Do you ever feel like you are a fraud and someday everyone is going to figure it out? If you’re like anyone I’ve talked to or read about (including me), at some point, you suffer from the dreaded imposter syndrome. According to psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, the impostor syndrome is a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these people “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.”
“I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” Maya Angelou
Why do we all tend to do this at some point? For me, it comes from my perfectionist tendencies and fear of failure. As I stepped out into a new career and life path, I noticed the imposter syndrome creeping in more than usual the past couple of months. I talk to people all the time with a lot more knowledge in the health and fitness industry than me, and I assume I need to be at their level to thrive in my new career and life path. However, I have to remind myself that this is an absurd way of thinking. These people have been in the industry for decades and there is no way I can have the knowledge they have right now. I will always be learning, no matter what stage of my career I am in.
Never lose the beginner’s mind and always stay open to learning from all the people you meet. There will always be people that know more than us and those that need to learn what we know. Just as these individuals I look up to have the knowledge they can pass on to me, I also have plenty of knowledge that I can pass along to them and others. We must remind ourselves that we have worked to get where we are today through studies and self-experimentation, and the information and knowledge we have can/is helping people and will continue to help more people.
At first, this was very hard for me to realize. But with the help of loved ones, friends, and my coach, I know this is true. If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome yourself, start by acknowledging the fact. You aren’t the only one. Write down your fears and anxieties. Sit down with yourself or talk with someone to figure out where those fears are coming from. It could be from your childhood, as it was with me, or maybe something more recent. Work to reframe your thoughts by taking out the absolutes. You might not know everything but you know a lot. Realize that no matter where you are in your career, you won’t be perfect. None of us are. We will have ups and downs but we need to just keep moving forward. Finally, remember all the things you did to get you where you are today.
No matter what your career is, you will always have people who will find your knowledge and information helpful and will look to you to teach them. There will be people who know as much as you and people who know more than you. However, you can learn from both of these types of people and they can learn from you.” Remember this spectrum of growth and let us all get rid of the imposter in our heads. If you’re still worried about being an imposter, check out this post from author Neil Gaiman on Neil Armstrong having the same thoughts.