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Imposters Among Us - Recognizing and Working with Imposter Syndrome
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Imposters Among Us

­I have a secret. And this is just between us. Sometimes I feel like an imposter.

Sometimes I feel like all the success I’ve had as a graphic designer and an entrepreneur has all been based on luck, and my luck’s about to run out. The whole world is about to realize how awful I am and my clients will head for the hills.

 

Have you ever felt this way?

 

So these were my thoughts, but the evidence… The evidence painted a very different picture. The evidence showed that my business was growing steadily. I get great feedback and referrals from my clients. And it’s no wonder. I have nine years of experience as a graphic designer. I’ve completed hundreds of design projects. I work hard, I have great instincts, and I’m easy to get along with.

So why did I feel like it was all going to come to a screeching halt?

 

I had a classic case of Imposter Syndrome.

 

Maybe you have heard of Imposter Syndrome. It’s being talked about much more these days, and for good reason. It’s a common experience among highly motivated people. Here’s how psychologists describe it:

Imposter Syndrome is the feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these people “are highly motivated to acheive,” they “live in fear of being found out or exposed as frauds.”

Would you describe yourself as highly motivated to achieve? Of course! And that’s a great quality, except that it means you are highly susceptible to feeling Imposter Syndrome at some point. Maybe you already have.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you feel like fraud, despite the evidence?
  • Are you unable to internalize your successes?
  • Are you afraid of being found out?

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone. Think of the people whose talents you admire. Think of the rockstars in your career field. They probably feel the same way.

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

Author and poet Maya Angelou, Oscar-winner Jodi Foster, comedian Mike Meyers, Roald Dahl, and marketing expert Seth Godin, have all been quoted as feeling like someday they’ll be discovered as talentless fakes.

So why does this happpen? How can clearly talented people feel like phonies? It actually happens because, as highly motivated people, we work really hard to develop our skills and talents. The harder we work, the better we get. And our skills and talents start to feel easier and more natural. Awesome, right? Except if something feels easy, it doesn’t feel valuable.  And if our skills and talents aren’t valuable, then who are we to expect compensation for our work?

Unfortunately, Imposter Syndrome may never go away completely. Whenever I feel Imposter Syndrome, I just want to try harder and learn more, to prove to myself I’m not a phony. But of course, as my skills improve the Imposter Syndrome cycle continues. Take it as a sign that you’re actually on the right track.

But what about when Imposter Syndrome starts to get in the way of you making a major decision, or causes so much doubt that you’re unable to take a big risk?

There are few things you can do to put Imposter Syndrome in its place. Here are my tips:

  1. Collect evidence. There is objective proof that you are awesome. It’s out there. Reflect on your achievements. Revisit your portfolio of work. Review your testimonials, letters of recommendation, or general compliments you’ve received. This is all evidence. I suggest you keep it all in one place so that you can review it whenever you’re about to take a big risk.
  2. Reach out to the people who want you to succeed. When you aren’t able to see your own value, it’s a good idea to check in with the people who do. Allow them to remind you how great you are and that your talents and skills are valuable. And consider taking a temporary or permanent break from people who contribute to your insecurities.
  3. Celebrate your successes. Once you have accomplished something major, it’s so easy to brush it off as no big deal and immediately start focusing on the next goal. You aced that interview. You signed a new client or made a big sale. Sometimes I think, “Well if I did it, it must not be that hard. Anyone could do it.” First of all that’s not true. No one else has your unique talents and second of all, it’s beside the point. You met a goal, you achieved. Take the night off, buy yourself some dinner and champagne. Do whatever you need to do to let your successes really sink in.

So there you have it. If you’ve ever felt like an imposter, you’re not alone. And I hope now that you know what Imposter Syndrome is and why it happens, you can use these tips to boost your confidence and recognize that feeling Imposter Syndrome is actually a sign that you’re on the right track.

Three Tips to Beat Imposter Syndrome

Let me know in the comments:
Have you ever felt Imposter Syndrome?
How did you overcome it?

And for more information about Imposter Syndrome, check these out:

Owning our authority: Tanya Geisler at TEDxIsfeldWomen

Learning to Deal With the Impostor Syndrome by Carl Richards, New York Times

3 Comments on this Post.

  1. I have just landed a fantastic job as a customer car manager . Due to a busy un planned end of year by the company it’s been full on in customer service with complaints.
    Although my friends and family tell me I am up for the challenge I have self doubt which leaves me feeling I am in over my head!!!

  2. This is really interesting. In retrospect, I think this Impostor Syndrome pops up a lot in my friend circle of writers/artists/designers (let alone myself!).

    – Hannah (we chatted at one of Alt Summit’s mini-parties. So nice to meet you!)

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