Recently I came across this word,” imposter syndrome.” In the past, when I was in high-level meetings or requested to lead a project, a surge of doubts and feelings of being a fraud would cloud my mind. I never thought I was good enough or had the right skills to be in spaces with great minds. I never knew that having such a condition was known as the imposter syndrome.
According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome, impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubt their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
Time and time again we hear, “maybe this is just not for me, or I don’t think I was meant to be here, or these people are just too smart for me, I don’t think I will ever be able to reach their standard.”
Imposter syndrome can be so damaging that one looks down on themselves to a point where one reaches depression and has suicidal thoughts. I would like to share some facts that helped me get out of a place where I felt not good enough and a fraud, to a place where I knew I was meant to be and had all the right to receive great opportunities just like everybody else.
- Break your silence. – The one time I felt my worst was when I attended a conference that had delegates from across the globe, and listening to the kind of work and impact most where doing, made me feel like I was in the wrong place and doing less than what others had done. That comparison can destroy self-confidence. I felt I had less experience, looked down on myself for not knowing a topic well. It was at that moment that I knew I was going down the road of depression. I started talking to a friend who then helped me process my feelings. Breaking that silence is what helped me realize that I was much better than what I felt.
- Self-positive proclamations – through talking to a friend, I realized I talked down on myself a lot, I needed to purposely start thinking and talking good things about myself every day, no matter what time of day it was. “I am enough, I am meant to be here, I deserve it too, I have great accomplishments, I do matter.” You have to believe more in yourself and be ready to do the hard work.
- Take on more challenges – Imposter syndrome can make one miss out on opportunities because they feel they are not for them. I had to start attending more conferences, fellowships, and more work tasks. I accepted that rather than feeling inferior, I could learn a lot from people who know about a topic more than I do and hence research it later to get more information. I did not have to be perfect all the time, I did not need to know it all, all the time.
- Taking each day, a step at a time. You do not need to figure it all out in one day.
- If you are religious, talk to God. I learnt talking to God about my feelings helped me navigate through the negative emotions.