I’m an imposter!
I confess, most of my professional career I’ve felt like a fraud. I get uncomfortable when someone calls me an expert. Anxiety engulfs me whenever I’ve had to prove my professional skills or knowledge to someone because I don’t think I’m good enough — ever. Then a few years ago, while talking to my brother about everyday life and work, he confessed he felt the same way. Talking about it made us realize how silly we both sounded, so we went online to do research and quickly discovered that most people share these feelings about themselves too. It even has a name, the Imposter Syndrome.
It's almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I'm just going, 'Any moment, someone's going to find out I'm a total fraud, and that I don't deserve any of what I've achieved. I can't possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone's expectations of me are.'
According to Steve Errey (The Muse), the Imposter Syndrome is “that stomach-plunging fear that you’ll be revealed as a fraud who has no idea what they’re doing.” That could not ring any truer for me! I’ve always felt like I’m not as skilled as people think I am. Compliments make me uncomfortable because most times, I don’t feel deserving of them. I am acutely aware that I suffer from imposter syndrome, and I recognize behaviors in myself that are related to it. For example, I tend to over-prepare for meetings, I micromanage projects, and I’m a perfectionist in my design work.
What makes matters worse, we live in a world where technology changes in an instant, so it’s hard to feel that you are an “expert” in anything. Plus, we are all connected through social networks where everyone’s picture perfect profile makes them seem like they’ve got everything figured out, which in turn makes it very easy for us to compare ourselves to anyone we think is more talented or accomplished.
So how do we overcome it? To be honest, I’m still battling with it every day. And although it can be debilitating to live with, it has made me a better designer. I push myself harder, and I constantly try to improve my skills.
For those who suffer from Imposter Syndrome too, I’ve put together a short list of ways that may help you conquer it:
Realize that you are not alone.
According to John Gravois (The Chronicle of Higher Education), it is estimated “that about 70 percent of people from all walks of life — men and women — have felt like impostors for at least some part of their careers”.
Try not to focus on your shortcomings or failures.
When you fail, you learn and get better. Instead, focus on your achievements and the value you provide.
Try not to compare yourself with others.
Everyone has their strengths and abilities. Compete with yourself only!
Talk about it.
Discussing it with my brother made us both feel better about ourselves. Writing this article has also been cathartic. I feel like I own up to it now, so while I still don’t consider myself an expert in my field, I don’t feel like I’m hiding it anymore.