Have you ever felt like a fraud, or that you are only successful by chance and pure luck? Do you often worry that you might be exposed at any moment in your work and that people will start to wonder, “How’d he get this job?” If you feel like this, chances are you might be dealing with a case of imposter syndrome. But just because you feel like you’re not doing well or that you’re not equipped doesn’t mean it’s true.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Harvard Business Review describes imposter syndrome as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.” Many are affected by this, including me, and I wasn’t able to identify it until I saw its name. I soon learned that there are different types of imposter syndrome, and each one is a little different.
Someone who identifies as “The Expert” often feels that they need to have an abundance of knowledge, almost always having an answer for everything. While they are constantly learning more each day, they might feel they are still not well equipped or qualified and can hold themselves back from opportunities because of these thoughts.
The perfectionist might beat themselves up for very minor mistakes. This perfectionism can make it hard for this person to see everything they’ve done right because there is so much focus on the one thing that has gone wrong.
The soloist is someone who has a challenging time receiving help. Although they might become stressed out because of this, they want to prove they are capable of doing it on their own and don’t want to ask for help out of fear that they will look weak or unable to handle the work or specific tasks given to them.
The Natural Genius
The natural genius has high expectations of themselves and thinks that their intelligence is inherent and that they should know everything about all things. Therefore, learning new skills or becoming knowledgeable on a new topic can be challenging because if they don’t pick up or understand quickly enough, this often leads to feeling like a failure — exacerbating self-doubt.
Someone who adopts the superhuman role feels the need to be everything to everyone. This goes beyond their career and friendships, romantic relationships, and families. They want to be there for everyone and take on juggling a plethora of tasks simultaneously. They often say yes because they don’t want to let people down.
My Experience with Imposter Syndrome
Pursuing a career as an entrepreneur isn’t an easy feat. There are good days, and then there are days I question my ability to accomplish all of the goals I’ve set for myself. Self-doubt starts to take over and makes me forget about the exceptional things I have accomplished and how I’ve found success in different areas of my life.
I graduated from Davenport University, where I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration with a marketing concentration, earned my Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication from Columbia University, and was even chosen as a Student Ambassador of my cohort. On paper, I was doing well but was still questioning so many things about myself and struggling with self-acceptance because I thought there was more that I should be doing.
Imposter syndrome isn’t widely spoken about in the male community, especially amongst Black males. Traditionally, there is a belief that imposter syndrome plagues women more than men. Because of gender dynamics, it’s assumed that women deal with this more because they are seen as more emotional. Unfortunately, there has been a stereotype that women aren’t as confident in the workplace when men also struggle with their confidence.
Toxic masculinity has discouraged many men from feeling like they can’t speak up about their worries, anxieties, or lack of confidence, whether in themselves, in their work, what they can provide, etc. As a result, there’s a high expectation of being excellent changemakers, especially for Black boys, teens, and men. Because of these high expectations, teen depression is at an all-time high, and many men do not know how to express themselves for fear of being ridiculed or seen as weak.
Throughout the years, as men’s mental health has become less taboo, more men are speaking out about anxiety, depression, and more. This is encouraging to see, and we can only become better by having more conversations. Hearing leaders, friends, and family who I look up to talk about their struggles have made me feel less alone — that we’re all fighting our own battles, whether we show it or not.
Talking with others has also helped me overcome or dismiss some of my negative thoughts when they flood in. Some helpful tips and practices that I keep in mind when my imposter syndrome starts to take over are:
- Looking back at how far I’ve come and seeing how I’ve improved and what I’ve learned. It’s incredible to know where you started and recognize the tangible ways in which you’ve grown in your personal or professional life.
- Keeping a record of nice things that people have said. I saw a neat way to do this on social media where someone took screenshots of all of the nice things people said about them and their work and saved it in a folder to look at when they needed a pick-me-up. This is a great way to remind yourself how well you’re actually doing.
- Talking to a friend or a mentor who has seen you grow in so many ways. When you’re in it and going through the motions, it can be hard to see how you’re doing. But from the outside looking in, someone you trust can be there to tell you that you’re doing better than you think.
- Remembering that making mistakes is normal and okay. It’s all about learning and overcoming. You’re bound to make mistakes because you’re, well, human. But just because you make a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a mistake. Instead, you’ll come back stronger and learn from what you didn’t know before.
Struggling with imposter syndrome? Try out some of the tips mentioned above, and remember, you’re not alone.
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