Imposter Syndrome plagues everyone from fresh-faced professionals to seasoned veterans.
It’s the fear that visits often, the fear that one day people will find out that you’re a fraud, a sham, someone whose greatest accomplishment was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. And since 70% of people experience it at some point in their lives, I’m willing to bet this already sounds familiar to you.
Grad students feel it on their first day of class.
Freelancers feel it whenever they win over a new client.
Even famous celebrities and accomplished artists wake up some mornings thinking that everything they’ve done up until that moment was a fluke.
Imposter Syndrome is when external factors — like luck — get all the credit for your accomplishments because you refuse to internalize your success. It makes you lose faith in who you say you are and what you say you can do.
We find ways to rationalize our wins as moments of serendipitous chaos and dismiss our contributions to our own success.
Holy shit is it scary when we expect ourselves to top the things we consider flukes.
It’s not easy to define one’s success in terms of an ever-rising bar, to believe that the only way for you to “succeed” is to surpass every triumph that came before.
Imposter Syndrome seems to thrive between the fear of heights and the fear of ceilings—of how far we might fall and how far we can climb until we’re unable to go any higher.
Understanding the Imposter in You
Owning an accomplishment means you’re obligated to do it again, to do it better. Anything less than better seems like failure.
That’s why Imposter Syndrome is often considered the mindset of the over-achiever, somebody who doesn’t think they deserve the good in “good enough”. It can take the wind out of your sales if you’re not mindful, but it can fuel your ambitions if you are.
It’s a matter of how you perceive yourself compared to the person you want to be or believe you should be. The gaping distance you create between a critical self-image and your ideal self is what results in the impression that you are an imposter whose mask is slowly sliding off.
But I believe that this frame of mind — as hard as it is to shake — can actually spur personal growth by staving off two big success-killers: complacency and cockiness.
After all, how far can anyone really go when they’ve got a big head weighing them down?
I Can Vs. I Can’t (And I hope they don’t find out)
Confidence is a good thing.
It lets you stare down what’s ahead with the knowledge that you can handle it. But in many cases, confidence is born from comfort. And sometimes to grow you need to spend a lot of time being uncomfortable, knowing that time and exposure are the only things that will make you comfortable again.
But even then, you’re going to rediscover doubt whenever you view your success in retrospect and attempt to project it onto an uncertain future.
I can recall countless times I’ve faced a blank page and thought to myself, “Well, Braveen. This is it. This is the one that outs you as a poser.”
There have been projects that have made me want to abandon my claim as a “writer” — before I even started. But those feelings fade when I finally allow the work to distract me from my doubts.
Yet I can look back at what I’ve done, what others have said, and any recognition I may have “won”, and I can almost always find a way to explain it away.
“They were just being nice. It was a one-time fluke. Someone else did all the work. It’s not a big deal.”
These timely thoughts kill off cockiness, and imposter syndrome thus becomes our ego’s best defence against itself. That discomfort we feel? It’s a necessary displeasure when success has been known to cannibalize itself.
Nothing stunts your growth like the belief that you don’t need it anymore.
Comparison is what kills us
I think a large part of why we might be hesitant to acknowledge our own success — as ridiculous as that sounds — is that we believe everyone who matters (including the person we want to be) is miles above us, however far we climb. And every instance of success has the scary potential to be our dreaded ceiling, to draw the line that tells us this is as far as we go.
Comparison is what kills us in a world full of people who hide their flaws. Being all too intimate with your own shortcomings, you’re already at a disadvantage when you size yourself up against others.
The truth is most folks feel this way, uncertain of what they’re doing or what they’re capable of. A lot of people fake it ’til they make it. And everyone’s got room to grow. So it’s better to embrace imposter syndrome for what it makes you: a dreamer chasing a moving target.
This post was originally published on braveenkumar.com