Many people are affected by impostor syndrome. This is when you don’t feel you’re good enough or worthy of praise, even if it’s warranted. In fact, I was quite shocked to learn that a lot of creators I know suffer from this form of anxiety.
And in reality, it’s a debilitating problem that has an overall impact on your life. I’m talking about everything from the career you choose to asking someone out on a date.
How Impostor Syndrome Affects My Work
When you feel impostor syndrome at work, it affects how you perform. In my case, it changes the content I create and dictates whether I hit the publish button on a new blog post your YouTube video.
And even though there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, I still find it difficult sometimes to consider myself a success.
Harder to Convince Myself of Good Content
When I look at a blog post or edit a video, I’m constantly scrutinizing. Many times I convince myself the content just isn’t good enough and it winds up getting deleted.
I cannot count the number of times I’ve started a novel and trashed it halfway through.
When dealing with impostor syndrome, it’s exceptionally difficult to view what you create as “good.” And although I have made leaps and strides in this area recently, it’s still an ongoing debate with myself.
Too Much of a Perfectionist
Being a perfectionist kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above point. I want everything to be as perfect as humanly possible, which really never happens. I’ll still dwell on the slightest issues with any piece of content.
And most of the time, those who either read or watch don’t even notice. So, I am focusing more on trying to make it perfect for myself.
Perfection is in the eyes of the beholder. Just because you don’t like it or think the content is flawed, doesn’t mean the audience will. In many cases, it’s to the contrary.
Letting Opportunities Pass Me By
I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities over the years simply because I didn’t feel worthy enough. Whether they were work-related or personal, my feelings of inadequacy have made an impact on my life.
And not for the better, in most cases.
I’ve also stayed longer in bad situations because I didn’t feel I was good enough to move on. In the end, it’s my dealings with impostor syndrome that has held me back from achieving various goals I once had.
Golden opportunities don’t show themselves often. If you’re not paying attention, you could miss out on something grand and amazing.
Taking Longer to Achieve Success
Although “success” is a subjective term, impostor syndrome can make it to where it takes longer than necessary to achieve your goals.
For example, it wasn’t until recently that I felt successful enough to really put effort into my side projects. Since doing this, I’ve achieved a lot over the past few months. Looking back, I could have done this a long time ago.
Who knows where I would be today if I had put in the same amount of effort and belief in myself.
A lack of faith in your abilities holds you back from being successful. Instead of making enough money to comfortably pay the bills, you could wind up bringing in a fraction of your potential.
9 Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome
While many of us will have a unique viewpoint on this problem, there are several symptoms that are quite common. In some cases, these can lead to severe impostor syndrome to the point of driving bouts of depression.
I know it’s affected my mental state on more than one occasion.
Some of the most common symptoms of impostor syndrome include:
As odd as it sounds, a lot of people sabotage themselves on a regular basis. This can physically or mentally manifest itself quite easily. And many of you probably don’t even realize you’re doing so.
For example, there are times when I don’t apply to jobs or clients because I don’t think I’m good enough. Before I even get a response from the client, I’ve already sabotaged any success that may have come.
Avoiding or Overdoing Responsibilities
When it comes to responsibilities, those with this disorder will either avoid things altogether or push themselves far above and beyond. I tend to fall on the latter in many instances.
I’ll try to push as far as I can in a task simply because I don’t want the client to believe I am worthless. Others will avoid tasks as they don’t want people to see that they are incapable of doing the job.
Cannot Accept Praises from Anyone
Accepting praise does not come easily to the one suffering from impostor syndrome. We’ll either think you want something, are just being nice, or sometimes even being condescending.
For me, I don’t believe I do anything special. It’s nothing that any other person wouldn’t be able to do. At least, that’s the mindset I have. So when you praise me, I think either your expectations are too low or that you’re just being nice.
Never Accepting Successes You Create
One of the hardest things I come across on a regular basis is accepting when I am successful at something. When I write a story some people love, I knit-pick what’s wrong with it and how I could do better.
For instance, I led my team to boost our visitor traffic by nearly three times in the past year. My leadership skills show pretty well, but I still can’t accept that I am successful. Even when the numbers show otherwise.
Indefinitely Settling on Your Rate of Pay
When you don’t think too highly of yourself, you often run into the problem of merely accepting any pay someone throws your way. Even if you’re clearly worth two to three times more, you don’t feel as though you are.
This means you’re more likely to keep yourself at a lower rate of pay. If you were to realize your potential, you could bargain for a raise and more than likely get one.
Pushing Yourself too Hard
It’s very easy to push yourself beyond your limits when you’re trying to prove to everyone you can do the job. I’ve hurt myself many times doing this, a couple of which should have warranted a ride to the emergency room.
The reason you push so hard is to make sure you’re not labeled a failure. Unfortunately, sometimes pushing too hard ultimately leads to a failing, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Believing that Literally Anyone Can Do Your Job
This is one that I face quite often. I simply don’t think I am anything special and that anyone can do my job. When in reality, I’m told by many that I am somewhat unique.
My recent manager told me several times that she simply couldn’t find anyone who can do what I do. And because of impostor syndrome, I didn’t really believe her.
Having a Fear of Success
I used to think a fear of success was just a term when people didn’t know what was wrong. Nowadays, I can see it happening among those who feel as I do. It’s not necessarily the success we fear, but that someone will figure us for frauds later on.
It’s all about keeping a low profile and going unnoticed.
Another point of this aspect is how we don’t want to set ourselves up for failure.
