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If you find yourself frustrated with an (apparent) inability to see projects come to fruition, procrastinating behavior, or an overwhelming sense of inadequacy in the face of others’ accomplishments, you may well be suffering from impostor syndrome (IS).
Unlike chronic illnesses like clinical depression or generalized anxiety disorder, IS is not recognized as a disorder. It is however very common. It is therefore incumbent upon us to correctly identify and understand the symptoms if we are to overcome ISIS.
How best to define impostor syndrome?
The true nature of ISIS is a lack of objectivity, which results in limiting beliefs and self-doubt. IS forces us to compare ourselves to the accomplishments of others and build a narrative that we are not equally worth.
This can, of course, work in the opposite direction, with an unrealistic assessment of one’s abilities resulting in arrogance and unrealistic goals. This is called the Dunning-Kruger effect and is also undesirable with the added kick that sufferers lack the humility to realize they have a problem that needs to be addressed. But chances are: if you’re reading this, it’s not you.
If you find yourself in situations, especially business opportunities, where you self-deprecate to avoid feeling like you don’t belong and feel like someone is inevitably going to find out about your shortcomings, you’re probably suffering from IS.
Related: Real Imposters Don’t Know Imposter Syndrome. Here’s what that means for you.
How to overcome impostor syndrome?
I can’t stress this enough: don’t judge yourself for having impostor syndrome. If the above definition of SI triggers some degree of recognition in you, and you think you’ve probably sabotaged opportunities in the past, try to keep your mind from diving into this maze of blame rabbits. Thinking about how much you have potentially lost will only make things worse. You will only label the past experience with emotional trauma, causing more self-doubt, overwhelm and inaction in the future.
A great way to avoid clinging to the past is to regularly engage in mindful practices that allow you to focus your attention on the present moment. Meditation is great, but there are others.
Once you can calm these subconscious thoughts by bringing your mind back to the present, you will notice a change in the way you view your future. The present moment is all that is truly “real” after all. You can only make new choices and create new future experiences from now on. The past is over and the present is yet to be determined. Don’t project past mistakes onto your future by focusing on them in the present.
Related: How to Stop Imposter Syndrome From Killing Your Reader
Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Cultivate FOMO
Fear of missing out (or FOMO) is linked to impostor syndrome.
FOMO is very common, and I’m sure you’ve probably experienced it to some degree. For example, FOMO occurs when a contemporary or peer achieves something we want. In our more lucid, objective moments, we might dismiss it as nothing more than jealousy, but it’s more than that.
Very often, we might be justified in feeling the weight of the unfairness of it all. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that life is a zero-sum game. It’s very easy to make the mistake of comparing stage 1 of your journey to stage 45 of someone else’s. The real trump card of someone else’s success should be a celebration of the fact that they’ve provided proof that it’s possible for you, too.
Remember that you are probably a type A person and as such you tend to want things to happen now. What you miss is that the journey to success is a big part of it. Without the context of the journey, the result is unsustainable. This is why about 70% of lottery winners go bankrupt within five years.
You must remember, as you bring your mind back to the present moment, that you are exactly where you are supposed to be right now. When you look back and connect the dots, everything makes sense when it comes to timing. All the victories you have achieved through your hard work and patience would not be what they are without it.
We also see it in relationships. When you put so much emphasis on needing to meet someone and desperately want to find someone to fall in love with, it just doesn’t happen (or worse: you end up with the wrong person, convincing yourself that ‘it suits us). If we just trust that we are on our way and that we will meet the right person when we are ready, it will happen.
I mean, think about it: maybe you want to be on TV. Suppose you wanted to be a presenter or news anchor, what would really happen if, for some reason, someone put the opportunity in front of you right now? If you were rushed through hair and makeup, thrown on set, and told to read the teleprompter, how would you get away with it?
Yeah, I didn’t think so.
You can’t avoid the time it takes to become the person you want to be. These goals you have for yourself are, by their very nature, to be realized in the future. Trust this and take comfort – you are on the right track. Opportunities will come when you’re ready for them, so stay the course. Remember: There will be those who will look at where you are on your journey and feel the same way you do about others. Try to see things happening to you, the same way you would when looking back.
You have to see your life in the context of time. Instead of looking at others or worrying about your worth, bring yourself back to the present and remember that you are exactly where you are meant to be on your journey. Seek counsel with others out of a desire to understand the big picture and your place in it.
Related: 10 Successful Leaders Share Their Struggles With Impostor Syndrome & How To Overcome It