"The most important day is the day you decide you're good enough for you. It’s the day you set yourself free." – Brittany Josephina, writer and life coach
About This Week's Chat: Feeling Like a Fraud
Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? Do you think that one day, everybody will find out that you're there by mistake? Perhaps you even imagine the time when security escorts you, shamefaced, out of the building.
I want to assure you that you're not alone! "Impostor Syndrome," as it's known, is real for many people, even though they are accomplished, educated, capable and competent.
In fact, I've struggled with it at different times in my career. Sometimes it was so bad that I felt useless and unable to do anything properly. (Did you notice the unhealthy internal dialogue there, using an absolute? I felt unable to do anything properly!)
And, if you think it's only us "regular" people who occasionally feel like impostors, think again. Some very well-known people have talked about feeling "fake," too.
In the Company of "Impostors"
"I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh, they're going to find out now," Maya Angelou, a respected author and poet, once said. "I've run a game on everybody and they're going to find me out."
Albert Einstein needs no introduction, but even he felt uneasy about the high esteem in which people held his work. "I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler," he commented.
And, actor Mike Myers – best known for his "Austin Powers" and "Shrek" movies – quipped that "at any time I still expect the no-talent police to come and arrest me."
Am I Enough?
If you have Impostor Syndrome, you believe that you don't deserve your success. You feel that you're not as intelligent, creative or talented as other people think you are. In our Twitter poll this week, we wanted to know how people mostly experience this feeling of not "being enough."
A whopping 41 percent of participants voted for "I doubt myself," while 23 percent said that they focus on their mistakes. Click here to view all of the options, and the results.
During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last week we discussed impostor syndrome, feeling inadequate, and being authentic. Here are the questions we asked and some of the responses:
Q1. What does "inadequacy" mean to you?
@KobusNeethInst: Inadequacy might be feeling that you don't have all the answers you think you should have.
@We_MakeItReign: Inadequacy is ultimately a state of mind. Lacking confidence, rendering you unable to deal with certain situations or conquering a certain challenge. Feeling like you aren't good enough. Everyone has the ability to be adequate.
Q2. What situations or tasks cause you to feel inadequate at work?
@TwisterKW: A feeling of not having a voice or not being heard. Sometimes new projects or new partners. Lack of trust. Or a failed project. Sometimes not even a failed project but a failed piece of a project. Hmm. Does resilience fit in here?
@JKatzaman: You feel inadequate at work when you look around and think everyone else does everything better than you.
Q3. When have your feelings of inadequacy caused you to feel like an impostor?
@MicheleDD_MT: Sometimes around male executives. There’s a feeling I get that I just don’t measure up, and that I am not part of their club.
@Midgie_MT: When there have been lots of changes and I am still getting to grips with new ways of doing things. Wonder whether I can actually do it.
@ShereesePubHlth: When I haven't been mindful of my clients' needs or just disengaged, I get caught off guard. This makes me feel like an impostor.
Q4. What can you do to counter feelings of inadequacy/impostor syndrome?
@s_narmadhaa: I think a support group helps here. It's awkward to receive praise when we think we don't deserve it, but with the right team around us, we'll learn to accept it with grace and modesty.
@thevijaymahajan: I meet my standards for adequacy better than I used to, but I’ve also lowered those standards so that they’re meetable. Sometimes the light’s all shining on me; other times I can barely see.
Q5. What does "authenticity" mean to you?
@ELL_experience: Authenticity is when you do what you feel is right, even if you're doing it alone.
@BrainBlenderTec: It means being the same in public as behind closed doors.
Q6. Do you ever feel forced to present a certain image in order to get ahead?
@temekoruns: Image and perception go hand in hand. If your image is not intact professionally, it is perceived you are out of your league.
@TwinkleTutoring: Yes! It is diminishing though! I’m learning that being me, my authentic self, is actually my USP. And it is a very positive thing. The more I accept me for me, the easier it is to become the person I was aspiring to be!
Q7. Does the phrase "fake it until you make it" resonate with you, or not?
@Yolande_MT: If you fake it and you're caught out before you make it, your career might take a huge knock. Don't fake it. Crawl, then walk, then run.
@JusChas: It disappoints me knowing how many people do this. You are taking away an opportunity that someone else deserves more than you due to their experience and expertise in matters.
Q8. Can you ever be anything but authentic?
@sittingpretty61: Being authentic does not mean indulging oneself in all your impulses and to hell with all others. It demands you hold yourself accountable and human despite the impulse to disregard cooperating and communicating with others in a meaningful way.
@harrisonia: Yes. Sometimes the way we were raised and the type of communication allowed, we may not have shown our true selves because it would not have been accepted by family members or others close to us.
Q9. How do you think others see you? And does it matter?
@PG_pmp: Yes, being human it matters…
@SaifuRizvi: It does matter if you know inside your heart that their perception about me is right!
@Ganesh_Sabari: What others think about me is none of my business. I am what I am. I am who I am! When you tell me who I am, you are indirectly and factually telling me who you are!
Q10. What can you do to help yourself and others feel "enough"/adequate?
@jeremypmurphy: Step back/reflect on how many people depend upon us for help/support. Then think of how many each of us could help at full capacity. Touch others with inspiration/positivity daily. Give selflessly without counting the cost. Be strong. We believe in you! Do you?
@temekoruns: Inadequacy can be remedied by, a) not comparing your life to others, b) using strengths more, c) being around those who empower.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.
Ideally, everybody in a workplace would feel that they're "enough." To help them feel adequate, they must be able to reach their potential. How do you feel your leaders can best help you unleash your potential? Click here to cast your vote in our poll.
In the meantime, here are some resources that will help you to learn more about overcoming feelings of inadequacy:
Members of the Mind Tools Club can also access the full versions of the following resources: