Feeling Like a Fraud?

You know that nagging voice in your head? The one saying things like “Should I be here?” or “Am I even qualified to give this talk?” The one that makes you feel like you’re not worthy, or are on the verge of being “found out” as a fraud?

These thoughts are the symptom of what behavioral scientists call imposter syndrome.  While it’s uncomfortable, and even debilitating at times, it’s entirely normal. In fact, it’s a chance for personal growth, if you look at it the right way.

The next time you feel imposter syndrome creeping in, look it as an opportunity to:

Appreciate your progress.

You got to this place, doing these bigger (and sometimes scary) things because you put yourself out there and you worked hard. Recognize that and give yourself credit for stepping outside your comfort zone. Months ago, you wouldn’t have dreamed of the opportunity in front of you, to give a talk in front of 5,000 sales professionals or write this 200-page media exposé. And while today, you think you aren’t qualified, sit back and appreciate how far you’ve come. You have already triumphed. Celebrate it.

Recognize your individuality.

Your life is not linear, nor is it black and white. Part of imposter syndrome is having this feeling that you should feel a certain level of confidence by this point. And somehow, that feeling has eluded you. But you, like everyone else in the world, are on a unique path. Focus on the big picture. You are improving, progressing, and making moves in the right direction. Accept that everything does not need to be perfect today or any day, and continue carving your path.

Cultivate confidence in making mistakes.

You learn more from your failures than your successes. Cliché, but true. Imposter syndrome is an opportunity to accept, rather than avoid, your shortcomings. Admitting you are not perfect, can help ensure every mistake can be looked at as a building block and not a reason to quit or start over.

Give your passion a boost.

In times fueled by passion for our work, we are committed to doing whatever it takes to get the job done. And when we are focused on doing whatever works, we aren’t consumed by our perceived inadequacies. In that way, passion is an antidote to imposter syndrome.

Grow your community and professional networks.

You are likely associating with unfamiliar (and maybe more experienced) people as a part of your success. What a privilege. But also, an opportunity to feel inferior or “less than.” Remember that wherever you are, you deserve to be. But also, this social discomfort is an opportunity to learn and grow. Why not cultivate your curiosity as a newbie in the space? Or find ways to serve the people you are putting on this pedestal?

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Imposter syndrome is challenging your will to persist. If you can see insecurity as an opportunity and not a burden and find ways to use your discomfort to your advantage. You’ll turn imposter syndrome into an asset for your success.

Matt Eatt