Ever feel like nobody else is as overwhelmed and doubting themselves like a jerk the way you do? 9% to 82% of people experience imposter syndrome. While some experience the symptoms for the short term, others go their whole lives with it.
In this article I’m going to share:
- Why I feel like an imposter
- How I overcome my imposter syndrome (and you can too)
- 7 ways to manage your imposter syndrome
Why I Feel Like an Imposter
Job titles are not as big a deal as we make them out to be. But still, my own job title scared me. Head of Content. I’m heading something…
I am 100% self-taught. And before my current role, I was freelancing. I went from working in social media-focused roles to overseeing all things content. I am no longer on the more public-facing end of content creation. I’m more behind the scenes researching, creating processes, hiring, training, etc.
When you’re used to something because you’re good at it and you finally get an opportunity for your next level of growth, the transition can feel awkward.
About a month ago, it got to a point where I no longer knew if everything was just in my head or if I’m actually letting people down.
Here are some of the things that went through my mind:
- Why does nobody realize yet that I’m stupid?
- Everybody thinks I’m stupid and contribute nothing to this company.
- My boss is so smart, he must hate having to work with me.
- There are at least 500 people better than me who could grow this company faster than what I have contributed
- No matter how much I read, I just keep realizing how dumb I am
The key theme here?
Apparently, I think I’m the village idiot in every👏single👏scenario. Yikes!!!
Maybe you can relate because you constantly question if you’re worthy of something. You look at other people 10, 15, or 25 steps ahead of you in your career. Do you wonder who the hell are you to be attempting to do what you do?
And logically speaking, sure there’s someone out there who could probably bring a higher-level skillset. But you are not selected solely for a skillset. I forget this all the time.
Internal dialogue, especially when I’m growing, can be a major jerk. I think for as long as we challenge ourselves there will be discomfort or else it wouldn’t be a challenge. What’s hard is finding a healthy amount of pressure/stress.
- If I don’t get out of my comfort zone and do the same shit all the time I tend to get comfortable which then becomes boredom and then feelings worthless from staying in the same place.
- If I get 25 steps (for the sake of assigning a number) out of my comfort zone into entirely new territory I might drown in my thoughts and become unproductively anxious/stressed because I have nothing familiar and enjoyable to refer to and build from.
- If I get about 3 to 5 steps out of my comfort zone I have a healthy amount of pressure on me but it’s a pressure that’s also exciting because I’m expanding on an existing foundation.
Although I might not actually be stupid (and you are not your thoughts), sometimes there is a partial truth in there.
This brings me to...
How I overcome my imposter syndrome (and you can too)
There are two buckets I like to dump my imposter syndrome thoughts into:
- Things I can control
- Things I can’t control
I fucking hate the touchy-feely lets-lie-to-ourselves-and-never-think-honestly type of content where everyone is a winner and never accountable for their weaknesses.
I prefer radical honesty with myself so I can make actual progress rather than live in a bubble of idealism to escape my reality. No, I can’t control everything. But there are things I am insecure about that I can do something about.
Here’s a little thought process I’ve come up with that works for me. Take what you want from it. Remember, coping is never one-size-fits-all.
Dealing with things I can control
If I can control it, I find ways to work on it. In this case, imposter syndrome is telling me “hey here’s a weak spot that makes you feel vulnerable AND you can improve upon”. Perspective can take this observation of ourselves from a doomed dead end to the endless potential for growth.
Dealing with things I can’t control
If I can’t control it, I have to make peace with that. And in my specific case, there is so much growth happening at VEED I know at least I’m not the only one riding the self-growth wave. I will have moments where I feel vulnerable and the best I can do is do what I can and have the awareness and empathy for myself to recognize when I can’t do anything.
7 ways to manage your imposter syndrome
How do you actually manage imposter syndrome once you find out what is within your control? Here are 7 things I do (or remind myself) to start fighting my imposter syndrome.
Unfollow things that currently pollute my headspace
I don’t care who said you have to follow X amount of people. I don’t give a fuck about the whole followers to following ratio and doing stuff for optics. People can perceive me however they want. Those who judge me as someone who doesn’t care because I follow less than 80 people on Instagram can do so.
But I know the people in my DMs can FEEL how I care in the thoughtfulness to my responses.
When it comes to how I interact with the online world, I treat it the same way I do with the food I put into my body.
I ask myself:
- is this healthy or is this junk?
- If it’s healthy, do I already have too much of this?
- What do I really want to keep in this metaphorical grocery basket that is my mind AND that I will actually refer back to?
The free flow of information and freedom for anyone to have a platform is a double-edged sword.
Pro: Anyone can have a platform
Con: ANYONE can have a platform
Be selective of the platforms you host in your mind.
Fail faster because mistakes are an ingredient to success
We’re scared of failing sometimes because we don’t want to be inadequate. But failure is a great and necessary teacher that we should embrace if we want to succeed faster.
Accept that growth is supposed to feel hard
If you want to be relatively comfortable you will never challenge yourself. If you want growth you need a challenge. And challenges are...challenging. I question myself all the time. I think most - if not everyone - I learn from and look up to probably feels the same. We just don’t always hear everyone admit to it.
