Imposter syndrome. By now you may have heard of it, especially if you suffer from it. Don’t know what it is? Let’s discuss.
The basic premise of Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy. Feeling like your accomplishments are a sham, like you’re lying to everyone or you have everyone fooled, but any moment, ANY MOMENT, people are going to find you out. The consequences following will, of course, be the inevitable spiral to doomed failure from which you will never recover. I may be hyperbolizing that, or adding my own take on it, but that more or less covers it in a nutshell. And no amount of positive reinforcement seems to counteract it, because you simply can not internalize those positive things. You’re like teflon for compliments. And by you, I mean me.
This post is a bit more for therapeutic purposes than anything. If you read it and can relate, then this has been a success. If not, I got some stuff out on paper, and that’s cool too.
This year, I met a truly energetic and positive guy named DJ Waldow, who runs The Social Butterfly Guy and is a fantastic email marketing genius. He’s just fun to chat with and is a ball of positive energy. He also likes to ask questions and poll Facebook friends on various topics. A recent post he wrote led me to this blog post, and inspired me to write about my own version of what it’s like dealing with Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a fickle thing. You can be on top of the world one minute, then be looking to the skies for a meteor to turn you into a crater the next minute. It can simultaneously motivate you to work harder to maintain your facade, yet make you paranoid that the curtain will fall and people will see the wizard for what he is. But if you remember, the real wizard of Oz really wasn’t all that bad. He actually turned out to be a swell guy. Well, Imposter Syndrome sure makes you feel like he’s a fake, a fraud, not worthy of his acclaim. It attacks your wizard with flying monkeys, and they’re hungry.
The most debilitating aspect of this syndrome is the fact that you always think you’re the only one dealing with it. “No one else, surely not anyone who is successful or happy, deals with this,” you say to yourself. That’s the funny thing about depression. It fools you into thinking no one else suffers from it like you do. And let’s call this thing what it is here: Imposter Syndrome stems directly from depression.
I still refuse to say that I suffer from depression. I refuse to let it be true, whether it is or not. I’m “just dealing with some things” or “just not feeling it today.” I fool myself into believing what I call the “If I just” motivator.
- “If I just” get all my bills paid off, the financial freedom will make me happier (that’s simply a lie, let’s be honest).
- “If I just” get rid of these squishy love handles, I’ll have insurmountable confidence (I’m in the best shape of my life right now, insurmountable confidence not included).
- “If I just” get a really cool job, I’ll feel like I’m smart enough (I have a really kickass and respectable job that I totally love. I still question my ability to do it every day. Like, literally question how I got the job. Every. Day.).
The “if I just” is simply another imposter, constantly working against me. The current is never ideal. There’s always the something more I “should” be. But I probably wouldn’t deserve that either, according to the Imposter.
I wish I had some novel gem of knowledge to help others deal with this problem. I wish I could tell you to stop lying to yourself, accept your accomplishments for what they are, believe that you got where you are by your own accord, and that you should internalize compliments you receive. But then, I’d be telling you things you probably already know, but refuse to accept for the same reasons I do. Which really aren’t reasons. They’re just stupid lies you tell yourself. Lies that likely stem from something in your life that you probably don’t want to talk about. But, you gotta.
So that’s the best advice I can give you: talk to someone. A therapist, and really good friend, a family member—talk to them honestly and openly. You may uncover some things that help you realize why you feel like an imposter. You may find a source for that crippling voice. Then you can try to punch it in the face. And it deserves a solid punch to the face. Oh, by the way, I need to take my own advice and go back to talking to someone myself. There were some discoveries made, and it’s probably a good idea to follow up on them. (See how good I am at taking my own advice?)
Also, take notes. Not just about the bad stuff, or the times you hear the Imposter speaking to you. Take note of the good things. Did someone compliment you? Put it on a sticky note and attach it to the mirror. Did someone you respect recommend your work to another person? Remind yourself of that when you’re feeling imposter-y and judging your work as not good enough. Take those moments of validation and hold on to them for times you need them. It’s not bragging, it’s a reminder. It’s validating. And it’s necessary.
You know, it’s kinda funny, the one who is the imposter is actually the one that keeps naysaying. He’s the one that’s wrong, he’s the one no one would like to associate with—but he’s the one with the louder voice most of the time. The imposter is lonely, and wants you to be like him. Don’t be like him. That guy isn’t any fun.
So there you go. Imposter syndrome. Maybe you didn’t have a name for it, but know the feeling. Maybe you already knew about it but didn’t realize how many others deal with it (and there are many, just ask DJ Waldow). Show that imposter who’s boss and keep being the kickass you that you are. Write that down. Right now.
Now go get your social on!