The imposter syndrome. That name alone makes us shudder, and yet we know the very real affects. Feeling like an imposter shoves us to the shadows. It prevents our best work. It forces us to live in the fear of "being found out" and as being less than people think we are.
Any of us can feel like a poser at any given moment.
The first time I realized how powerful (and ludicrous) the syndrome can be was while reading an issue of O magazine. Yes, Oprah's magazine. Yes, a guy reading "O."
In the issue, Meryl Streep shared that she was afraid people would find out she really could not act. That seems impossible given that she has been nominated for 409 awards and won 157 times. Three of which were Academy Awards. That did not stop her from being afraid.
Since Meryl Streep struggles, then the struggle is real and almost all of us face it.
Most of the time an article leans toward why we are just fooling ourselves and there is no imposter at all. Perhaps we are told that we are much better than we imagine ourselves to be. This time let us look at the legitimate side of the imposter syndrome and how we can overcome it.
1. Problem-free perspective.
The reason we often feel like imposters is because we know the real us compared to the perspective of others. Honestly, part of that is our fault. We have shown the world the best us. We have opened the door to a precise part of our life that we want people to see. They believe that is the complete picture of who we are.
When we write, or speak, or do interviews we come across as problem-free. I can guarantee that every interview I have been on about productivity makes it sound like I'm superhuman and never procrastinate and I'm never lazy.
That is so untrue, but that is what people hear because it is what I let them hear. No wonder I feel like a fake (imposter) afterwards.
Fix: Tell the truth. Share the problems with the principles. "Yes, I am productive early in the day, but once noon hits I'm pretty worthless until the next morning."
Related: 5 Easy Ways to Gain Perspective
2. Suffering with a smile.
Even when we open up about our issues or tales of hardships we come across as having it together. A friend of mine recently shared with his audience about going broke and how he almost lost his family because of it.
Later we talked about him opening up like that. "You know, Jon," I began, "You probably feel that you really told some secrets, but you came across so cool about it that it felt like it didn't really affect you. You almost lost your family and it sounded more like missing a deal at a furniture store."
Jon then admitted that he always feels like he is not completely open because he is afraid people will think less of him. He doesn't want to crush their perception, so the imposter sneaks in.
Fix: Feel the emotion. When we share tough times, it is okay to be vulnerable. It is fine to cry or to openly say, "Here's how I blew it." However, every little detail is not everyone's business, and just because you hold some elements back does not mean you're being fake.
3. Super syndrome.
Through no fault of our own, some people are going to elevate us regardless. They see us as having a perfect life or having it all together.
Robert Downey, Jr. was interviewed by The Cambridge Union. He mentioned that his life can be pretty crazy at times. Like shooting a movie all day and then immediately getting into a helicopter and being flown to a talk show. Anyone who hears that or sees an entertainment show depicting that might think RDJ really is Iron Man.
Then he was asked what it was like at home. He gave his boyish smile, "Well, when I walk in everyone isn't like 'WOW!' It's more like, 'I can't find the cat. You let the cat out. Go outside and find the cat.'"
Fix: Nothing. We cannot control what others think, but we can live in the awareness that sometimes we are a superhero and sometimes we need to go look for the cat.
The best way to beat the imposter syndrome is to fix the areas of struggle. Be honest when sharing. Let your feelings show along with the struggles. Accept that you are a superhero to some people and there is no reason to prove them wrong.
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