What to Do If You Feel Like an Impostor

What to Do If You Feel Like an Impostor

Feeling like an impostor is something a lot of people have experience with. Even some of those individuals we see as successful admit they know this feeling. So, the good news is that if you feel like an impostor, you are not alone. In this article, we will explore this subject more in-depth. We will discuss everything, from what it means to feel like an impostor to how to deal with it. Without further ado, let’s begin.

What it feels like to feel like an impostor

The best place to begin this discussion is what does it mean to feel like an impostor. Sure, if you feel like one, you already know what does it mean. In the end, you have to face this feeling sometimes, maybe on a daily basis. However, I think that outline some basic description is useful. So, what does it mean to feel like an impostor? The answer is simple. When you feel this, you feel inadequate. You feel like you don’t have what it takes to either be where you are, or get where you want to be. It is safe to say that you have doubts about your worth.

Well, it is normal to feel this. However, there is one thing that makes the difference between feeling these doubts and feeling like an impostor. These doubts persist even if you find information that indicates that the opposite is true. In other words, it is normal to feel self-doubt when you start something you never tried. This is not a reason to think you are experiencing what psychologist call impostor syndrome.

On the other hand, let’s say that you are doing some work where you have a decent experience and knowledge. In addition, let’s assume you are really good at it. Meaning, other people think your work is really good. Yet, you feel chronic self-doubt. You are regularly thinking you are an impostor or a fraud. No matter how great work you produce, and how many people praise it, you still feel like an impostor. Then, yes, we are talking about feeling like an impostor in its rawness.

The good news about the bad news

Now, there is some good news about feeling like an impostor. As I mentioned in the intro, if you feel this way, you are not alone. Even some of the most successful people in the world have some experience with feeling this way. What’s more, some of them still sometimes have to deal with feeling like an impostor, no matter how successful they already are. This is especially true about people working in creative fields, such as writers, artists, poets, entrepreneurs and, yes, designers.

If you take a look at some interviews with people in creative fields, and other fields as well, you will often see or hear these people mentioning this feeling of being an impostor. You would be probably shocked if you knew how many famous people felt this way. For me, feeling self-doubt and inadequacy is something I’m feeling on a daily basis. When I finish new design, my first thought is that it is horrible. I’m convinced about it even if people tell me the opposite is true.

I made it almost a regular practice to delete my work if I have any doubts about it. As a result, I have only few pieces to show on my portfolio. And, even these pieces exist rather out of necessity to show something than because I feel good about them. This is the truth. When I review my work, I think that 99% of it is terrible. This goes beyond design. When I finish article for blog, I feel that it would be better to delete it and start again from scratch.

This applies to all articles, not just some of them. And, you can be sure that I will feel a ton of doubts about this article as well. In a fact, I already feel them, while I am writing these lines. So, let me repeat it. If you feel bad about yourself and your work, you are not alone. I hope that telling you all this will help you feel at least a little bit better about yourself.

How to turn feeling like an impostor into an advantage

So, that was the good news about the bad news. And, I think there is another thing that is good about feeling like an impostor. I believe that feeling like an impostor can actually be an advantage. Instead of seeing it as your weakness or flaw, you can turn it into a strength. I know what you probably think right now. What the hell are you talking about? You must be joking! How can I turn feeling like an impostor into my advantage? No, I am serious. Let me explain what I mean.

As we all know, hard work is the only sure way to get somewhere. It doesn’t really matter what do you want to achieve in life. You have to work for it. And, if your goals are at least a bit ambitious, you have to work hard. Otherwise, your chances to achieve your goals are almost zero. Also, when you achieve your goals, you have to sustain the momentum. In other words, you can’t rest on your laurels. We all heard about people who achieved big things and then disappeared.

Do you see where am I going with this? When you feel like an impostor, you feel self-doubt and inadequacy. You think that you, and your work, is not good enough. This feeling can be either debilitating, and making you weaker, or it can be empowering and making you stronger. How? Use this as a fuel to keep you moving forward. Stop thinking about yourself as just “not being good enough” or just “not having the skills”.

What you should do is add “yet”. So, instead of thinking “I am not good enough”, think “I am not good enough, yet”. Or, instead of “I don’t have the skills”, think “I don’t have the skills, yet”. Here is the key. Always think about your insecurities as something temporary. Then, look for ways to work on them.

The truth

The best thing about this approach to feeling like an impostor is that it is true. You are not faking or pretending anything. Also, you are not subscribing to any new age crap that is almost everywhere these days. Imagine you decide to change your point of view, and see something you are not “good” at only as temporary state. Then, all you are saying is that you might be not be good enough, but you can get better. Is that a lie? Are you pretending or faking something? No.

