It seems like the phrase has been used a lot recently, especially amongst friends moving onto new chapters of their lives and recognizing that they are amongst unfamiliar communities. It is one thing to know it, but it is another to recognize it and to actively work against it and in a world where everyone feels entitled to tell you how you should live your life, it has become important to reflexively identify the force of the imposter syndrome and to cut its annoying tendrils early on.
As usual, here are some useful readings we collected that could be instrumental in your understanding of Imposter Syndrome:
- Five Types of Imposter Syndrome – Fast Company
- Minority Groups and Imposter Syndrome – NY Times
- The Imposter Syndrome Test
Also, this is new for this kind of posts, but this is one of the first themes where I found a good number of graphics on what Imposter Syndrome is. So rather than strictly describe it, here’s an answer to the question of
What is Imposter Syndrome?
It seems like in our highly information-centric world, the ability to know or do everything is seen as a simple skill to possess. The desire to meet these standards of excellence that only extreme outliers have been known to possess drives this obsession with reminding one’s self that they are not good enough. But frequently, these views are unfounded and based on claims that themselves have weak roots in reality.
I found it interesting how the Imposter Syndrome happens in two scenarios frequently: 1) in new environments such as schools or workplaces 2) as a minority in a setting with not much representation. Both of these have dynamics of unfamiliarity and we find comfort in telling ourselves that we do not belong rather than staking our claim. The irony is that most of the times the hard work is already done – you already earned your way to that spot. By the very merit of who you are, an external party has accredited you for being worthy of being in the environment in question. And if you don’t deserve to be there, it should be the signals of the system that make you leave i.e. poor performance reviews and bad grades. If your self-esteem doesn’t give you confidence, the clear signals should. The only exception to this is in scenarios when systems are biased against minority groups e.g. women. In such scenarios, having validation from peers in the industry/ environment is a good supporting signal.
What can we do against Imposter Syndrome?
I was personally also curious about how some people can use Imposter Syndrome as a tool of attack. It is important to recognize how one can help themselves work against Imposter Syndrome and perhaps just as importantly, help others work against it.
The topic of Imposter Syndrome also intersects well with a bunch of other personal development topics. Being honest and open gives you the vulnerability to talk through these issues rather than deal with them yourself. Recognizing your ego can limit you, aids you in understanding that ultimately there are bigger issues worth caring about. Self-care equips you with the skills and understanding to feel strong in dealing with Imposter Syndrome attacks.
I was surprised by how much I had taken for granted my network of peers and mentors in helping me send clear signals along my personal development. In times where I felt uncertain, such as in the army or when I ran my own youth organization, I definitely experienced Imposter Syndrome in conversations with more experienced or established people. But I had to hold my own and be confident by recognizing my self-worth and testing progress against the good-faith opinions of my peers and mentors.
I also use journaling and blogging as a tracker of mistakes and achievements alike. Logging and tracing my personal development has provided me markers that remind me that even when I feel extremely undeserving (or opposedly too cocky but that’s a different theme), I have a personal history to back me up and provide me lessons of instruction. Small victories are huge in pushing people forward on journeys that seem overwhelming or impossible.
Organizations need to be better at sending signals to people within them on why and how they deserve to be where they are. Provide feedback when possible and affirm the qualities that are valued. We need to skip the phase where Imposter Syndrome is vilified and recognize humans struggle in new environments and can use proper onboarding and orientation programs.
It’s one thing to know what Imposter Syndrome is but when one experiences it, it normally takes a good friend or a good head to recognize the phenomenon. The world is incredibly complex and ever so more dependant on people who know how to navigate the knowledge and relationships. Anything that stops you from being your personal best has to be held with scrutiny and given its place in the dump. Don’t rob yourself of your place.