It’s a feeling that a lot of people have gotten so used to. Someone will compliment your work or you’ll just be chatting with friends and suddenly you can’t help but think of ways to avoid being caught out. You’re not working undercover or anything like that, but you feel like you’re not being yourself and one day everyone else will realise.
If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome, it feels like you’re pretending to be someone else but no one seems to realise but you. You’re receiving praise for traits or achievements that you don’t think you have or deserve. It can be a thing you grow up with and for others, an event can trigger it. Take me for example- one thing I was always confident about was my writing. My mum loves telling me stories about how since I was little, I’ve always wanted to write stories. The topic may have changed a bit but writing is still my thing.
I ended up studying Journalism, which is one of those subjects where everyone seems to respect the actual job but not the subject. Being told I wasn’t doing a real degree or that I wouldn’t find a job was fun and it definitely didn’t leave me panicking after graduating... I had been job hunting for a while when I finally found the perfect internship. It didn’t need much experience, it was in Hackney (once upon a time I loved East London) and I would get to learn on the job. The only downside was that it wasn’t paid but expenses seemed fair enough if they weren’t looking for experience.
When I got the job, the greatest thing happened: they had changed their minds and wanted to pay me. It felt amazing. But then things quickly went south. Months went by and my bank account didn’t get any fatter, family and friends were getting suspicious and I started getting the runaround. At first I couldn’t believe it, why would they offer to pay me if they didn’t have the means to do it? Then I started to doubt myself; writing was the one thing I could count on being good at, but maybe this happened because I wasn’t as good as they'd hoped. The self-doubt spiralled and I avoided applying for any writing jobs. I didn’t chase the company because I believed it was my fault.
Imposter syndrome is great at making things that aren’t your fault seem like they are. You land a good job or you’re having a great time with friends, you could even just be getting some good grades back but then before you know it, you feel like you don’t belong. There’s no quick fix to getting over it but it is something you can overcome!
Making a wrong decision or making a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a fraud
Making a mistake, especially with something you’re supposed to be good at, can leave you questioning yourself. You get corrected once and suddenly you think well that’s it, you’ve been exposed, they’re going to try and find someone better. As much as we might not like it, mistakes are inevitable, asking for help so you can learn from them is the best way forward but dealing with those negative feelings is the hard part. Mantras never used to be my thing, but reminding yourself of all your great qualities can really lift your mood and stop you from wallowing.
Keep a diary of all your achievements
Whether they’re work related or personal ones, make a daily note of what you've accomplished, and how you did it. You’re making a lot more progress than you think; you just can't see it because imposter syndrome can cloud your success with doubt. Keeping track of everything good happening with my writing has given me back so much confidence. It can feel a bit silly at first, especially when you don’t think you’re making much progress but if you write everything down, it'll be easier to see what's working and how you can move forward.
Ask the people you trust for feedback
Whether it be at work or in your personal life, feeling insecure about a new challenge or a relationship is completely normal. Instead of suffering alone, ask for feedback from people you trust. The people you trust most will only want to see you happy and help you to be your best self. This way you can find out if you have things you could improve on and how!
Talk to someone
One thing I’ve learnt about imposter syndrome is that it can make you feel so fucking alone. Everyone else seems so good at their roles and knows exactly what they’re doing and you feel hopeless. You become so consumed by how you’re feeling that it seems like such a burden just to tell someone else, “I’m struggling and I don’t know what to do". No one has all the answers but it doesn’t mean you can’t turn to someone and tell them honestly how you’re feeling. Whether it be a friend, your family or a professional, talking instead of bottling it all up can make all the difference.