I frequently feel like an imposter. Yes, sometimes people say I look like Bradley Cooper, and I may have benefited from that delusion on a trip to Hong Kong in a previous life, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about imposter syndrome, that feeling that you are in over your head, that you don’t know nearly as much as you should, and that you are going to be discovered as a fraud and told to pack your bags and get out.
I’m starting work with a new team this week and the sense I “don’t deserve to be here” has come on strong for me. I work with a lot of super-smart people and it’s hard to see all their awesome work and not feel a bit unworthy. Fortunately, these people are also great at helping me see that my feelings are both nonsense and fruitful ground for action.
Here are some things that have helped to keep perspective on imposter syndrome this week.
Imposter syndrome is something everyone feels
Everyone feels like an imposter, even (and maybe especially) people that would call successful. Watch the below for a great example and for a bit about feeling like an imposter in your relationships and how that can breed the strongest marriages/long-term partnerships which I thought was especially poignant:
Feeling like an imposter is a sign that you’re being too hard on yourself
As I’ve been learning breaking the trance of unworthiness, we are pros at beating ourselves up and resisting much of our experience because it feels “bad” or “like something is wrong with us”. Feeling imposter syndrome is a sign that you could benefit from more self-compassion. Check out the following video and the bit about how it feels way better to be a self-critic rather than the person who messed up/is not good enough:
The absence of imposter syndrome is a signal that you might be coasting
If you accept that everyone feels like an imposter, just like everyone feels fear, then you might also think about how the absence of doubt is a sign you aren’t challenging yourself enough. Wait, imposter syndrome is good!? If taken in the right way, yes! One of my colleagues put it perfectly:
“I’ve found that in longer periods when I’ve stopped questioning myself, I’ve switched on auto-pilot mode — which is not necessarily/always a bad thing, but for me is usually a sign that I need to adjust something about the way I work or what I’m doing.”
Finally, just watch this and I guarantee you will feel better:
I’m feeling better about imposter syndrome now even if I can no longer fool people into thinking I’m Bradley Cooper.