• Mauro Herrera

"You're An Impostor And You Know It!"

Have you ever gone to work thinking you are a fraud? Echoing the title of this piece over and over...

"You're an imposter and you know it!"

"A fraud, a fake, a charlatan, and guess what?"

"You will, eventually, get found out for the fake you are."

If you've had this inner monologue with yourself before, well, that may just be an imposter syndrome symptom. No matter how hard you've worked, how many accolades you have, or how much your peers praise you, you feel like you got where you are because of a chain of fortunate events. The worst part: the constant fear that that luck will run out and everyone will know that you're just a phoney.

Those are very harsh words, I know, but surely you've been there, we've all been, haven't we? Well, yes. Studies show that 7 out of 10 people are dealing with impostor syndrome right now, which means that if there are 20 people in your office, there are more than a dozen of them with thoughts like yours.

That means the next time you see Steve from finance, give him a big hug and whisper to his ear: “you deserve it.” It's totally not weird, he'll appreciate it, I promise.

The complicated part of living with this syndrome is that it is different from mental disorders, it can come in waves, it comes and goes or it can last a lifetime. On the other hand, not many know what causes impostor syndrome and what it is like to deal with it.

The good side: You can identify impostor syndrome symptoms without professional help and do little things to overcome it, at least while it's nothing serious. You just have to watch out for the signs.

The Constant Feeling Of Inadequacy

Imposter syndrome is a psychological disorder that does not allow us to feel worthy of our achievements and compliments. It is not exactly low self-esteem, although nobody rules out that this may be present, it is more a matter of unsolicited perfectionism. We never feel success as our own, no matter what goals we achieve, we always focus more on what we did not achieve and that our progress is not really that big of a deal.

We believe that when other people believe that we are capable or intelligent it is because in a certain way we deceive them. “I'm not that smart, I just know how to sound smart”. No, actually you ARE pretty smart, stupid (see what I did there?

Dealing with imposter syndrome can affect our work, self-esteem, self-confidence, and whatever goals we set for ourselves.

It's important to identify the signals early and start acting ASAP.

Imposter Syndrome: The Symptoms

If you identify some or all of these manifestations in your life, you probably have impostor syndrome:

  • You think you don't deserve your achievements. It is difficult for you to accept that what you have earned you did on your own merits and not by luck or help from others. “If I get a promotion at work, it's probably because my boss likes me, not because I work really hard.”

  • You have a hard time believing that the compliments others give you are true. You think that other people are being nice, rather than accepting that what they say good about you is accurate.

  • You constantly fear that the wave of luck will end. You feel like someday achievements and will stop with a hard thump on the ground you'll fall off the career ladder because others found out who you really are, like when Scooby Doo's gang unmasked a monster. "If only it wasn't for you...." etc, etc.

  • You are always waiting for your plans to fail. It is difficult for you to set yourself new goals and challenges because you always believe that you will fail in the end.

  • You always doubt your strengths and abilities. You don't have a very positive image of yourself, you think you're not particularly good at anything, or you don't have any special talents.

  • You are never satisfied with your current status. You look at what you have not achieved or believe that true success is not found where you are, but one step beyond. But the step beyond never comes, because you never have that feeling of “I made it, this is where I wanted to get to.”

What Causes Impostor Syndrome

The origin of our imposter syndrome can come from many places. Many times it is due to family dynamics from our childhood, many parents tend to compare their children without knowing it, creating false concepts of validity or success. I used to think my brother was the smart one, and I was just the funny one.

It can also be based on the standards and perceptions of productivity that society imposes on us. Sometimes we think the definition of being successful is on the level of Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. Are you all crazy?! You cannot compare yourself to the billionaire men in the world. You can have your own concept of success and work towards it. In my case, it is having a big house where all the doggies in the world fit. I really like dogs.

Accepting That You're Not A Fraud

Professional help will always be effective in treating imposter syndrome as well as any other disorder. You may be going through a phase, or maybe you are not. Never hesitate to go to a therapist who can help you.

In the meantime, you can start with appreciating and acknowledging your accomplishments and strengths. Probably nobody has given you anything or you fell by accident in the place where you are, you took yourself there.

Do not impose a perfectionism that nobody is even expecting from you, just do your best and value your progress.


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