Who Do I Think I Am?: Navigating Imposter Syndrome

Does it ever feel like you are keeping a really big secret from everyone around you – namely that you actually have no idea what you are doing, and you are just trying to fake it ‘til you make it? Whether you work for yourself, just started a new job, or have been in your career for years or even decades, the feeling that you don’t deserve to be where you are, or that you are not actually good enough to be where you are is incredibly common, especially among women. It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and I’m here to tell you that we’ve all faced it at some point in our lives, many of us face it still, and it’s not something that needs to run your life.

imposter syndrome

If you feel like whatever work you create needs to be absolutely perfect before you submit it, if you need to know everything before you get to work on a project, if you are wary of working with others because they might threaten the quality of your work, or if you assume that success is something that comes naturally and effortlessly, you might have internalized Imposter Syndrome.

It can be challenging to be the self-assured, independent woman that our pets think we are. We’re surrounded by images and reminders that everyone around us is doing so well – social media is the most immediate culprit, as that’s where most of us put our best face forward: “I’m amazing at my job!,” “My wardrobe is impeccable!,” “My home is stylishly decorated!,” “My partner is an actual model!,” “My life is amazing!,”

It’s exhausting.

And it’s receiving messages like this – either via social media, news media, or popular culture – in combination with all of the other societal pressures that women face that can make us feel like we are frauds in comparison.

And to be quite fair, we’re almost set up to fail in this regard. People are far more hesitant to discuss their failures than their successes, so we don’t often hear about them, which can make it seem like those successful people we look up to haven’t struggled like we have. It’s so easy to become consumed by the best of the best without recognizing the journey people take to get where they are, not to mention the fact that those very role models no doubt feel inadequate themselves. Show me a successful woman who says she doesn’t feel insecure or incompetent at times, and I’ll show you a liar.

So how do we handle these feelings? How can you move beyond “I’m not good enough” to “I’m going to crush it”?

Release.

The first step toward changing your mindset is to recognize that those imposter feelings don’t belong to you. You are one of many women who feel this on a regular basis. Release it. Look for reminders around you that you do belong. You are a trusted colleague, you are an ambitious freelancer, you are a dynamic leader. You got to where you are because you have value to offer.

Surround.

Isolation is a breeding ground for insecurity, so surround yourself with people who understand you. If you are going to be successful, you need to be your authentic self, so make sure that you are aligning yourself with people who recognize, appreciate and support the real you. Lots of people are willing to take a chance without being 100% (or even 90%) ready, so if you don’t take that chance, it will be lost. Make sure the people around you will support you when you do take chances.

Celebrate.

Instead of focusing on all the ways that you feel inadequate, take stock of all of your small successes. It’s easy to be blind to the amazing things we’ve accomplished in our lives – we are truly our own worst critics – so it’s important to recognize our talents and victories. This can be a matter of keeping a list of accomplishments you are proud of that you can turn back to when you are feeling like an imposter, or it can simply be a matter of stopping in your tracks and reminding yourself, “I landed this client because I’m a damn good marketing specialist” or “I was asked to lead this subcommittee because I’ve created valuable initiatives in the past.” Toot your own horn, woman.

Mentor.

Providing guidance and advice to others is a great way to remind yourself of your own expertise. Helping other people by sharing your knowledge and experience will not only make you feel good about your contribution to the world, or even just your workplace, but will position you as someone that your colleagues can turn to when they are feeling inadequate or insecure themselves. Remember, you are not the only one feeling this way, and you could very easily be the role model that others are looking up to.

Change.

What is your definition of success? Are you inadvertently setting yourself up to fail because your definition is unattainable, or doesn’t apply to your life and goals? Is success being able to afford a beautiful home and a new car? Is success being able to support yourself by working for a company whose values you feel passionate about? Is success looking back on your week and being proud of how you handled obstacles? Rethink your definition and change it. As cheesy as it sounds, success is truly what you make of it.