Impostor Syndrome — We’re all fuckups

Impostor syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud that comes along with the fear of being caught and exposed. In the vast majority of cases, that fear is unjustified. Obviously, you have real charlatans and frauds. That being said, most people are not. However, a lot of people are not completely and utterly feeling adequate regardless of their achievements. Their success actually tends to lead to even more feelings of being impostors.

There are many reasons why one can feel like an impostor. A lot of it comes from childhood. When we are young we see adults and we think that what they do is far and beyond above us. From that point out, we develop a sense of inadequacy for we think that we would never feel those shoes and anything we achieve will be downplayed as luck, fraud, perhaps even scheming.

I remember the first time I had someone come to me in the gym for advice. I used to be very, very skinny but at that point, I had put on quite some size. When these two young teenagers came to me for advice, my first pavlovian response was that I was not an expert and perhaps they can find better guidance from someone else.

Now, It might be true that others could give better advice but I could have given them advice as well. When those two teenagers asked me for advice, I reverted back to the skinny guy. I was worried about being exposed. Perhaps somewhere in my subconscious mind, a little voice was saying that maybe all of this is fake and my new size and newly built muscles will be stripped away from me and the real skinny me would be exposed.

I have heard that Maya Angelou and Einstein also had those kinds of feelings. Even after all the accolades and achievements they could not help but feel fraudulent. We tend to put people on a pedestal, especially when we are younger. We project qualities on others that they might not have. Sometimes they have them and sometimes they don’t.

How many times has someone in your life not lived up to the image you had fabricated of them. It happens to all of us. When we find out our parents are not as perfect and flawless as we thought. We find out that the big brother and the big sister is suffering from the same shit as us. Or that mentor, or that teacher or that coach.

Yes, it can be incredibly disappointing. I think it’s liberating to know that in one way or another we are all “fucked up” Tim Ferriss in one of his posts talks about the danger of putting highly “successful” people on a pedestal. He said that those people are not really all that different from us.

As Montaigne said: “Kings and philosophers shit, and so do ladies”

I remember one time. I had a job for a few weeks and I was hanging out with guys who were older than me. One of them was known to chase after women a lot. He was fearless. He told me that if he was ever intimated by a woman’s beauty he would remind himself that she defecates like all of us and it would humanize her.

Childhood does facilitate the implementation of the impostor syndrome because we are just small careless beings and we look up (literally and figuratively) at all those adults who are serious and do serious things. How not to feel overwhelmed? That is a feeling that can stay with you through life.

Remember what I wrote about my skinny days. It’s not about the achievements. Achievements are downplayed by the impostor syndrome. We tell ourselves that it was nothing. That other people have done more.

It’s not only about childhood. We have a skewed version of others and that’s why we feel inadequate. Why do we have this kind of distorted vision of others? Simply put — We don’t read what is in their mind but we get to hear all our thoughts all day, every day. We think we are so unique in our unwholesomeness. We think we are the only ones with a shadow (Carl Jung). We think we are undeserving of all that we have achieved and soon enough we will be exposed.

I really want to make it simple because all that childhood psychosis and success neuroticism make sense. However, in my humble opinion, it all comes down to not feeling good enough. We are not allowed to be happy and content with our success and achievements. We all have to go through phases where we do feel like charlatans. Whenever you learn something new and go after a new endeavor you will feel like that because as time goes by, you get better and you will be given more responsibility and more tasks outside of your comfort zone.

It’s new so you feel inadequate. You look to your left and then your right as if you had just committed mischief. You think to yourself: “Am I really getting away with this ?” You feel that this new task is way above your paygrade. No! — You are just getting better and therefore you are pushing your boundaries. That’s it.

We need to talk more about this. We need to instill that feeling of contentment and confidence. The impostor syndrome is doubting of your current situation and past achievements.

Some say, that the impostor syndrome also applies to people who won’t start something because they think they would fail. I am not saying that impostor syndrome can’t lead to paralysis by analysis but I think that this particular feeling of fraud is more exclusive to the doers.

Here are five categories of impostor syndrome created by Dr. Valery Young.

Here is an excerpt I found from an article I found on Themuse.com by Melody J. Wilding

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionism and imposter syndrome often go hand-in-hand. Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, feeling like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.

Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions:

* Have you ever been accused of being a micromanager?

* Do you have great difficulty delegating? Even when you’re able to do so, do you feel frustrated and disappointed in the results?

* When you miss the (insanely high) mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for your job and ruminate on it for days?

* Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?

For this type, success is rarely satisfying because they believe they could’ve done even better. But that’s neither productive nor healthy. Owning and celebrating achievements is essential if you want to avoid burnout, find contentment, and cultivate self-confidence.

2. The Superwoman/man

Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health but also their relationships with others.

Not sure if this applies to you?

* Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work?

* Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?

* Have you left your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside, sacrificed to work?

* Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?

Imposter workaholics are actually addicted to the validation that comes from working, not to the work itself. Start training yourself to veer away from external validation. No one should have more power to make you feel good about yourself than you — even your boss when they give your project the stamp of approval. On the flip side, learn to take constructive criticism seriously, not personally.

3. The Natural Genius

Young says people with this competence type believe they need to be a natural “genius.” As such, they judge their competence-based ease and speed as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they take a long time to master something, they feel shame.

These types of imposters set their internal bar impossibly high, just like perfectionists. But natural genius types don’t just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations, they also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they’re not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.

Not sure if this applies to you?

* Are you used to excelling without much effort?

* Do you have a track record of getting “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in everything you do?

* Were you told frequently as a child that you were the “smart one” in your family or peer group?

* Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own?

* When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?

* Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?

To move past this, try seeing yourself as a work in progress. Accomplishing great things involves lifelong learning and skill-building — for everyone, even the most confident people. Rather than beating yourself up when you don’t reach your impossibly high standards, identify specific, changeable behaviors that you can improve over time.

4. The Soloist

Sufferers who feel as though asking for help reveals their phoniness are what Young calls Soloists. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can prove your worth.

Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions:

* Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own?

* “I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you?

* Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?

5. The Expert

Experts measure their competence based on “what” and “how much” they know or can do. Believing they will never know enough, they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

* Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single educational requirement?

* Are you constantly seeking out training or certifications because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed?

* Even if you’ve been in your role for some time, can you relate to feeling like you still don’t know “enough?”

* Do you shudder when someone says you’re an expert?

It’s true that there’s always more to learn. Striving to bulk up your skillset can certainly help you make strides professionally and keep you competitive in the job market. But taken too far, the tendency to endlessly seek out more information can actually be a form of procrastination.

Start practicing just-in-time learning. This means acquiring a skill when you need it–for example if your responsibilities change–rather than hoarding knowledge for (false) comfort.

Realize there’s no shame in asking for help when you need it. If you don’t know how to do something, ask a co-worker. If you can’t figure out how to solve a problem, seek advice from a supportive supervisor,

As you can see, there are a few categories where you might be able to insert yourself. To recap, I think the first thing we need to remind ourselves of is that a lot of us are suffering from the same thing which is the feeling of inadequacy.

We also need to come to the conclusion that we are ALL in one way or another fucked up. None of us are perfect. We all have our negative thoughts, our kinks, things we would not want to be revealed to the public. We should not feel shame. That’s just part of the course of being a human being.

Whatever our endeavors we are into at the moment. We should be satisfied by giving it our best and always striving to learn more and get better. Not because of fear, shame, and guilt and not for external validation just because the progress in an endeavor we love is rewarding and fulfilling in and of itself.

We should do it first and foremost for us. Once we can let go of external opinions and/or thoughts of what we think others think of us or might think of us then we can feel liberated to do what we want to do without fear, shame, guilt, or feeling of fraud.

We should feel content with ourselves and our effort. Notice I said content and not proud. Pride can lead to feelings of conceit and arrogance. Being content means having the joy of a task accomplished.

We need to feel good about ourselves regardless of whether things are hard, easy, or anything in between and regardless of the outcome. The importance is to give it your best effort. If it’s hard and you fail you don’t need to feel like a fraud and tell yourself “I knew I was right. I am just not built for this” No — just try and try again until you succeed. On the flip side don’t feel bad if things are easier for you. If things you love are effortless then great — It means you are doing the right things.

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