Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome
The “natural genius”; if this person has to struggle or work hard to accomplish something; he or she thinks this means they aren’t good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an impostor. These types of imposters set their internal bar impossibly high, just like perfectionists. But natural genius types don’t just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations, they also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they’re not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.
- Not sure if this applies to you?
- Are you used to excelling without much effort?
- Do you have a track record of getting “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in everything you do?
- Were you told frequently as a child that you were the “smart one” in your family or peer group?
- Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own?
- When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?
- Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?
To move past this, try seeing yourself as a work in progress. Accomplishing great things involves lifelong learning and skill-building—for everyone, even the most confident people. Rather than beating yourself up when you don’t reach your impossibly high standards, identify specific, changeable behaviors that you can improve over time.
For example, if you want to have more impact on the job or at school, it’s much more productive to focus on honing your skills than giving up
“Soloists” feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can prove your worth.
Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own?
- “I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you?
- Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?
To combat this, it is important for you to understand that we all need someone. It is not a sign of weakness or incompetence to seek help.
“Supermen” or “superwomen” push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life—at work, as parents, as partners—and may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something. Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst other high achievers, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health, but also their relationships with others.
- Not sure if this applies to you?
- Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work?
- Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?
- Have you left your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside, sacrificed to work?
- Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?
Imposter workaholics are actually addicted to the validation that comes from working, not to the work itself. Start training yourself to veer away from external validation. No one should have more power to make you feel good about yourself than you—even your boss/teachers when they give your project the stamp of approval. On the flip side, learn to take constructive criticism seriously, not personally.
As you become more attuned to internal validation and able to nurture your inner confidence that states you’re competent and skilled, you’ll be able to ease off the gas as you gauge how much work is reasonable.