When you say I am not good enough at “x” and I can get better, you are speaking the truth. Well, let’s ignore the possibility that you might be actually pretty good at “x” for now. Because, well, if you do feel like an impostor, you are not the best person to judge your abilities. So, let’s put this meaning of being “good enough” aside. Anyway, this is what is beautiful on this approach. It is not just a bunch of lies, like a lot of self-help literature. It is also not about faking anything.

Do you still have doubts about validity of this statement? Okay. Under normal conditions, every human being has the ability to learn new things. Thanks to the research in neurobiology we now know that brain can change and create new connections through our life. This is something called neuroplasticity and neurogenesis. Regardless of your age, your brain can grow and reshape. So, unless you have some brain-related health condition, there is a chance you can learn it.

The ambiguity of being “good enough”

What does it even mean being “good enough”? I am serious. Think about it just for a moment. Have you ever seen any scale, based on valid science, you could use to “measure” how “good” you are? I haven’t. And, chances are that neither you. This means that any time you say you are not “good enough”, you are speaking subjectively. Meaning, you are judging yourself by your own description of what is “good enough”. This is not a general description of what is “good enough”.

It is your description. And, as such, it is relative. Other people will have different opinion. Now, let me ask you one question. Would you use something so ambiguous and relative as this to make any serious judgment? Imagine you want to drive somewhere. However, you don’t know how much gas do you have in your car. Would you rather follow your subjective, and relative, guess or would you rather check the fuel indicator?

Chances are quite high that you would not rely on your guess. Instead, you would check the fuel indicator. Fuel indicator is objective and unbiased, your own evaluation is not, especially if you have an inclination to feeling like an impostor. In that case, your own evaluation is among the things you should rely on the least. Since it is your opinion, you are inclined to give it more weight and priority. As Richard Feynman said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Tips on dealing with impostor syndrome

This brings me to tips you can use to help yourself in situations when you feel like an impostor. First, realize that this is quite common and you are not alone. We all sometimes feel inadequate. We all sometimes think about ourselves as frauds. The problem is that we are afraid to talk about it. However, just because nobody talks about something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Second, understand that you are often not the best person to evaluate your skills or work.

It is a well-known truth that we are our worst critics. If you want unbiased and objective evaluation of your skill, ask someone else. Do you want to evaluate your skills? Find someone who is already an expert at what you do. Third, if you are really not good at something, remember that this is only temporary state. If you put in the hard work, time and effort, you can change it. There are people who were born with predispositions, or “talent”, for something.

Full disclosure: I don’t believe in talent, I believe in hard work. However, even people with these predispositions had to work for it. Talent can help you get there faster. However, like with creativity, talent alone is not enough. Hard work is still necessary. So, don’t let that feeling that you are not “good enough” stop you. Take it is an indicator that there is some area you can improve yourself and your skills.

When you feel you are not good at something, find ways to get better at it. Read, watch videos, talk with experts and practice. Let your self-doubt of feeling of inadequacy fuel your hunger for learning. My fourth tip is one I have to remind myself about every day. Stop comparing yourself to others. The source of our self-doubt, and feeling like an impostor, is often this constant comparison with others. There is at least one problem with this.

We don’t usually compare ourselves to people on our level. Instead, we compare ourselves to people who are above us. Often with people we hold as our role models. There are two things you can do about this. First, just stop doing it. Stop comparing yourself with others. If you want to compare yourself with someone, compare yourself with your “yesterday” self. Review your past work and compare your current work with that.

Second, remind yourself that even your roles had to put in the work and effort. These people were not born with their knowledge and skills. They had to invest their time and learn it. Then, they had to take some more time to practice it. Even the brightest minds in history had to go through this process of learning and doing. Keep this in mind the next time you will want to compare yourself with people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg. They too had to start somewhere.

My last tip, is this. Believe in yourself. Believe that no matter what it is, you can get better at it. Whatever it is, there is always at least some tiny chance that you can learn to do it. Remember that the only limits are the ones you create for yourself. In a short, you are already a badass.

Closing thoughts on feeling like an impostor

Feeling like an impostor is nothing uncommon. It is more common that we may think it is. However, it is not fancy. It is almost like sex or money. A lot of people are not willing to talk about it. As a result, we think we are the only ones feeling that way. Well, we are not. This is what would want you to remember from this article. Feeling like an impostor is common. This will be a paradox, but you can use your self-doubt in a good way. You can either use it to as a fuel for moving forward or as a wall to stop you. It is only about your attitude. This choice is yours.

Aside from that, I hope you enjoyed reading this article. I also hope that this article helped you see self-doubt or inadequacy in a different light. If you liked this article, please share it, recommend it and comment on it. Knowing that this article help someone means a lot to me. This is the main reason why I write. Also, if you think I forgot to mention something, let me know. The best place to to reach me is Twitter. You can find me here every day. With that, until next time, have a great day!

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By Alex Devero

I'm Founder/CEO of DEVERO Corporation. Entrepreneur, designer, developer. My mission and MTP is to accelerate the development of humankind through technology.

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