Ever felt like you don’t belong? Like you don’t really deserve to be where you are? Maybe you feel like people overestimate your abilities or as though you only got where you are due to chance and you could be exposed at any moment?
Whether you feel that way most of the time or just now and again in moments of doubt following a bad day, the good news is…YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
This is commonly described as imposter syndrome and it’s entirely normal to feel that way and entirely possible to overcome those feelings.
The first step to beating it is understanding it
Overcoming imposter syndrome is easier when you understanding it. Imposter syndrome may not be the best name for it as calling it a syndrome implies that it’s far rarer than it actually is. Impostor syndrome is a very common experience. Different studies vary on the number of people affected. One study showed that it impacts two thirds of women in the UK, but that was just focused on the working environment where some people may not be concerned as much by how people view them as other situations. The key thing is, no matter what study you look at it is extremely common.
It is natural to have doubts about our own abilities. Imposter syndrome has been shown to affect all varieties of industry including those getting onto exclusive courses at respected universities and call centre employees.
Where does it come from?
A subconscious desire for survival encourages us to hold ourselves back and keep within our comfort zone where we feel safe and secure. Historically, keeping in line with our role within a tribe is much safer than trying to break free and achieve bigger and better things. So we are programmed for our survival to desire to stay consistent even when that consistency is holding us back from greatness. The problem with staying within our comfort zone means that we are not growing and if we’re not growing much like water that doesn’t flow we stagnate.
Imposter syndrome is partly influenced by that desire to hold ourselves back and tendency to avoid inconsistency.
Why is it a good thing?
If you are experiencing imposter syndrome. If you feel like you’re not deserving of your position or achievements, the chances are this is an indicator that you’re actually doing something right.
Yes, you read that right, it’s good to feel this way, because it often means you are challenging yourself, developing new skills and achieving something more than you would achieve if you stayed within your comfort zone.
When you’re good at what you do it’s easy to undervalue it. When you’re experienced or knowledgeable enough that your work feels relatively easy, it’s easy for that to impact your perception of the value such work holds. It’s easy to assume that everyone can do it and reinforce beliefs that you aren’t as good as others say you are.
If something feels so easy that anyone can do it that’s probably because you’re on your way to mastering it!
If things feel particularly difficult it likely means that you are doing something new, stretching yourself and achieving more than you are used to.
How does this help?
Now that you know that feeling that way is a sign that you’re doing something right, you are able to take a step back when you feel that way. Realise that it’s just one ‘part of your mind’ which is trying to protect you, creating that doubt. By recognising that, it then becomes easier to accept those feelings and embrace the excitement you are no doubt feeling at the same time (which may have been hidden by the fear and doubt).
A different perspective
There are different levels to our psyche which inform how we experience life. On a fairly surface level we have our capabilities, what we are able to do from our experience and skill set. The deepest level is that of our identity (There are levels between but that’s a whole other article). When we feel inadequate it’s often a result of confusion between these levels. Here’s why:
YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
When you think about where you want yourself and your business to be in a year’s time, do you want to be exactly where you are now or do you want to have progressed and moved forward? In order to see yourself moving forward and growing you need to be taking on tasks and challenges that are not yet within your capabilities. This is the very essence of growth. When it comes to your capabilities there is a very good chance that you will regularly find yourself in situations where your skill levels are being pushed and you are stretching yourself. In these situations you are not good enough YET to achieve the results you desire. This is a good thing.
The problem comes when we realise that we are not good enough (yet) on the level of capability and mistakenly equate that to not being good enough on the core identity level. This is an error as we are far more than just our capabilities. Every single human is born worthy. And as babies, we don’t even doubt that. If we want something; food, attention, a clean nappy – we yell out until we get it. We don’t wait and question if we are deserving of it. It’s only as we grow older that many of us somehow ‘learn’ to believe that we are not so deserving and learn to hide away that very real sense of self-worth.
What to do about it
Next time you experience a situation where you feel like you aren’t good enough, stop. Breathe. And smile, knowing that it’s a sign that you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Each time you feel that way and choose to embrace it, it becomes easier to react positively and achieve even more next time.
If you find yourself thinking “I’m not good enough” ask yourself to clarify that. Not good enough AT WHAT and FOR WHAT? When you see it as I’m not good enough at X to achieve Y then you can see what action you need to take to get there, what you need to work on or what help you can find from others to achieve the desired outcome. Remember that it’s a capability thing – it’s not about YOU it’s about your current skill level. Well done for pushing yourself and finding a chance to learn and grow.