Recently I've been reading a lot about Impostor Syndrome. The theory of Impostor Syndrome refers to "high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as 'fraud'." (Wikipedia)
It is absolutely fascinating when you think about it. The Wikipedia article goes on to say "Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved." Essentially, it's when we convince ourselves that all of the success we have had is a total fluke, that we don't really have anything going for us and that somebody at some point will find this out and we will be exposed.
And no one is immune. Here's a list of high-profile people who have talked about their struggles with impostor syndrome.
Now the Myers-Briggs addict in me would love to go into a psychology discussion about why we do this to ourselves, but I will let the professionals do that. No one needs me actually being an impostor talking like I have any depth of knowledge on that. I'll try to stay as high-level as I can here.
There are lots of posts with lists of tips for overcoming impostor syndrome, so I don't feel like I really need to do that. You can find those on your own. But maybe this will help you get a different perspective on it, and maybe that will make the ups-and-downs of your work self-image a little less extreme.
There's probably a reason that you're feeling like an impostor. And that reason is probably not because you are one.
More than likely, the reason you feel like an impostor ISN'T because you are ACTUALLY an impostor. It's easy to try to put a band-aid over these impostor feelings with inspirational quotes and sayings, one of my favorites being "reach for the moon, even if you fall short you'll land among the stars!" What does that even mean? Like actually mean? I really don't know. A lot of people will tell you that when you feel like a fraud just remind yourself of all that you've achieved and all the work you've done to get to where you are.
While this kind of thinking may help temporarily, I think it makes us swing toward egomania more than actually dealing with the heart of why we feel this way about ourselves. It's not any better for me to think that I am the greatest thing to have ever walked this planet and that no one could ever possibly do anything better than I could.
So maybe instead of patching up our insecurities with our own achievements, maybe what would really help is to take a long hard look at what our insecurities are and where they're coming from.
Maybe instead, when you're feeling like a fraud, ask yourself "What am I looking to to define my identity?" "Where am I finding my worth and value?"
It's easy, especially as Americans, to let our jobs define who we are. If we find our worth and value in work, then any up or down in work will speak directly to who we are as people. Instead, figure out where you should really be looking for those things, then figure out ways to remind yourself of that when you're feeling unsure about you and your own abilities.
By now you're probably thinking, "wow, that just got deep," and well yes, I guess it did. But I figure if it's something that I am battling then a lot of people out there probably are as well. I don't have all the answers, but I do know that when I am secure in my identity I can realistically look at my strengths and weaknesses without feeling insecure, and I can move forward confidently because, whether I succeed or fail, it doesn't touch my worth and value as a person.
And that, my friends, is quite a relief.