Ever win a prize but feel like you didn’t deserve it? Have you justified success by reducing all your preparation and perseverance? You may have what’s known as “Imposter Syndrome.” It’s quite common. Thankfully, there are ways to overcome this self-defeating thought pattern.
WHAT IS “IMPOSTER SYNDROME?”
Imposter syndrome, or “IS,” makes you feel like a phony or a fraud. It happens when you have achieved something – straight As, or entrepreneurial success – but you convince yourself it’s luck rather than your hard work. Perhaps you feel like you will be “found out” by friends and family. Or you feel as if you don’t deserve your accomplishments.
About 70% of people suffer from some form of IS. If you are one of them, read on to learn more about how IS works and how you can destroy those self-defeating thoughts right now.
TYPES OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME
There are 5 identified types of IS. Do any of these traits sound like what goes on inside your brain?
1. The Perfectionist
You set impossibly high expectations for yourself and then beat yourself up when you don’t meet them. Even if you succeed at something, you tell yourself that you could have done a better job. Mistakes are unacceptable to you. You are certain you are the only person who can do things the “right” way and then get upset when you can’t possibly do 100% of the things 100% right 100% of the time.
2. The Superperson
You’re a workaholic. You work so hard that it’s taking a toll on your physical health, your mental health, and your relationships. You feel like you must keep working to “measure up” to some fantasy standard. Lack of accomplishments leaves you stressed out. You are addicted to validation.
3. The Natural Genius
When something doesn’t come easy to you, you feel like a failure. You quit new things if you don’t pick them up right away. You feel shame if you’re used to getting straight As and suddenly get a B. Every obstacle or setback ruins your confidence and even your sense of self. Maybe you avoid challenges because you are too afraid of failure.
4. The Soloist
You don’t need a team, a mentor, a coach, or a teacher. You got this – all by yourself. Asking for help is a sign of weakness or worse, a sign of failure. Not only can you do this all by yourself, but you feel that you should do this all by yourself to prove that you are capable.
5. The Expert
You feel like you never know enough to qualify for this or that programs, or you have enough accomplishments to be good enough. You probably never start projects because you feel like you always need more: more research, more training, more experience. You never feel like you’re an “expert” on anything, even stuff you know like the back of your hand.
HOW TO DESTROY YOUR IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Young entrepreneurs are especially susceptible to IS because you are already a natural achiever. You have all the qualities that entrepreneurship needs. You’re energized, you have great ideas, and you are driven. So why isn’t that enough?
Yet you probably nodded your head to one or more of the above descriptions, didn’t you?
Thankfully, there are steps you can take right this minute to start combating IS.
1. Acknowledge the thoughts. When phrases like, “If I ask for help, they’ll know I can’t do this,” or “A 99 on my test means I didn’t study hard enough,” pop up in your mind, stop for a second. Recognize the thought for what it is, which is just a thought. That’s all. It’s a thought. Is this reality? What proof do you have in real life that this might be true?
In other words, if you expressed this thought to someone else, would they agree with you? Would your teacher tell you that you hadn’t studied enough if you got a 99? Pretend your best friend told you they could take on this massive enterprise alone and didn’t need help. Would you agree with them?
2. Find reassurance. Thoughts are thoughts but facts are facts. Once you identify the IS thoughts in your head, ask someone who isn’t you about your fear. They may tell you that they feel the same way and be able to offer tips on feeling better. Or they may be able to present you with facts that prove your imposter syndrome is completely unwarranted.
3. Take your mistakes in stride. Everyone makes them. No matter how big the mistake, is it the end of the world? Chances are no one even noticed. Just you. Ask yourself what you learned from this mistake. Then keep pushing ahead. The only real way to fail is to quit.
4. Forget the validation. Not everyone or everything in your life is there to tell you what a wonderful job you are doing all the time. Sometimes you’re going to have to keep moving forward even if no one is there to validate your decisions. The only person you need to please is YOU. Have you made progress on your project? Great! Enjoy it and keep going.
5. Remember that you are a work in progress. You weren’t born knowing everything. Even adults don’t know everything, and you’re still a teen! Acknowledge that there is a learning curve to pretty much everything. Just because it takes you a little bit longer to get over the hump doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Enjoy what you’re learning along the way. Take time to cultivate your new relationships and your well-being. Have a sense of adventure on the journey!
6. Ask for help. No one, absolutely no one, can take on everything all at once. There is no shame in asking for help. This is not a weakness. Plenty of people would love to be part of your team if you only ask! By asking for help you are making life easier for yourself. And just because your project has gotten easier with help doesn’t mean you are a fraud. Having help will not diminish your success, we promise.
7. Fake it ‘till you make it. When all else fails, act like you know what you are doing, and the rest will follow. Hold your head high, take those chances, and just DO THE THING. Pretty soon your brain won’t know the difference between your fake confidence and the real thing!
When imposter syndrome hits, know that you are in good company. Sometimes knowing that you aren’t the only person who’s ever felt this way can make you feel better.
Young entrepreneurs who attend high school in Florida may be eligible for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Click here to learn about what we offer and how to apply.