I was out to dinner with some friends and got to talking about our respective businesses. Sherri is a photographer, and a very talented one too! We talked about the frustrations, stressors - and gratification - of owning our own businesses. Sherri is a self-taught photographer and I’m self-taught on all the applications and tools I use to run my businesses. The consequence for both of us is that we feel a bit of a fraud, like we’re faking it to make it! And this, my friends, is Impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Source: Wikipedia
People with impostor syndrome believe that they’re inadequate despite being obviously successful. I read this great article that helped break it down for me and helped me really identify myself. There’s the Perfectionist, who when faced with failure experiences major self-doubt, has trouble delegating due to control-freak tendencies, and even with success, thinks she could have done better. There’s the Superwoman, who is a workaholic that feels the need to constantly push herself to work harder and harder, and views downtime as stressful rather than relaxing. There’s the Natural Genius, who, like the Perfectionist, has high expectations but also the unrealistic notion that she should get it right the first time. She’s also most likely to write herself off as incapable because something doesn’t come easily. There’s the Rugged Individualist who views asking for help as a weakness and needs to do everything herself to prove her worth. And finally, there’s the Expert, which coincidentally is a term that she would never feel comfortable claiming as she has a deep fear that her inexperience or lack of knowledge will be exposed.
Reading these descriptions of the different imposters, I really identified aspects of myself. Personally, like the Superwoman, I feel like I need to be constantly working. Instead of using my downtown to recharge, I feel like I’m wasting time when I could be working, researching or learning a new skill. As a Rugged Individualist, I feel like I need to know everything and do everything myself. It hasn’t been easy for me to ask for help up until very recently (and it’s still so hard!) Having symptoms of The Expert, I think, has limited me from taking decisive action. I never feel like I know enough and can’t be an expert, therefore I shouldn’t share what I do know with others trying to do the same. But connecting with Sherri and expressing this shared feeling made me realize how common these thoughts are. And after writing this, I can’t help but think there must be other women in my circle who feel the same. Do you identify with any of these Imposters? Have you taken any steps to resolve these issues you’d recommend to others who feel the same?
Next week I’ll share some strategies, both personal and professional, to help dispel these beliefs!