Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome

Tackling Imposter Syndrome

I think it is really important that we take a look next at how to tackle imposter syndrome (or battle it or whatever word you want to use). There are a ton of resources out there (and more being put out everyday) about imposter syndrome, why we have it, and how to overcome it. In my mind, in order to overcome imposter syndrome, we have to look first at what some of the reasons may be that we are suffering from it.

What makes us questions our own worth and what we bring to the table?

For me, there are several things that I think contribute to my imposter syndrome, but one of the ones that I think might contribute most is the idea of humility. Not to get too regional about things, but I was born and raised in the South, and that is still where I live. In fact, I live now in the same city where I grew up, the one I said I would never come back to when I left for college (We see how that turned out). What does this have to do with humility? Well, one of the things that you hear constantly in the South, or at least you heard it a lot when I was growing up, is don’t brag. Don’t gloat (unless your football team won), don’t tell everyone your accomplishments (they should speak for themselves), and don’t flaunt your gifts (because it isn’t fair to the people that didn’t get them). These were all things I heard growing up. When you couple that with what the church (mine was Baptist, but I am guessing it goes across most major religions) says about pride and all the wonderful little cartoons (thank you Aesop and Looney Tunes) that talk about not being prideful, I think I can see where the heart of my imposter syndrome lies. Make no mistake, I still think these are good things to teach our children and for us to remember. I just think we have to learn to balance that with gracefully accepting a compliment about something we have done or taking the credit for our amazing work without feeling bad about it.

I feel like we have gotten the concept of confidence confused with arrogance somewhere along the line and, for me, when you couple that with this desire to please people and have humility while doing it we have created imposter syndrome. A point in which not only can we not acknowledge our own accomplishments or “toot our own horn,” but also where we can’t accept the credit others give us without feeling like someone is going to think we are being arrogant and where we are constantly waiting on someone to call us on being a total fraud. We preface things we say with words that automatically downplay our contributions. We put off things because we have to do it perfectly, then get stressed trying to be perfect under the wire.

So how do we fix this? I think the first piece of the puzzle is to acknowledge that we have it. Acknowledging that a constant feeling of not being enough or waiting on the person to figure out you don’t know what you are doing is not right or healthy. Sitting in our offices or classrooms looking around for someone to be in charge isn’t why we are here. For most of us, we have gotten jobs based upon our intelligence and accomplishments. Let’s start by acknowledging that singular piece.

We didn’t get to where we are in a vacuum, and it is wonderful to give credit to those who helped us. However, it is also important to give credit to what we have done as well. The second thing I think we need to do is to talk about it. I can’t begin to tell you how much writing this blog series about imposter syndrome has helped me. It helped just to hear that others were having the same feelings. To know that I wasn’t existing all alone in this crazy world of feeling like a fraud has been so helpful. So step 2, if you are battling it my way, is to find people to talk to that feel the same way and acknowledge that you are not alone in this. I will say that it helps when the people that you find are dealing with this are people that you think highly of and view as well-respected people in their field.

The third thing I think is important is to create your own hype file. I am a sports fan, and I love to watch the hype videos that get put together before a season. They make me feel positive about the direction the team is headed and give me hope for the season, and trust me when I say there hasn’t been much hope for my team in about 20 years. I’m not saying you have to create a cool video, although it isn’t a bad idea at all. In fact, if you have the ability to create a cool hype video, DO IT. I’m going to say create a hype file. A place where you store your accomplishments, the kudos people give you, any certifications you earn, thank you notes, etc. This gives you something to look at when you are feeling particularly bad about whether you deserve or are worthy fo the good things happening in your life.

The last thing I suggest is to flip your thinking. Put a post it somewhere you can see it that says “Why not me” and refer to it when you feel like you can’t possibly be the one that should be doing this. There are a ton of personal mantras that you can adopt to help yourself feel worthy or hype you up, but this single question has helped me more than you can imagine. Instead of constantly trying to figure out why I was chosen for something, having this one question taped to my computer reminds me to get out of my own head and do the job.

I have a good friend that constantly reminds me that I am chosen for things because I am dependable and intelligent. She also suffers from imposter syndrome, and when we talked about it her other thing besides why not me was to remember that when I devalue myself I am devaluing others as well. When she asks me to do something and I constantly ask why me or feel I am not the one to do it, I am also questioning her ability to choose someone for a task. I truly respect her and value her wisdom (and think she is one of the smartest and most capable people on the planet) so turning that why me to why not me allows me to try to see things from her point of view (which is a much more positive thought about myself than what I typically have).

I think that wraps up Imposter Syndrome for the blog. I’m not sure, and it will probably pop up again sometime, but I think I am finished writing about it for now. I have not conquered it, but I am a work in progress. I don’t have all the answers, but I have found some that have worked for me. I am not complete, but I am a work in progress. I am learning to be okay with that. I am learning that I can be proud of myself without being prideful. I am learning that humility is not the same as self-degradation. At the end of the day, I am learning to be a better me without saying the current me is bad or fraudulent. Isn’t that the real purpose of this?

Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome, Inspiration, This is me

Imposter Syndrome Continued

First off, let me just say that I was truly overwhelmed by the response to my post last week about Imposter Syndrome. I was amazed that my post seemed to resonate with so many people, and that so many of the people that I heard from were people that I never expected to feel the same way. Since there was such a response, I have decided to dedicate the next few weeks to taking a deep look at imposter syndrome and how it changes my life.

