school better than me, and that they would probably be more successful than me. I felt like a complete fraud at work, as though I had no business giving people advice for home-care exercises or that there were dozens of other massage therapists that were more qualified and could actually help my clients. I assumed that the people I treated would eventually figure it out and go somewhere else.
I don't usually have problems when it comes to my self-image. I am not super shy and I know what my talents are. Which made it all the more believable to me that my feelings were justified. They weren't coming from a "woe is me" mentality; I just genuinely believed that I was fooling everyone. Even when I started receiving praise from clients and employers I had a hard time believing them, just waiting for the moment I would be found out.
Eventually, after several beautiful comments from clients and friends, I began to believe that maybe I was actually good at my job. It took me a while to come around, but now I am fully confident in my abilities.
But when I started this blog, I felt those old feelings returning: I'm no expert, there are so many people that know better than me, I have no idea what I'm doing, blah blah blah. It hit me that I was experiencing that same feeling as before: that I was an imposter in the wellness community. I've found it a bit easier to battle it this time around. Perhaps because I know that the feeling will pass, because I already know that passion and hard work bring genuine success. But I've also changed my mindset.
Imposter Syndrome has been found in groups of all ages, races, genders and professions. Many CEOs of major corporations and billionaires, (hell, even Maya Angelou!) have admitted to feeling that it's just a matter of time before people figure out they're a fraud. Huge successes across the world are attributed to luck or fluke by the person experiencing this success. So if you're feeling the same way, don't feel like you're alone. And what's even more reassuring? There are ways to fix it.
How to deal with feeling like a fraud:
- Ask yourself: Why do I assume that everyone else is more deserving of success than I am? Why do I assume that everyone knows more than me, even people with the exact same level of education as me? If you really think about it, you'll probably realize that the rational answers are "they aren't" and "they don't". Once you've accepted that you are just as deserving as everyone else, including CEOs and brilliant poets (who are also just people, after all) it will be easier to shift your mindset. There is absolutely no reason anyone else can have success and you can't. (And this ties in perfectly with manifesting the things you want in your life: if other people are capable and worthy of manifesting their dreams into reality then you are too. If you want a six-figure income, or a beautiful vacation home, or thriving career, or an amazing spouse, you can absolutely manifest those things into your life just as many other completely regular people have)
- Remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere. This syndrome is especially prevalent in students or people that have started a new job, career or venture. And no wonder! These stages of life are when we are just getting our footing and establishing ourselves. So be easy on yourself, remind yourself that you will make mistakes and also that these mistakes are tools for learning and improving (not proof that you don't belong).
- Keep a tally of your successes. This can be kept in your head, said aloud to a friend, or written down where you can revisit it (I'm a huge fan of journalling). This is the proof that you are good at what you do. Your self-doubt can play tricks on you, but the proof doesn't lie. This is what I did with my clients' lovely feedback. I internalized it and remembered it in moments when I didn't necessarily feel like I deserved success. Compliments, feedback, sales numbers, positive reviews, repeat business - keep track of these things and revisit them as often as you need to.
- Talk about it! You'll probably come to realize that your mentor or boss felt the same way when they were starting out.
- Just keep going. Keep learning. Keep striving. If you are passionate about what you're doing and if you accept that fact that you can always know more, you will never be a fraud.
Edited much later:
This is a really fun post for me to revisit now. A lot has changed in my own life since I wrote this first post! Much of that has invited my old doubts to come creeping back. I'm a mother now which has given me the ultimate case of imposter syndrome because I truly don't know what I'm doing. And of course this is true for all new parents in our current society! That knowledge, along with the practice I've cultivated of trusting my gut and going with the signs, helps keep the uncertainties at bay. It's this same practice that has allowed me to move to a new city with confidence that I am exactly where I need to be, and that everything is working out in my favour. I feel like I can't go wrong, which makes every open door an opportunity.
If you're feeling imposter syndrome creeping up on you (or if you're fully submerged in it right now), I suggest trying some of the things I mentioned above. Dig deep, do some work, and figure out why you don't feel worthy or capable of your wildest dreams. Then you can start dismantling those old beliefs one by one. Your mindset may not change overnight but everyone has to start somewhere. Have a great week guys!