Three Times Impostor Syndrome Sets In (And How to Kick It to the Curb)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Photo by Brooke Lark via Unsplash

Impostor Syndrome: the dry-mouthed, sticky-palmed feeling we get when we feel like we’re faking something. It manifests itself in any or all of the following thoughts: “I don’t deserve to be here,” “I’m out of my league,” and “I can’t, actually, do this.” And it always leads to a lack of confidence and self-esteem.

But you know something? We’re pretty awesome, you and I. And we don’t give ourselves nearly enough credit for all of the amazing accomplishments we are capable of performing. That stops now. Below, I’m breaking down three of the main reasons we struggle with impostor syndrome, and how to kick that feeling to the curb once and for all (because we have way too much potential to be suffocated by it any longer).  

1.    We’ve never done something before.

This is the brand of impostor syndrome that settles in on the first day of a new job, or the first day at a new school, or during some other momentous life transition. “I’ve never done this before!” we think. “Everyone will know I’m just kind of bungling my way through it.”

Kick it to the Curb: Maybe everyone will know you’re figuring it out as you go along. But the awesome part of starting something new is that a) nobody – no reasonable person, anyway – will expect you to do it well right away, and b) you’re allowed to not know what you’re doing when it’s your first time attempting something.

That’s right. You’re allowed to not be a pro just yet. You’ve never done this before, after all! Take some pressure off of yourself and just lean into the learning. Hold your head high, keep your heart open, and seek advice from the people who’ve been through it successfully (soon, you’ll be one of them).  

2. We’ve done something before, but we don’t feel experienced enough yet.

Maybe we did something a long time ago, but we’ve forgotten or fallen out of practice. When I picked up tutoring again this summer after a two-year hiatus, this is how I felt. What if I don’t remember how to do it?

This is also how I feel about admitting I’m a writer. It’s still a title I’m so hesitant to claim for myself. Sure, I blog. And I journal. And once a month, I meet with one of my best friends for a writing workshop. But don’t you have to have published a book to be a “real” writer?

Helloooooo, impostor syndrome.

Kick It to the Curb: We’ve all had similar experiences, but rarely do we remind ourselves of this critical truth: all we have to do to become something is, um, the thing we want to do. If we write, we’re writers. If we sing, we’re singers. If we run, we’re runners. Fill in the blank with your own dream, and practice it today. Stop thinking so much and just be the thing you’ve convinced yourself you aren’t. Soon you’ll prove yourself wrong. :)

3. Someone once told us we couldn’t do it.

This one is the hardest to confront. When someone criticizes our ability, their harsh words cast doubt on our dreams for and opinions of ourselves. And it is so, so easy to let their thoughts become the ones that shape our reality. So when we try again, impostor syndrome gets a neat little foothold in those voices that replay themselves in our heads.  

Kick it to the Curb: Please remember that who you are is not up to the haters. Again, the only requirement for becoming something is that you actually get out there and do the thing you want to do. And – bonus! – the more you do something, the better at it you’ll naturally get.


Now… you got this. I promise.

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