Read a book, watch a video, do things that make you smarter
Because fear of being perceived as stupid is my challenge, I found one thing that makes it better. Learning.
It’s weird because the more you know the more you realize how much you don’t know. So sometimes I feel better and other times it gives me even more anxiety when I read about things I think I should know more of.
But that’s normal.
Based on my conversations with my audience, most of you feel like me. Not good enough. So let’s figure out what we can do to help us get closer to feeling like we are enough (because you are).
Declutter your life of toxic people and unhealthy lifestyle habits
Unfollowing is not just for social media. Boundaries are essential with relationships IRL. This can mean establishing how you operate in certain relationships. Or in extreme situations, it can mean detaching entirely.
I highly suggest reading up about boundaries.
I’m adding in some recommended reading from my blog and a favorite book that’s like therapy for me.
- Blog: Boundaries: The One Thing That Changed My Personal Life & My Career
- Book: How to Do the Work by Dr. Nicole LePera
Now, my personal perspective on life is that everything is connected. This is a holistic view on things. For example, if I were to have a terrible fight with my husband before bed it would probably affect my focus and performance at work the next day.
Or if I eat pasta, pizza, and sugary foods for breakfast and lunch and barely get up from my desk I will be sluggish, overweight, more likely to get body pains, at higher risk for depression, and this will affect me with my performance in other parts of my life. In fact, this example IS from my real-life experience.
At the time of writing this, I have dropped 30 pounds and gained a ton of insight into myself.
I have struggled to find a way of movement and nutrition that works for me but I finally figured out what works for me. The specifics don’t matter because it’s not my place to give you wellness advice.
But the result of me eliminating the unhealthy lifestyle was this:
- I stopped eating grains, processed foods, added sugars, and a few other things. This resulted in no more afternoon energy slumps, especially after lunch. More energy is great for all parts of my life!
- I set a reminder to get up every hour. The hip pain I had is gone now that I have gone from 2,000 to usually 10K steps per day. I am now in a healthy weight range.
- I have a mandatory sunshine requirement every morning. This helps with my body’s circadian rhythm so I get better sleep as well as makes me happy because SUNSHINEEEE!
- I eat and supplement for my energy, immunity and overall health. I have not been sick for the last (approximately) 3 years.
- I stopped kidding myself that my overall health wasn't affecting other parts of my life. I saw and felt how everything I do connected and affected each other like a domino effect.
I live my life first to serve my health needs. Work comes second to that. I refuse to destroy myself in the process and hope to be a leader and role model for others who want to see and believe that being successful AND healthy is possible.
I can’t stand companies that preach people-centric values but are really full of dog shit.
Ask for help if you have a mentor
Asking for help is amazing if you have someone. We’re not all lucky to have a mentor. I certainly didn’t have someone I could ask anything to for a while.
But maybe you have a friend who’s really good at something you’re not, a boss you could communicate more with, or know someone you can pay for their time and help!
If you have these resources in your life, tap into them if possible.
Talk about it so it feels like less of a dirty secret
There are things we all feel but bottle up because we fear judgment. But when we open up, we feel a scary rush followed by the relief of freedom from letting go of your secret.
Talking about my imposter syndrome helps me make sense of things. Who doesn’t blow things up in their head and then says it out loud to realize there’s a clear solution or it’s not so bad after all?
This reminds me of my coming out actually.
I was lucky that on my mom’s side I have an accepting family. In retrospect, I wouldn’t have “come out” because straight people don’t come out. They just are straight just like I’m just attracted to anyone regardless of their gender identity. But I was scared nonetheless. I held on to my sexual orientation as if it was something dirty.
So when I realized I faced imposter syndrome, depression, and other issues in my life I chose to not treat it like something dirty to be ashamed of. I just acknowledge it’s there and see it for what it is.
It’d be a lie if I told you the self-doubt is gone. Our brains are hardwired for survival.
And survival does not like risk. Survival likes knowing your basic needs are met. You don’t always NEED that promotion or new client to survive…but you want it because you have ambition. This is when your brain starts acting like a fool like “woahhhh what do you think you’re doing? You could FAIL!” because you’re risking your comfort.
When you get into one of these anxious states, you feel overwhelmed by so much information. Things feel big, scary, and unachievable. So help yourself by breaking it down. What’s the one thing you can do to get a step or two closer to feeling like you can do this?
In summary, here are 3 things I remind myself of when imposter syndrome hits as I try and do big things:
- You won’t always feel ready or worthy of what you want even after you’ve worked hard for it and gotten it. But this doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it! Be proud of yourself, never get comfortable, and always keep learning to empower yourself with knowledge.
- If you feel down or inadequate, be gentle with yourself. But also objectively dissect if there is any truth to it. And if so, view it as something exciting because you now know the areas you can work on so you feel better about yourself!
- Don’t neglect your personal needs. If you’re a workaholic who struggles with this too remember that if you want to do a good job you have to take care of yourself first. If you don’t then it’s a matter of time before you burn out and become depressed. Respect your office hours, don’t be hard on yourself for saying no (you can’t please everyone), take the mental health day, eat better, move more, do things that make you happy, etc (this is the hardest one for me to be consistent with btw)