Can You Relate? You Might Be Feeling Imposter Syndrome

by: Danielle Ternyila

What is Imposter Syndrome? Well, according to the dictionary, it’s the persistent inability to believe your success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of your own efforts or skills.

So what’s imposter syndrome? A phenomenon we may struggle with mentally to believe in ourselves, in a sense. We experience extreme feelings of self-doubt and lack of self-worth, or just general confusion in our life or career. It can happen to anyone, and it can be a completely normal feeling. It can be a daunting feeling to go through, but you should never feel alone in this. There are many of us out here who feel the same way, and I hope you can walk away today feeling a little more in control in these doubtful times.

Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Tom Hanks, and Maya Angelou are among some of the biggest names we all know who have had their own experiences with feelings of self doubt and inadequacy. These are people we love to see on screen or who have inspired us, and they too have admitted to feeling like they’re a “swindler” or a “fraud” in their lives. Even Lady Gaga, Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Seth Godin, and Michelle Obama have experienced imposter syndrome, too. Now how is that for company?

What do we know about Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome was first studied in the early 1970s, which is when the lead researchers and psychologists Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes coined the term. Specifically, they studied this phenomenon in 150 high-achieving women who appeared to be more successful than their peers and were having a hard time attributing their success to themselves. They were highly successful and intellectual individuals with PhDs, but they felt like phonies, “imposters”.

Research has since shown that it is much more prevalent among women, men, and children alike today; in fact, roughly 70% of the population experiences this during their lifetime, including some of the greatest minds in history, even Albert Einstein! In fact, this phenomenon is observed most in high-achieving people, and if this is affecting you, then it’s almost a compliment to your intelligence, right?

Imposter syndrome, also sometimes called perceived fraudulence, is a completely valid experience that you may be experiencing if this sounds familiar to you. You may suffer from a lack of confidence or are constantly comparing yourself to others. You may doubt your abilities and accomplishments. This is a mental phenomenon that does not actually define your self worth and successes or failures.

What are the signs or symptoms of Imposter Syndrome?

We attribute our success to external/outside factors; as in, there is some other reason we had achieved a goal, be it a glitch in the hiring process, someone being nice to you/taking pity on you, or just dumb luck.

Imposter syndrome convinces us that “the impossible” is more likely than we are to succeed. It lets us think the worst thing, that we aren’t good enough and all that we have done has never been enough.

We doubt ourselves and our accomplishments. Nothing we do is good enough.

We overwork ourselves and risk burnout trying to make everything perfect because we cannot fail; failure is not an option.

We wonder who we are, what role we play, where we fit in…. We question ourselves and how we got to where we are or this far in our careers.

We turn down or avoid asking for help, even when we need it most because we fear it will show we are not competent or good enough.

We will waste every moment trying to find out everything and understand every little detail until we have all the knowledge on a task, but the task may never get done.

We may achieve big accomplishments and only see what we did wrong; we think it should have been done better, we could have done better, and we didn’t do good enough.

Activist and Actress Emma Watson said, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved. I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am and what everyone’s expectations of me are.

We may struggle with accepting praise and recognition for our efforts and accomplishments.

We may ask ourselves, are we good enough? We may question if we were just in the right place at the right time.

Imposter syndrome can sneak up on us in so many ways, but it all comes back to this negative mindset. How does it change your interpretation of this when you factor in that 7 out of the 10 people you see every day are thinking the same thing? You may be trying so hard to keep cool so no one “catches on” to you, but many of the people you see, even the most confident and successful people, are experiencing the same feelings of doubt in some way.

Ways to Fight Imposter Syndrome

I am a big advocate for seeking mental health help, having a support team of friends or family that you can trust to guide you, and seeing the professionals (a therapist). If you are struggling with Imposter Syndrome, it is OK to ask for help, and you should always do so if you are experiencing severe thoughts of anxiety or depression. However, there are ways you can work on this at home on your own too.

Engage in Positive Self Talk Only

Imposter syndrome is made worse by the negative talk and self doubt, so shining a light on it all does make an impact. Fight the bad thoughts and think about everything you did right. If you begin to think negatively, take a moment to tell yourself a few important things you might sometimes forget (I know I forget sometimes too)

  • Nothing can be perfect, something to never forget
  • Learn from your mistakes and make them positive
  • Forgive yourself every time you need to
  • Talk about it with your “support team”
  • Recall your past successes to challenge the negative thoughts

