Updated: Dec 3, 2019
So. I have always been my own worst critic, as I am sure a lot of us are. Others have always seen more in me than I allow myself to see in me. I have been pushed by those around me to step out and do more and be more, but always seemed to minimize my skills to pursue higher ground. I have the innate ability to minimize almost to a level of non-existence when it comes to my own competence and accolades. I always looked at my successes as strokes of luck, good fortune, or good relationships with folks in the right places. But, why is that? Well, up until about a year ago, I had never heard of the psychological term for this frame of mind. But, now I realize that I have been plagued by Impostor Syndrome.
Impostor Syndrome is defined as the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills. According to Merriam-Webster, "Originally called impostor phenomenon, impostor syndrome, as it's now usually called, is commonly understood as a false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill"(
How many of you reading this have ever fit into this definition? How many of you have ever reached a new level of success or accomplishment, but felt like you didn't rightfully belong there? How many of you have ever thought that you have no idea what you are doing and hope no one realizes that you don't? There is a meme I see often that says "when you lie on your resume, but still get the job" and shows a person or animal that is clearly under qualified for the position. I giggle every time I see this meme, but in reality, this is what impostor syndrome makes us think of ourselves. It makes us discount the value that we have to be successful in the position that we have been chosen for. This has been true for me at times in every avenue of my life, from personal to professional. But, the truth is, we all bring value to the table! We all have a special set of skills or qualities that make us the right fit for whatever position God has called us to fill. I have been fortunate enough to have family, friends, and coworkers who believed in and pushed me, even when I thought they were crazy to think that little old me could be something so great. Through their words of affirmation, I learned a few things that have helped me overcome impostor syndrome and go after what I want in life:
1. Take account of your wins as much as you do your losses. How easy is it for each of us to criticize our "failures"? I mean think about it. If I asked you to list off 10 things that you wish you could take back or change, you would probably have no problem doing so. But, if I asked you to list off 10 times you got it right or built a strength, you would likely have more trouble doing so. Don't give all of your energy to the losses....build on those wins, because they matter so much more. And I have found that it is so empowering to see the value I add written out in black and white for me to appreciate.
2. Stop taking "Ls". So, failures or mistakes will happen, but, they are never for naught. We have to change our minds about taking "Ls". Those things that we consider failures can keep us stuck and in a place where we doubt our abilities to be successful. Instead, take it as a lesson (which is still an L, but you know what I mean). What did it teach you about yourself? About your skill set? How can you improve for the future? What steps will you take to ensure you don't repeat the same thing? I have made way more good impressions by speaking to the lessons I learned than to the losses I took.
3. Stop saying "just". When I would have to update a resume or tell someone about my experience or make myself marketable, I had a tendency to overlook the pretty amazing things that I have done in my life. I would do so by putting a minimizer on it and saying "well, I was just an intern" or "I just did assessments". But, one of my coworkers once called me out on it. She asked if I realize that I sell myself short by minimizing the things that I have done with that one word....just? Regardless of if I have done something one time or a thousand, I have done it and it is of value to who I am and the contribution I can bring to the table.
4. Stop giving credit for who you are and where you are to everyone else. So many times, I have done this by verbalizing and internalizing that the opportunities I have had were because someone who knew me recommended me. In that instance, I am taking away all of the credit from myself and giving it to that person. But, then, I heard a quote that changed my mind about this. It stated "Who you know may get you in the room, but, only who you are will keep you there". WOW! That one statement changed my world. I mean think about it! Yes, someone may have dropped my name in the hat, but they only did that because they saw the value that I could bring to the table. And once I got into position, the recognition didn't stop....it continued and got brighter. Why? Because of who I am and the skills that I possess. Give yourself the credit for what you have accomplished.
5. Never stop learning and growing. Even in the event that you do actually fit the aforementioned meme or that you don't know everything there is to know about the chance life is giving you, what's stopping you from changing that? So, you had at minimum enough to offer to get your foot in the door. Now, what are you going to do with it? Are you going to stand there being a door stopper hoping no one figures you out? Or are you going to do your homework, be a sponge, mess up and learn from it, and become the embodiment of the potential that those around you see in you? The choice is yours, so remember, anyone can learn to be anything, if you just make the effort.
Potential is an amazing thing. It can get us into places and spaces that we never thought possible. But, getting there can be a scary thing if you allow doubt, fear, and negative thinking to win. So, don't! Change your mind about what you bring to the table, because if you didn't have something, you wouldn't even have a seat at it. So, since you now have that seat, make sure you secure it so that you can continue to eat. And if you ever outgrow that table, build your own....
Light and Love....