I’ve been imposing in a male dominated industry all my career and so it should come as no surprise that imposter syndrome was going to be something I would battle with from time to time. Whilst I’ve been a long time sufferer, I’ve never let it stop me getting to where I wanted to be, at least I would like to think I haven’t (now questioning myself). However, for so many other people I know it can be a crippling feeling that really does stop them moving forward or even worse, have a negative impact on their mental health.
So what is imposter syndrome?
Impostor syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.
Why do we suffer from it? Honestly, I think it comes down to a multitude of factors, personality types, gender stereotypes, social media, social pressure and personal beliefs and attitudes. The one thing we can be pretty sure of is it exists and most people have or will suffer from it in their lifetime.
As someone who tries not to get too hung up on the endless questioning, I’ve always set out on a personal mission to understand how to stop it or at least live with it, so that it doesn’t effect me or my career progression.
One simple step to help you stop suffering from imposter syndrome or even better live with it comfortably.
I recently read the book Green-lights by Mathew McConaughey but to be completely honest, I quickly switched to the audio version once I realised his delightfully soothing voice would be sliding into my ear ways. Expecting some sort of self glorified autobiography, I was pleasantly surprised by his “bumper sticker” quotes from his own life lessons. The man is a genius as well as a talented actor. Trust me.
Mathew offers up a heap of “food for thoughts” but his views on imposter syndrome in particular struck a cord with me. He said:
“Don't create imaginary constraints. A leading role, a blue ribbon, a winning score, a great idea, the love of our life, euphoric bliss, who are we to think we don't deserve these fortunes when they are in our grasp? Who are we to think we haven't earned them?”
We (myself included), for the most, part suffer with anxiety and imposter syndrome when we are faced with a new challenge or most importantly something we perceive the situation we find ourself in to be bigger than us. We often let our thoughts get carried away when faced with the unknown rather than relying on, or taking comfort from, what we have already achieved.
Reading through all the self-help books in the world has seen me try lots of different things to stop the “you don’t belong here” or “they’ll find out soon you’re a fraud” voices that rattle around every now and again. Honestly, the single most simplest of Mathew’s quotes always puts it into prospective for me.
So the next time you find yourself blocking the road ahead with silly questions remember Mathew’s words I know I will be.