Celebrate Every Victory, No Matter How Big or Small

I start every morning by making my bed to get goal #1 done right away, as cheesy as that sounds. Every single accomplishment, big or small, is a win. Sometimes it doesn’t feel that way if we always feel like we didn’t do it fast enough, good enough, or the “right way”, but a big part of combatting imposter syndrome comes down to targeting those negative thoughts and shutting them down. Every time you get something done, appreciate it and applaud yourself, no matter what.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

It is so much easier to assume the grass is greener on the other side, but the grass is only green where you water it. Focus on yourself and what you are doing to feel your best, and don’t let your mind start convincing you that someone else is smarter, stronger, or better than you. A major symptom of imposter syndrome is comparison to others, so nip that bad habit in the bud! It’s easy to assume someone else is more capable and knows how to do do it all, but to that, I share a quote from a former first lady, Michelle Obama:

“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

If nothing else, I have just one last piece of advice to share, and it’s the last thing you need to know about imposter syndrome before we part ways today.

Well, unless you join me in my private Facebook empowerment group so we can be friends and connect online!

Take the advice of one of our favorite comedians, Tiny Fey:

“Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”

Comfort Zone or Settling?

by: Danielle Ternyila

We lean on comfort zones far too much. We excuse choosing fear over chasing dreams because it’s “out of our comfort zone.” Enough is enough! This is your safe space where you can feel in control, but the best things happen outside of your comfort zone.

Being in control of your life is so important, but when you choose comfort over adventure or your dreams, this space will not be enough. We were born to grow and change, so we need to do exactly that by doing the hard and scary things. Trying anything new and unknown is scary, but you should be more afraid of not knowing.

Just this time last year I was starting a new job in a new industry and field, and it felt so far out of my comfort zone after 3 solid years at my old company. During the time leading up to my first day, it felt like I was taking the most dangerous risk. What if I’m not good at this? What if this is too much for me? Are they sure they want to hire me? Would I fit in? What if no one likes me?

When you do try to get out of your comfort zone, your mind is going to fight that because it wants to stay in that safe place it knows so well. You’re going to think of all the reasons you shouldn’t leave what you know; even if it’s bad, it’s still familiar.

I had developed a routine and comfort in my old job, and as many bad days as there were, it was still “easy.” I knew what I was doing, my job was safe, and I had experienced enough of the bad to know I could get through it. The new job opportunity offered hope and excitement, and yet the biggest thing I saw was uncertainty.

Whether you’re looking to lose weight, start a new job too, or do something else that is a bit out of reach, you’re looking at an opportunity to get stronger. Getting out of of your comfort zone is actually a lot like learning a new skill; the more you practice, the easier it gets. You grow, you learn, and gain new confidence in yourself.

After a year in my new job, I don’t have any regrets, and all of those thoughts of self-doubt seem so insignificant today. I can’t believe I was so nervous and how much I had to fight that for what seems so easy today; I have a new and bigger comfort zone now, thanks to facing all these fears.

Next time you start feeling doubt that you can do something, just do it anyway. Accept that you can’t know everything, and the best things happen when you break out of your comfort zone. Take the risk and conquer your fears; you’ll be thankful when you do.

Treat Yourself Like You Treat Your Bestie

by: Danielle Ternyila

Do you talk to yourself the same way you talk to your best friend or even your kids? When your bestie is talking about how fat they feels or unsuccessful, you aren’t going to go, “Yeah, and you haven’t even been putting in any effort.” You would tell them how beautiful they really are, how much they inspire you, and you could even rattle off countless compliments…. Imagine how you would feel if you spoke like that to yourself!

We all have our own flaws, our weaknesses, and things we don’t like about ourselves, but you are your biggest critic. What you think may be a flaw, someone else may be truly jealous of or even adore you for it. If there is something you don’t like, talk about what you will do about it instead of what you didn’t. Next time you hear negative thoughts about yourself sinking in, take a moment to think of 3 things you do love.

The same goes for those awkward situations you will internally live over and over again, regretting every way you handled the situation or even just something you said once. If you want to be more confident, you have to exert that energy. Don’t get caught up in the past and focus on the “next time” instead. You learn from every thing you do, so turn it more positive by focusing on the things you did right or will do next time, then remind yourself how great you are, just like you would for your bestie when they’re feeling down!

Remember to talk positive with yourself. It’s all about mindset, and if you talk yourself up, even if it’s just in front of the mirror, in the shower, or in the car, you’re going to feel more positive. Stop judging yourself, critiquing your every decision, and making yourself feel bad. You are perfect, and there is no reason to think otherwise. After all, you’re the only YOU there is in this world; there’s nothing that can compare!

Positive self talk is a game-changer. Do you have any self mantras you share with yourself, or is it new to you? Give it a try, and you won’t regret it.