Let’s start off with actually defining what imposter syndrome looks like. The common characteristics (according to include:

  • Self-Doubt
  • An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
  • Attributing your success to external factors
  • Berating your performance
  • Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
  • Overachieving
  • Sabotaging your own success
  • Setting very challenging goals and feeling disappointed when you fall short

For some people, imposter syndrome serves as motivation to achieve something larger than what they are currently achieving. I happen to have this as one of the ways it manifests. It causes me to work harder than necessary and push harder than I probably should in an effort to keep other people from finding out I am a “fraud” and sets me up that I see the reason that I succeed as the direct result of my extra effort. I ask myself (on a more than regular basis) what gives me the right to be doing the things I am doing. One of the funnier things about this is that I just got my degrees hung in my office after Christmas, and I am continually looking at them for reassurance that I really am qualified to be doing the things I am doing. Doing things well doesn’t even make me think that I am qualified because I keep going back to the only reason that I succeed is because I worked my way or lucked my way into it.

It is said that 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in life, even though it isn’t an officially recognized disorder in the DSM-5, but it appears to show up in multiple different ways. Strangely enough, I can recognize parts of each of these in my own journey.

The first one is called the perfectionist. I definitely fit within this one most of the time. I tend to focus on flaws I see in myself or mistakes that I have made. I am the first to look at something I have done and see the 5 ways I could have done it better. I also tend to set very high goals for myself, even though I go totally off the track towards my goal when I first make a mistake or don’t make the progress that I think I should have made.

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Another “personality” of imposter syndrome is the expert. This manifests by never being satisfied with the level of skill or understanding that I have and continually writing my own expertise and experiences off as not enough. This is one of those spots where I jokingly say I am looking for the adultier adult in the room or looking for the person that is supposed to be teaching the class only to realize that I am the one who is supposed to be teaching and I am the one in the room that is supposed to be the one with the most knowledge or responsibility. It is important to realize that this is very different that just seeking more knowledge. Seeking more knowledge on the topic is something that I feel I should be doing just as a responsible person.

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Another way it shows up is as the “natural genius.” The way this one shows up is that it hits people who are used to succeeding or things coming to them “naturally” but when there is something that they can’t figure out quite as easily or they don’t get quite as fast as they perceive others to be getting it. It often leads to thoughts along the lines of if I was smarter, this would be easier or if I was better, it would come more naturally. The natural genius tends to have a hard time when they don’t succeed at the lofty goal they set on the first try.

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The soloist tends to looks at everything as something that should have been accomplished with no help from anyone else. These people tend to prefer to work alone, and perceive asking for help as a sign of weakness or incompetence, regardless of how much it could benefit them.

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The last one is the superhero. The superhero has an overwhelming need to be the one that does it all. They need to be the “fixer” of anything that has gone wrong and feel compelled to push themselves to work as hard (or harder) than humanly possible. These people (and I am one of them) tend to have a need to feel as if they are indispensable to others, and use that thought process as proof that they have to work harder to get to the same spots as others. They also have a hard time taking a break, can shut down from the smallest pieces of criticism, and think they should be great at everything.

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Like I said, I can see myself in all 5 of these at any given point in my life (or sometimes in my day). I can’t say that it makes it easier to get past this by knowing this is what I am doing, but I am trying to get a little better each day about recognizing what my thoughts about myself are doing to me. I have also started trying to make an effort to at least label which of the 5 types I am in the middle of when things happen. My hope is that drawing awareness to what I am doing and how I am thinking will help me to move beyond those thoughts. That being said, how do you see these “personalities” manifesting in your imposter syndrome? Is it helpful to know about the different types? Next week, I am going to look at ways to cope and start moving beyond imposter syndrome.

Posted in Beating Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? It is a term that I have heard thrown around for a few years, but interestingly enough I never heard it until I started working in higher education. Verywellmind has a great article talking about imposter syndrome, but the definition is basically when a person feels that others view them as more competent than they feel they actually are. I sometimes think of it as when I am looking around for the adultier adult only to realize I am the adult in the room.

I realized recently that I have struggled with this most of my life. More importantly, I realized that I am not the only one that has these thoughts or struggles with feeling “not enough.” Logically, it is crazy to think of having 4 degrees and being in a faculty position at an institution of higher education and still feeling like someone is going to figure out I’m actually not smart. However, logic is no match for insecurity in most situations. I have tried to battle this, but have not made much progress. Instead, I ended up working myself into a frenzy and thinking everything that went wrong was my fault.

I decided a little while ago that I was really going to try to work on this aspect of myself. The first thing I felt like I needed to do was admit that I feel this way to some of the people that I trust most in my life and that I am around the most. I checked that box and then tried to figure out my next step. I decided that I should push myself to do something that was outside of my normal comfort zone that would require a commitment. I decided that I would move forward with the suggestion that David had made about us starting a podcast. Now, you have to remember that I struggle with the thought of anyone being interested in anything I have to say, so this was way outside of my normal reality. Out of that has come our podcast, Perfect Chaos, which you can learn all about at our Perfect Chaos blog. Now, I am to the point that I want the podcast to succeed, but am afraid to step out further with it. I’m not telling you that to promote the podcast, but to illustrate that I still have a long way to go.

I have finally decided to do something I probably should have started with in the beginning. I’m going to do some research. I want to know more about IS so that I can learn better how to deal with the feelings of inadequacy that I struggle with on a constant basis. I want to learn how to take a compliment without feeling like I have to devalue what I have done. The crazy part is, it has taken hearing other people say they feel the same way (people that I deeply respect and feel like have their stuff together) for me to decide that there has to be a way to move past this.

I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can promise that I will try to blog my way through it in the hopes that it will help someone else who feels this same way. Isn’t it crazy how much time we spend telling others that they are enough only to tell ourselves we aren’t enough?