We’ve all experienced self-doubt at some point in our lives. For the most part, self-doubt is normal and even healthy. After a certain point though, self-doubt can cause you to sabotage yourself and leave you unable to achieve the things you’ve set out to. For some, these feelings of self-doubt manifest themselves in the form of imposter syndrome which is when a person doubts their accomplishments and has an internalized fear of being a “fraud.” According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of people suffer from the feeling of being a fraud.
No one is exempt from these feelings. One very famous example is actress and Harvard graduate Natalie Portman who shared her experience of imposter syndrome with the 2015 graduating class of Harvard in a commencement speech. “Today I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999,” Portman said. “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”
Even with imposter syndrome being wide-spread, there are some help reminders that people who suffer from imposter syndrome can use in order to overcome this self-doubt or at the very least reframe it so that it is productive.
Fear is a good sign
When we deal with imposter syndrome, what we’re really dealing with is fear. Fear of inadequacy, fear of inability, and fear of failure. While fear is scary (that’s the point), it doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, fear is often a good a sign because it means that you are invested in the outcome and that you acknowledge the risk. If there was no risk, you wouldn’t be afraid. Likewise, if there was no risk, there would be no reward.
As I was floating in the air, I had a revelation. I decided that anything worth doing was bound to be a little scary.
Founder of Eat Your Career Chrissy Scivicque says that “whenever you’re chasing after something you want — and I mean REALLY want, with all of your heart and soul — fear will inevitably take hold. Where there is great possibility for joy, there is also great possibility for disappointment. Fear is simply your brain’s way of warning you not to get too excited about the reward without remembering the risk.”
A few months ago, I stood in the summer heat of Colombia on top of a hill that overlooked the beautiful city of Medellin. I could feel the swift tapping of my heart. I looked at the group gathered around me — an Irishman and two beautiful British women. We were all here for the same thing — we were going to jump out of the sky. Paragliding to be exact. As I was floating in the air, I had a revelation. I decided that anything worth doing was bound to be a little scary. Now, I am strangely comforted when I am afraid ahead of a big event and new decision. It means that it matters.
You are responsible for your own success
Often people dealing with imposter syndrome find themselves seeking validation from others around them. We find ourselves looking for some way to absolve the doubt that plagues us. The problem is that we will always be responsible for our success. Other people can’t tell you what you can or can’t do — only you know that. Sure, people can encourage or discourage you but when at the end of the day, it’s going to be you who put the boots to the ground and does the work. If you allow the doubt to consume you into inaction, you will ultimately be the one held responsible.
Luckily there was some part of me that knew that if they were wrong and I missed my shot, it would be me who had to live with the consequences.
Founder of Roots of Abundance says, “the deceptively simple and yet obvious thing about success is that it starts and ends with you. You know this, but sometimes it can be so very difficult to actually live as if you know it. Living as if you know it means understanding and accepting this bottom line truth: Success is always about personal responsibility.”
There have been several big decisions in my life when others told me to wait, to be still, or not to act. Luckily there was some part of me that knew that if they were wrong and I missed my shot, it would be me who had to live with the consequences.
“Living as if you know it means understanding and accepting this bottom line truth: Success is always about personal responsibility.”
You never regret being true to yourself
We should be proud and authentic and let the world see the full version of us. After all, uniqueness is a gift worth sharing.
When we give into imposter syndrome, we give in to flawed logic that says that you can’t possibly be as good as everyone believes you are. This logic leads to a constant fear of being exposed. It leads us to dampen ourselves and our talents for fear of seeming incompetent. This is the opposite of what we should be doing. We should be proud and authentic and let the world see the full version of us. After all, uniqueness is a gift worth sharing.
Author and motivational speaker Tejal Patel says “Authentic people don’t allow their fears to prevent them being themselves. If you are focused on being true to yourself in every moment, you are less concerned about the potential for rejection from others. Nothing is more liberating than being yourself as fully as you know how.”
“When you have nothing to hide and you can freely be yourself with everyone, there is a profound peace and confidence you will exude to the world.”
We all have some regrets but one thing you never regret is being true to yourself and acting in a way that truly aligns with your values and beliefs. These are the moment where we are at our best. As Patel says, “Being authentic is a daily practice. It is a moment by moment choice of embracing your truth and being fearless enough to share it with the world. When you have nothing to hide and you can freely be yourself with everyone, there is a profound peace and confidence you will exude to the world.”