Overcoming Imposter Syndrome - You're More Knowledgeable Thank You Think
Impostor Syndrome goes by many names. Impostor phenomenon, Fraud Syndrome, and Impostorism just to name a few. It manifests itself as an internalized fear that you will be exposed as a fraud, having fooled others into thinking you are more experienced than you truly are.
This feeling of fear happens to the best of us. No matter how knowledgeable we are on a specific topic, we worry that someone will "pull back the curtain" and learn that it has all been "just a show." That we have in actuality been deceiving them, when in all reality that could not be further from the truth.
While Impostor Syndrome runs rampant in the corporate world, it can also wreak havoc on those in the online marketing world as well.
How does this happen? Well, it's actually quite simple.
You've found a topic that you are truly passionate about. It could be an area of expertise you have focused your entire career on, or it could be a beloved hobby that you have spent most of your life perfecting. No matter which realm your experience comes from, you feel you have the knowledge needed to help others, so you take the leap and create your very first website. As you start to do research and create posts for your website, this little voice starts to fill you with doubt.
Suddenly you worry that visitors to your site will see through your "facade" and see you for what you really are. A fraud that does not know what they are talking about. Someone that is deceiving them into making a purchase, when in reality this could not be further from the truth. This fear suddenly causes you to second guess yourself, as well as the content you create. You come up with excuses as to why you're unable to write, why you are unable to share your knowledge and experience with others. This puts the ball in motion, of turning your fears into a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure before your site ever has a chance to get off the ground.
In order to prevent this series of events from happening to you, these are the five different types of Impostor Syndrome, and how to keep them from hindering your path to success.
As the name implies, a perfectionist is one that has set very high, nearly unachievable, expectations for themselves. They will spend long hours working on a task, and never be 100% satisfied with the final product. Due to a "want it done right, do it yourself" mentality, they will avoid delegating tasks to others, to avoid frustration and disappointment, since they need to relinquish control over the outcome. The Perfectionist is almost never really satisfied with their successes because they always feel that they could have done better.
How to Fix It:
The first step to overcoming the Perfectionist persona is to accept the fact that mistakes will happen. That first article you write may be full of formatting or grammatical errors, but that's OK. No one is 100% perfect at anything they do.
Delaying hitting that "publish" button because you think you need to do more research, or reworking your content for the hundredth time because in your mind it's not perfect will in reality preventing you from completing anything you set out to do. Your site will never succeed, not because of it's content, but because of your inability to take action. Once you realize that your work will never be "perfect" and there will never be that right time to complete a task, it will be easier to take the steps needed to move forward to achieving your goals.
The superwoman/superman persona, otherwise known as Impostor workaholics, is a case where one's fears and insecurities will cause them to work harder than most. They think they're "behind the 8-ball", that they lack the skills and knowledge that others have in the same field, so they push themselves to the point of physical and mental exhaustion in an effort to measure up. They will sacrifice personal/family time for work, and often become stressed during downtime because the time is not spent working.
The body is unable to survive in a constant high-stress environment. These individuals will get burned out relatively quickly, and may suffer from a variety of illnesses, because of an unwarranted fear.
How to Fix It:
The first step to overcoming this problem, is to realize that you do not need the validation of others to prove you are worthy of your own success. While it's always an ego boost to get that "pat on the back", do not let it control your life. You need to realize that you are the one that is in control over your own confidence.
This can be as simple as completing that difficult item on your daily "to-do" list. Stepping outside your comfort zone, and doing a live video on Facebook, sharing a personal experience, or even working your way through training on a new skill. Each one of these things will help build your inner self-confidence in the fact that you are just as knowledgeable as everyone else because you attempted something and you succeeded.
With each little success, you will realize that you no longer need to spend every waking moment working. That you can still spend time with friends and family, without sacrificing your path to success.
The Natural Genius:
A Natural Genius is someone who has a natural "knack" for learning new skills easily and succeeding at anything that they attempt on the very first try. They are someone who got straight A's in school with ease, and dislike having a mentor as they believe they have the skills needed to handle everything on their own.
But when the genius comes face to face with something that they struggle with understanding on the first try, they jump to conclusions and assume it's because they're bad at it? Setbacks will result in a blow to the genius's confidence because they feel ashamed of not being able to achieve instant success.
How to Fix It:
Even if you have spent most of your life completing tasks with relative ease, it is important to remember that being successful means the willingness to learn new things. Some things may come easy to you, and others may not, but that is perfectly fine. Instead of beating yourself up when you don't understand something after the very first try, try to identify what tripped you up.
Was the task not explained fully, the information you received was incomplete, or is it just the simple fact that you're having a hard time understanding what you were shown. No matter where the problem lies, overcoming the genius persona means a change in your behavior to one where you are willing to accept your shortcomings and find ways to overcome them. Such as repeatedly doing a specific skill until it becomes like second nature to you, instead of swearing it off all together as something that you're just not good at. With time, you will be able to approach all new skills with a positive attitude, whether they come to you naturally or not.
The Rugged Individualist:
The Rugged Individualist is someone who feels that asking others for help is an acknowledgment of the fact that they are a phony. They are proud of being independent, and their ability to complete a task all by themselves, even if they do not fully understand what they are doing. They will not ask others for help because being independent is how they prove to others their worth.
This can sometimes be interpreted as being stubborn, as it may become evident that the individualist does not have a solid handle on what they are doing, but they will continue to struggle through, and possibly fail, than allow themselves to be perceived as a phony, simply because they do not know how to do something.
How to Fix It:
The fix for the Rugged Individualist is actually quite simple. Be willing to admit to yourself when you don't understand something, or if you are feeling overwhelmed with a specific task, and could use the help of someone who is more experienced than yourself. Realize that admitting that you do not know something does not mean you are a fake or a phony, instead it simply means that you have been faced with something that you have not yet had a chance to learn.
So the next time you stumble across something the perplexes you, don't be afraid to ask for some help. Whether it is a new skill, or help with a project which you completely misjudged the timeline on. It will only benefit you in the long run because you will learn something new and realize that others are out to support you, and help you climb the rungs to success. Not belittle you and tear you down just because you don't know something.
The Expert is someone that constantly battles a deep-seated fear that they will be discovered as lacking the skills or experience needed to succeed in their given field. These individuals will commonly avoid applying for jobs unless they are 100% confident that they meet every single listed requirement. They are constantly chasing after certifications or training in areas that they are already highly proficient at because they still feel they lack the skills needed to succeed. And no matter how many years of experience they may have, they still feel like they have so much more to learn, and shudder at the thought of being considered an expert at something.
How to Fix It:
While life is an ongoing process of learning new skills, consistently seeking out new information, like yet another reference for an article because you feel you still don't completely understand the subject matter, can actually be a form of procrastination. You already spent hours researching and learning, and you know that you have sufficient information to get your point across, so just call it done and post it. Sharing the knowledge you have obtained helps others, and can also help eliminate your fraudulent feelings.
The journey to success is never easy, but identifying which persona you fall into, is just the first step to overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Instead of accepting your faults, take this as the first step to making the changes needed to put you on the path to success, no matter what the little voices inside your head may tell you.