A Help Kit for Imposter Syndrome

IMPOSTER SYNDROME (DEFINITION):  (ALSO KNOWN AS IMPOSTOR PHENOMENON OR FRAUD SYNDROME OR THE IMPOSTER EXPERIENCE) IS A CONCEPT DESCRIBING HIGH-ACHIEVING INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE MARKED BY AN INABILITY TO INTERNALIZE THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND A PERSISTENT FEAR OF BEING EXPOSED AS A “FRAUD”.
Photo by Evan Prunty

Photo by Evan Prunty

 

It’s important to focus on how FAR you’ve come instead of worrying about how far you have LEFT to go.

My big goal is to move to a big city, like New York or D.C. I always tip toe around it and never really say it, because I’m worried about sounding like a walking cliche or getting my hopes up too high. I have this crippling paranoia that if I think about wanting something so bad, and talking about how I want it--then it won't happen. Because, you know, the Universe hates us. But I shouldn't be afraid to say it because I like having a goal, and I need to stop keeping that goal up in the clouds because it is a tangible thing I am working towards. My #1 worry about this goal is getting a job, obviously. And there’s a lot I’m doing right now to make sure that can happen, but I still often feel extremely self-conscious about my writing and thinking it’s not good enough. The second battle is just thinking in general that I don’t “belong” in a certain place I’m visualizing myself in (like New York). I always think, well maybe i’m just too stressed out of a person to live in the big city. And what if I’m not able to handle it? What if I crash and burn and just completely give up? But I recently did something that helped me turn this mindset around--I simply looked back and saw everything I've accomplished so far.  I think about all the hardships I’ve gone through and all the hurdles I’ve jumped, and it really helps. Like driving downtown to Cleveland, and getting to a point where I know where almost all the major neighborhoods are and being able to suggest where people should go for a night out and why. Not being terrified of parallel parking (but still sucking at it), and teaching myself healthy recipes and learning how to save money. These are such tiny things but it shows that I’m growing and learning. And it means I can only go up from here.

I've always had bad imposter syndrome. I've always felt like my goals and dreams are way too big for me to grasp because I'm just simply not that person who's good enough. But that's the wrong thing to think. And it's wrong to assume that the Universe is out to get you. the Universe has way more important things to do. I've realized that even if I'll fail again in the future, the thing I'm working towards is not impossible. And sometimes, instead of worrying so much about what's ahead of you and if you're going staying on track, it really helps to stop, look behind you, and see how far you've come. 

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others:

Listen. Everyone is scared as hell of the future. Every last one of us. Even that one person you're thinking of. Yep, them too. If they say they're not, they're lying. And you should do the same. If you're hesitant about the future, just fake it til' you make it--we're all doing it. This is such a big part of avoiding imposter syndrome. It’s important to find a healthy balance between getting inspiration from your role models than blatantly copying them and hating yourself when you’re not exactly like them. The worst thing about our social media-heavy generation is that it amplifies these feelings. All those feelings of self-doubt and envy are put under a microscope when you open Instagram or Facebook. The way I’ve coped with it, is finding that middle ground, and being happy with myself. Because I know I'm not going to completely cut myself off from looking at people’s photos, articles, profiles. I gain a lot of inspiration when I see how far other female journalists have come and it fuels my fire. But it’s so important not to lose sight of yourself.  Also, if there’s someone you look up to, either online or real life, have you ever thought of maybe sliding into their DM’s and starting a conversation? It’s crucial to start looking at these people as PEOPLE, just like you. You are at the same level as that person and you are not worse or less of a human. You can hang with them and maybe even collaborate.

 

Visualize and Be Mindful

Try this. Next time you're panicking about the future, stop and take 5 minutes to close your eyes and breathe. Focus on this moment in time, because I promise you, you're not going to be able to solve all your future problems and tasks for the next two years in the next 5 minutes. So take those 5 minutes to be just be still.  If you're especially a distracted and fidgety person,  journaling can help with this (and don't be afraid to go all about with washi tape, stickers and fun colored highlighters!) Just any way to reflect on the moment you're living in, instead of worrying about the future. Also, all you fellow journalers out there, have you ever tried looking back through your old diaries and journals? For me it’s like having my own little flashback and looking back on all the things I’ve done, the things I’ve accomplished, and yes, even the huge mistakes I’ve made--and the ways I overcame them.  It really puts things in perspective and helps you realize how far you’ve come and what you are capable of. Also meditating every day before bed, taking a minute to breathe and only focus on breathing and nothing else. Get some nice lavender essential oils to sniff to help put you in a relaxed state. Usually when I come out of maybe 10-15 minutes of meditation, I right away feel more clear with who I am spiritually and mentally. Also something that helps you be more mindful is just making lists every day: a list of your goals, and a list of your accomplishments for the week. Don’t be afraid to scream it to your friends and loved ones, or on social media that you FEEL GOOD about yourself. That is a feeling we all need to hold on to.

 

Take all the Opportunities You Can Get

As Shia Labeouf would say, JUST DO IT. Sometimes I’ve found myself skimming over opportunities because I either think I’m not good enough, or they don’t fit “me” and my goals exactly. But this is a mindset that will literally hold you back from achieving everything you possibly can in life. One big issue I’ve discovered with imposter syndrome is that I tend to not take chances simply because I assume that I won't succeed and that the universe doesn't want me to take this certain job/role/position/etc. I tend to second guess things so much, but it's the most painful when I get in my own way. If you have this same problem, I would say the best thing to do is to just take chances, every CHANCE (ha) you get. This might be difficult, especially if you're a self-doubter like I am. One thing that helps is just doing things that are slightly out of your comfort zone, even small things like changing up your diet or schedule or even wardrobe. Think of it as building up your courage with small steps of bravery. Basically, try taking "little risks" in your life instead of wasting time worrying about what the outcome will be. Also, go with your gut. Your gut is always right. 

Photo by the lovely Nicole Bogdanovic

Photo by the lovely Nicole Bogdanovic

 

Here's some other content that I've come across in my journey to overcome imposter syndrome: 

  • Inspirational Instagram accounts: 

    • Obsesse's Instagram account posts super inspirational quotes and affirmations all the time--and they recently posted this about imposter syndrome that really got me thinking. 

    • Body Posi Panda's Instagram account and book! She's a great role model when it comes to visualizing healthy and realistic goals for your body.

    • GirlGaze - another great account full of beautiful photos, affirmations and all around thought provoking and inspirational things to get you off your feet!

  • Reading personal accounts of other people who know what you're going through. It always helps to get advice from others!

  • Inspirational music: here are a couple jams that always help me either relax and visualize or get PUMPED and remind myself that I'm a badass