You’ve got yourself a nice job at a design firm. People are following you on social media, and some of them even message you when they need creative inspiration.
That’s all great, except you feel like you’re hiding a secret: You’re not really the talented and creative person everyone thinks you are. You’re obviously faking it, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re found out. You cringe when someone praises your work because you think it was a fluke that it went viral.
This kind of thinking is called imposter syndrome, which is a bigger problem these days than ever before. Let’s take a closer look at imposter syndrome, along with tips for dealing with it.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Usually, when you think of successful people, you probably think of them as confident with their abilities. But imposter syndrome is borne of success and affects those who have achieved status.
Those suffering from imposter syndrome may live in fear that they’ll be “found out” and experience feelings of inadequacy despite their professional accomplishments. They often chalk up all of their success to luck or “the universe” doing them a favor.
Imposter syndrome is borne of success and affects those who have achieved status.
If you have these types of thoughts, you’re not alone. Some big-name celebrities have spoken out about their perceived inadequacy, even those who have had long and successful careers.
It’s not a new phenomenon: Imposter syndrome has been researched and written about as far back as 1978. The focus of the early studies was on women, who were thought to be affected by it more than men due to gender roles. But it turns out both genders are equally affected (if not more men.)
While it’s not classified as a mental illness, imposter syndrome does share some attributes with depression or anxiety.
Now that you know a little more about the imposter complex, here are some ways you can deal with it.
Tip 1. Embrace Your Victories
You might have had help from a team to accomplish a goal, but that doesn’t lessen your own success. If you were on a basketball team that won the championship, and you gave it your all on the court, would you refuse to hoist the trophy?
Instead of shooing away people who send praise your way, simply thank them.
You might deflect compliments on your success by reflex. But instead of shooing away people who send praise your way, simply thank them. Avoid the “it wouldn’t have been possible without this other person” narrative. Chances are that without you, the project wouldn’t have worked out the same way.
Tip 2. Don’t Look to Others for Validation
While it’s okay to take the praise of others as a feather in your cap, you shouldn’t consider it a barometer for your abilities. You may be creating amazing work and then feel like it’s a failure because no one patted you on the back.
Sometimes your accomplishments won’t get the level of hype that others do. But that shouldn’t deter you. If you feel like you put in the effort and achieved the goal you set out to do, that should be enough.
Take time to celebrate your victories.
Tip 3. Don’t Overestimate Your Importance
A sense of self-esteem is key to your overall well-being. But when you think of yourself as perfect (an inflated sense of self-importance) or believe you’re usually the most valuable person in the room, you’re only setting yourself up for a letdown.
When you think of yourself as perfect, you’re only setting yourself up for a letdown.
That’s because if you achieve anything less than the standard you’ve set for yourself, you’re going to feel like a fraud. Perfection is unattainable, and even successful people have bumps in their professional road.
Tip 4. Raise the Bar
Your instinct with imposter syndrome might be to lower your standards before someone else notices that you’re not as good as you’re made out to be. However, that behavior’s not doing you any favors. You may become less satisfied with your work if it’s no longer challenging or not benefitting anyone.
Instead of taking on work that you think you can easily do to maintain your image, aim for new heights. If you fail, you’ll know it’s because you reached higher than you ever have before, and it might take a couple of leaps to get there. If you succeed, you won’t feel like an imposter at all.
Try to let go and be easy on yourself.
Tip 5. Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously
You might think you need to be unflappable for people to take you seriously. Like, somehow, if you crack a joke at your own expense, they’ll roll their eyes and not think you’re talented anymore. But nothing could be further from the truth.
The first step in combatting imposter syndrome is recognizing these common shared experiences that make us human. With practice, implementing these tips can help lessen the hold your inner critic has over you. Similarly, you’ll begin to see an improvement in your ability to recognize and own your achievements without an ever-present shadow of self-doubt.