A few months ago, Emma Watson, the fetching actress and model who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film series, announced that she suffered from the Imposter Syndrome. She confessed – “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. It’s weird—sometimes [success] can be incredibly validating, but sometimes it can be incredibly unnerving and throw your balance off a bit, because you’re trying to reconcile how you feel about yourself with how the rest of the world perceives you.”
There are many men and women who suffer from an ‘imposter syndrome’; surprisingly, it tends to inflict females much more than males. Also, the syndrome strikes more people than are willing to admit. The syndrome refers to the feeling of being a fraud and not genuine. It also makes individuals feel that they are not worth much and that they are somehow less qualified than their peers and not deserving of the success that they have achieved. They also feel that if they do not work hard enough as compared to their peers, they will be singled out as bad performers.
Despite always performing well above average, there are some individuals who believe that they are not contributing as much as the others. However, if they receive a compliment or validation from their top management and peers for a job well done, only then do they believe that their hard work has not been in vain. It should also be noted that there are some men and women who may ace a job interview; but once done, they start wondering how they will manage to perform in the new job environment. The doubts and insecurities start to creep up.
However, all is not lost. There are certain techniques and ways that people can adopt to change how they feel about themselves. Determination and self-reflection are key elements of overcoming this syndrome and making you feel that you are worth much more than you think.
Assess your work habits
In case you suspect that you are inflicted with the Imposter Syndrome, you will need to ask yourself two important questions. Firstly, are you working harder than your peers in order to make yourself seem less of a fake? And, secondly, is working harder than everyone else your way of proving to yourself and others that you are worthy? Once you get down to answering these questions about your work ethic, you will be able to decide whether you feel worthy of yourself or not.
Appreciate the validation, internally
When your peers or members of senior management commend you on a job, make sure to internalise the validation received before responding negatively to it. The compliment that you receive should be given the opportunity to sink in. One of the other ways to do this is to ask a trusted employee-friend what your strengths are. This feedback can be a great motivator and a much needed boost of positivity. Make it a point to use the feedback as inspiration to overcome the negative feelings about yourself.
Make trusted friends
The first step to making trusted friends is to understand your key values. Only then should you commit to making allies with people who are like-minded. There may be reasons why you feel inferior around people that surround you on a daily basis. This could be due to the fact that you may be the youngest in the group, you may belong to a different caste or religion or you could be a female worker amongst a group of men. Do not give in to other people’s misconceptions and prejudices; instead, try to find people who have like-minded interests and who appreciate you for who you are. This can help immensely in boosting your morale and self-confidence.
Silence is a big no-no
When you feel inferior, do not allow the feeling to fester. That will not do you any good and will, in fact, cause you to feel worse about yourself. Instead, learn to vocalise your feelings with a close friend, colleague or therapist, basically anyone who would hear you out. You could always express your feelings in a diary by penning them down or record your thoughts and listen to them later. It is always necessary to vent out when the need arises. It is said that one of the main symptoms of the Imposter Syndrome is an individual isolating herself from her peers.
You are the best judge of your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, make sure to self-analyse the qualities that make you special rather than focus on the weaknesses. Write down the list of all your accomplishments and achievements over the years to get a fair idea of how far you have progressed in life. Also keep a tab on your skills and other qualities that make you unique. When you indulge in such an exercise, you will automatically start feeling better about yourself.
Study others objectively
In order to get over this syndrome, you need to start studying the people you interact with on a daily basis from an objective point of view. Look at your peers for who they really are – with their weaknesses, their strengths and their qualities. When you finally learn to see them for who they really are, you will feel less inferior about yourself.
Face your fears
You need to face your fears and find out what you are truly afraid of. Sometimes, what you are really afraid of is just natural and does not merit a strong reaction. All you may be afraid of is the fact that with added responsibility, you may suffer from diminished self-worth because you feel that you are not worth the position. This feeling is completely natural.
Laugh out loud
One of the most effective ways to get over the Imposter Syndrome is to laugh about the situation and yourself. People with this syndrome tend to take life far too seriously and will not laugh or joke at work for fear of a negative perception. Enjoy your life and the work you do in order to truly feel a sense of self-worth. When you do work with a smile on your face, you will tend to produce effective results.
Live life on your terms
When you decide to live the life you want, you will find yourself loving the work you do without feeling the need to question your worth.
I do hope these tips will help those of you who feel that your success has been due more to serendipity than intelligence, diligence and hard work. Embrace your success and don’t allow the Imposter Syndrome to gain an unnecessary upper hand.
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