It’s hands-down the most deafening and debilitating disease plaguing us all: Imposter Syndrome. It creeps in and takes us down at the knees.
All our hard work, our accolades, our progress, mean nothing when we’re held hostage in its grip.
Makes you want to go hide in a cave.
Whether you’re high achieving or skating by, we all wrestle with the idea of success. And we wonder if we’ll ever measure up to it.
Most times, in our minds, we’re missing the mark. We’re far from our goals, with little to show for it.
I’ve personally dealt with imposter syndrome all my life and can’t remember a time when I stepped onto a stage and felt deserving. In my mind, I still had yet to earn my right to stand up there.
That was the case as the valedictorian in junior high, as a club president in college, and still today as a published author. I imagined everyone questioning why I was at the mic.
Does it ever go away? Feeling like a fraud, a failure, a fake?
I want to find out, so I’m dedicating a few weeks to studying Imposter Syndrome. I’m committing a series of blog posts to the topic, and I want to be part of freeing people from this trap.
Let’s get started.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Megan Dalla-Camina of Psychology Today says,
“The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Not an actual disorder, the term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, when they found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”
I’ve related to other definitions, too, including believing you’re not living the life you were meant to; like you don’t belong; like you aren’t capable or credible.
But all those considered, I define Imposter Syndrome even more simply: thinking you are not enough.
Thinking you’re not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not special enough.
Not enough for what?
Not enough to carry out your purpose in life.
And this thought falls on every entrepreneur, every employee, every actor, every artist. Every CEO, VP, and director. Every mom, dad and kid.
It doesn’t matter your level of fame and fortune, your rank in industry, or your social class, these deep pangs of lack can steal anyone’s mojo.
And then where does that leave you?
The Dangerous Effects Of Imposter Syndrome
If you live with Imposter Syndrome for too long, it can wreak some serious havoc.
The disease of Imposter Syndrome lies in the mind–so it festers inside out.
It’s rooted in social anxiety—needing to be perceived as perfect, competent and unique.
Because in the end, we want to believe our lives had meaning.
And meaning means influence. We want to influence the masses, make an impact with our message and creativity.
We want to be followed.
And if we ever doubt that we have that influence, that we are living our purpose, our world sinks.
This is the case particularly for those meant to change the world (you know who you are!), or as I like to call them, creators. Those who make something out of nothing, who put their deepest work in the world, are vulnerable to comparison, criticism and complaints. And that’s terrifying for a self-diagnosed “imposter.”
Creators (writers, speakers, artists, makers, tinkerers, hobbyists, designers, etc.) want to be discovered for their creations in thought and art. But at the same time, they fear that they’ll be discovered for their inadequacies and weaknesses—revealed to be a fraud.
So if you feel like a fraud, you won’t go after those opportunities that will put you on blast, that put you in the limelight. Of course not, that would compromise your untarnished rep. (But unfortunately, untarnished is synonymous with unseen.)
Your potential stays hidden behind closed doors.
Thus, the crushing cycle of believing you’re not living out your purpose continues.
If we maintain that we have to be perfect before stepping out in the world with our work, we won’t ever leave the house. Discouragement sets in.
As you can imagine, it’s a constant tug of war emotionally and physically for creators—especially if these creators are also entrepreneurs.
Caution For Creative Entrepreneurs
Creative entrepreneurs face Imposter Syndrome bad.
Why? Because it affects their work in the world.
It can go either way: make you work way too hard to the point of burnout to be seen, heard and noticed.
Or it can lead you to stress, anxiety and depression, where you won’t work at all to be seen, heard or noticed.
Speaking from firsthand experience, Imposter Syndrome is a huge risk for the creative mind because it steals confidence.
Creativity without confidence may mean that masterpiece you’re working on will never get seen by anyone but you.
The fear of not being enough or being a fraud has to contend with that inevitable judgment or criticism you’ll face once your work is on display.
The anxiety from that alone can stop you before you even start.
Ultimately it’s a mental game. If we don’t master our minds over Imposter Syndrome, we’ll always be victim to it.
When you recognize and use the power of your mind, you can conquer Imposter Syndrome.
There’s hope. Stick with me and we’ll continue to look at this mental disease in order to understand it more so we can declutter it from our lives.
In the meantime, take a second to look at yourself in the mirror and pat yourself on your back. You’re magic and the world is waiting for you.
See you next week!