You Are Not an Imposter!
By Lisa Iannucci, Senior Editor
I recently assumed increased hours and responsibilities at one of my part-time jobs–reason to celebrate, right? But after sitting down at my desk on day one of my new schedule, I felt nothing but dread. Reading through my email and daily schedule, I immediately felt my head spinning. What was I doing here? How was I going to complete my daily task list on such limited work hours? Where was I supposed to start?
After taking a couple minutes to gather my thoughts, I realized I was suffering from what experts call Imposter Syndrome. According to Kim Dority of Infonista, Imposter Syndrome is “the sense that you’ve been promoted beyond your abilities, that you’re in over your head, that through some combination of luck and others’ misperceptions, you’ve landed in a position for which your skills are wildly inadequate.”
And women are far more likely to fall prey to this syndrome than men – bad news for the female-dominated field of information science. A 2013 study titled “Connecting Gender and Mental Health to Imposter Phenomenon Feelings” asserts that women are “significantly more likely to report impostor beliefs than men.”
Fortunately, Rebecca Healy of U.S. News & World Report has come to the rescue with six strategies to help you manage feelings of Imposter Syndrome:.
- Write it out. We understand and make sense of our lives when we get outside of our own heads. To do that, try to write out what you’re feeling—what annoys or scares you about your situation? You don’t need to be eloquent. In fact, you could just keep writing, “I don’t know,” over and over. The point is to break the circle of negative thoughts in your head.
- Make a list of good things. Try keeping a list of your ongoing accomplishments throughout the year, and every year. When you’re feeling down, use your list to take a ride back in history and remember all you did. What may have seemed like no big deal at the time often becomes impressive with a bit of perspective and time. Find strength in the fact that you’re the same person today as you were when you did all those positive things. Then celebrate.
- Take action. Often we feel stress because we are in avoidance mode. You procrastinate a project, or delay making that important phone call. Leaving things for later only aggravates your feelings of incompetence. Deal with issues head on, and cross items off your to-do list. You’ll discover a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that will ease the voices in your head saying you’re not good enough.
- Become a mentor. When you help others in their own career paths, you’ll realize how familiar your concerns are. Empathy is a powerful healer. Providing strategies to help others overcome their fears will put your own in perspective and will allow you to be more realistic and friendly toward your insecurities. Not to mention that sharing your success with others will reinforce the validity of your accomplishments. No longer will you feel that “luck” got you that promotion, but that you deserved it on your own merit.
- Find supporters. Not only is it important for you to help others, but you have to realize it’s OK for you to ask for help. Surround yourself with people that recognize your brilliance and can remind you when you forget. Often there is no one harder on you than yourself, and you need friends and family to tell you it’s OK to be gentle too. Supporters will give you confidence, even when you don’t feel like you deserve it.
- Understand the why. Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent among high performers, and even more frustrating, the more you succeed, the worse it becomes. Understand that as your career progresses, it becomes more likely that your internal doubt will flair up. You’ll feel there is more to lose, and longer to fall if you fail. As uncomfortable as these feelings are, take a breath, and recognize that what you’re experiencing is completely normal, and you’re not alone.
According to Healy, the most important thing to remember is that contrary to what you might believe, there is no one out there waiting for you to fail. It’s fine to be anxious, but don’t let those feelings diminish your self-confidence. Now, on to that task list!