imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome.

It’s part of the human condition.

In small doses.

When we are doing something new, something for the first time, or something especially daunting.

It’s normal. In moderation.

It’s based on our lack of confidence or experience combined with a belief that we should know more than we do or should already be able to do something…and a fear that we will be discovered. Our secret will get out. We aren’t perfect. We aren’t experts. There might be something we don’t know.  And if they find out, well, then something terrible will happen. Maybe we’ll be embarrassed (shudder)or shunned (now that does suck!) or fired or some other consequence that our imagination concocts as a punishment for daring to … having the audacity to… having the nerve to… learn. Branch out. Try new things.

It’s normal.

Except when it’s not, of course. Then it’s anxiety.

Even though it’s normal, it’s not always a good thing.

Too much imposter syndrome can lead to

  • Perfectionism (unrealistic expectations)
  • Burnout (working too much or too hard to compensate)
  • Dead-end career (becoming risk-averse and afraid to take on new challenges)
  • Lack of creativity (too much time spent in fear and self-doubt)
  • Isolation (afraid to collaborate or ask for help because you might be ‘found out’)

But most of all, it’s a form of self-sabotage and it feels like crap.

So what can we do?

Stop and breathe. It’s just an emotion. Admit we’re nervous. Admit we care about what we’re doing and what people think, and that’s why we’re anxious. But it’s just an emotion, not truth, and it will pass. Let it.

Don’t feed the gremlin. Look for evidence that proves that you actually can handle whatever it is. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask questions. Maybe you’re not an expert on this one thing. But you know what? You have a whole lifetime of evidence that proves that you know how to learn new things. You know how to figure things out.

Don’t keep up the pretense. Ask questions. Admit what you don’t know. Commit to finding out. Collaborate. Ask for help. Do THAT with confidence, and you won’t be an imposter.

By the way, everyone is on a learning journey. No one came into this world knowing what they know now. In fact, no one came into this world knowing how to do anything except eat, shit and cry. Every other thing had to be learned. Taught. Everything. So give yourself a break. Imposter syndrome is just like worry. It’s your amygdala trying to protect you from danger. It pretends to be doing something. It pretends to be useful. But it’s not. So hey, maybe it’s the real imposter?

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love, and light in the pages,

Maggie

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