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.
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?