After pushing through your comfort zone, struggling, overcoming obstacles and persisting; you finally arrive. You’ve accomplished something of great significance, something very rewarding and desirable by your measurement; and by many others. By all accounts you should feel fantastic, on top of the world! Instead you have a strange feeling that you don’t belong, that you will be found out and everyone will know that you are a fraud.
It’s called the “imposter syndrome” and you are far from alone in this feeling. The fact is that many well- known successful people from all walks of life have had the same experience. To fully experience the joys and reap the rewards of our successes, we need to find ways to tame the monster whispering in our minds telling us that we aren’t for real. Fortunately there are techniques we can use to slay this beast of negativity.
1. REALIZE WE ARE IN GOOD COMPANY
By finding out that many of us have experienced the same feelings, we normalize the experience and this helps to take away some of the power the imposter syndrome has hold on us. Actress Jodie Foster, upon receiving an Oscar for best actress in “The Accused”, said after that she had fears that someone would come to her home and tell her that she had been awarded the prize by mistake. Author and poet Maya Angelou talked about her fear of being found out even after she had eleven books published. If we look hard enough, we will likely find someone we admire and look up to that had feelings of unworthiness after reaching a pinnacle of success in their lives.
2. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS WITH THOSE YOU KNOW WILL BE SUPPORTIVE
Naming something, talking about it to those you trust and are close to you helps to lessen the grip that this paradigm has over us. Confiding in close people who know you will be supportive and help you come to terms with your perceptions. Often they will share an experience in which they had similar experiences, which will help you realize how common it is and feelings of being all alone with your fears.
3. ASK FOR FEEDBACK ON OUR STRENGTHS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
We are often our own worst enemy and the last ones to recognize and acknowledge ourselves for our strengths and abilities. This often stems from ideas programmed into us that it is wrong to talk about our achievements, lest we are perceived as bragging. Others who we are close to us and want what is best for us are a good source of inspiration and giving us feedback on what we are capable of; how they experience us.
4. MAKE A LIST OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
We often overlook how far we have come in our lives by taking what we have accomplished for granted. When we sit down and seriously go over our lives, we begin to realize we have overcome many obstacles. Place any and many examples of your wins in plain sight so you are reminded of them regularly. Even successes like getting our driver’s license are important. While they don’t seem like a big deal now, they were at the time.
5. RESIST COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS, BUT REMIND YOURSELF HOW FAR YOU’VE COME
Comparing yourself to others is a futile exercise. There will always be people who are ahead of you and behind you. Everyone’s journey is different and yours is uniquely yours. Instead of looking at someone else’s accomplishments, focus on how far you’ve come and strive for continuous improvement over your former self.
6. DON’T TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY
“Do not take yourself too seriously. You will never get out of it alive!” – Elbert Hubbard. Having a great sense of humor and being able to laugh at ourselves, makes everything in life go smoother and easier. It helps keep us from feeling overwhelmed by our achievements and keeps our disappointments in perspective.
7. REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU ARE NOT PERFECT, AND NEITHER IS ANYONE ELSE
People who are perfectionists set themselves up for continuous frustration as they will never able to master this unachievable level. Look at life as a journey, with ups and downs, successes and failures. Remind yourself that even the most successful people have failed in their lives, many of them numerous times. Strive to be gentle with yourself and surround yourself with people who are as well. Consider a ‘failure’ as a learning opportunity and I doubt you’ll repeat the error.