I was crushed when I had to close the computer center down. And because I don’t want to go through that again, I don’t put in nearly the amount of effort I should.
Severe Lack of Confidence
Those with impostor syndrome often exude a lack of self-confidence. This is because we simply don’t believe we’re as good as others claim. And this lack of confidence leads to a myriad of other issues.
When you lack confidence, you:
- Put in less effort to reach success.
- Assume the answer is always no so you don’t bother asking.
- Believe you’re worth far less than you actually are.
- Have a harder time making connections, friends or even finding a mate.
- Miss out on obvious opportunities because you don’t feel good enough.
And this is just the tip of an incredibly large iceberg. In reality, all of the things associated with impostor syndrome lead to a lack of confidence.
7 Ways to Cope with Impostor Syndrome
Now, I’m not going to say that I followed these tips and instantly turned my life around. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. It takes time and effort if you want to change.
I still have my moments of not feeling that I’m good enough. However, I’ve made leaps and bounds in getting past those feelings.
A big part of what helped me this year was labeling 2020 my, “Year of Effort.” For me, this means putting in more effort this year than I did last. And so far, it’s worked out pretty well.
1. Accepting Praise the Correct Way
When someone praises you, change the way you think. The first step is your response. Back in the day when someone complimented something I did, I would say, “I try.”
Nowadays, I say, “Thank you.”
I know it’s a small step, but it helps me acknowledge the things I accomplish.
I can say from experience this shift in verbiage changes how others interact with me as well. It’s more professional, and I feel as though I am respected more today than I was five years ago.
2. Constant Self-Assurance About Being Successful
OK, so you don’t want to blow smoke in your own face. But, really try to give yourself self-assurance when it’s due. Remember, it’s all about changing your mindset about yourself.
For example, WriterSanctuary.com has broken its visitor record every month since last December. Is it a fluke? Nope. It’s because I put in the effort to cultivate its success. And I reassure myself this fact every day.
Spend more time complimenting yourself when you succeed rather than focusing on the negative. Otherwise, impostor syndrome will constantly hold you back.
3. Don’t Judge Your Own Work
One thing I learned was to never judge my own work. This is especially true when it comes to creative writing. Let the readers provide constructive criticism, learn from the experience, and grow.
I can’t tell you the number of stories I’ve either deleted or thrown away because I thought they sucked. If I would let the readers decide, I may have a few books on the shelf with my name on them by now.
Case in point, I’ve turned in work to clients on Textbroker that I felt was subpar, crappy and disconnected. The client, on the other hand, gave me praise and bonuses. And my first thought was, “Apparently, you like crap.”
Today, I don’t think that way. I turn in the work and let them judge the piece based on my actual skill, not what I think or believe.
4. Know the Correct Way to Accept Criticism
Speaking of criticism, you need to work on how you absorb what others are telling you. This doesn’t mean you have to listen to every troll who crawls out from under the bridge to bash you.
Constructive criticism is when someone gives you a critique while providing details about why they feel the way they do. Haters will call something crap but not provide a comprehensible reason as to why.
And when someone does offer a proper critique, view it as more of a way to fine-tune your skill. It’s a learning lesson from your target audience, whether you’re a writer or a photographer.
There’s always room to improve yourself in EVERY profession.
5. Make a Visual Graph of Your Success
One method I like using to combat impostor syndrome is charting my success. Yes, I am a geek when it comes to spreadsheets and data. What’s great is that I don’t have to make most of them.
I know WriterSanctuary.com is doing great because I can look at the chart from Google Analytics or Jetpack. Each month, the bar goes higher and higher…and that makes me feel great.
My point is having a visual graph of your success helps you “see” the good in what you do. For me, it’s all about charting how many hours I put into working and writing while trying to break previous records.
6. Avoid Dwelling on the Negative
Unfortunately, I still have an issue with dwelling on negative experiences. I’ll pick it apart in my mind while making myself miserable instead of accepting it and moving on.
There is a difference between understanding a situation to learn and stewing over what you could have done differently for days or even weeks.
I’m a believer in nothing being a failure as long as you learn from the experience. But you need to know when to let go after the lesson is learned. There’s no sense in stressing over a situation that you cannot change.
7. Don’t Measure Yourself Against Others
And lastly, don’t measure your success against others. Work to improve yourself over time and you’ll achieve success. The only one you’re in competition with is you.
For instance, my 20-year-old constantly pits his life against mine. He sees the success I am and how much better I did at 20 than he is doing. But what he’s failing to realize is that I worked hard to get where I am. And he was raised in a different situation than I was.
So yes, my life was way different and the success I have today came from 8 years of hard work. He’s only 20 and has a long way to go.
Sometimes I’ll watch my favorite YouTubers and think, “I wish I was that cool.” And that’s the wrong way to think of myself. Instead, I should focus on improving my own channel and interaction for my audience.
The point here is you cannot pit yourself against the success of others. Situations are different across the board.
Focus more on surpassing your own abilities on a day-to-day basis.
You’re Not Alone
A lot more people suffer from impostor syndrome than I realized. And in a weird way, that makes me feel a bit better. There are people out there who I think are simply amazing and are just as bad as I am when it comes to confidence.
So no matter how bad you feel, always remember that there are plenty of people in the world in the same boat. Reach out to some of them, and you may find a kindred spirit. Because you might be influential in making each other feel better overall.
Realize your potential, and move beyond your feelings of doubt and mistrust. Because chances are, you’re far more successful than you might think.