Dealing with Imposter Syndrome


There’s a group of people who feel like fakers.

That despite all they’ve accomplished in their lives or areas of study, think they’re no good. They got lucky this time. They tricked people into buying what they were selling. They’re fooling everyone around them.

You get promoted at work and think to yourself you didn’t earn shit. You had it handed to you by default.

Someone gives you a genuine compliment and you fight it and toss it aside as flattery.

You date someone and if it’s going well, you offer up excuses: “they only like the confident, fun me. that’ll die out soon.”

You easily acknowledge your failures and shortcomings, but not your accomplishments or strengths. True pessimism.

For this group of people, there’s a lot going on under the surface. The belief is rooted in low self-esteem. Shame from some origin, be it from childhood or adolescence, is sinking it’s teeth deep into your flesh and drawing blood. It won’t let you see things objectively. Your accomplishments and strengths are colored with the blackness of doubt.

I certainly fall into this group. I constantly question my ability, at the age of 26, to coach people with confidence and communication. Who am I? What have I done to hand out this kind of advice? After all, I feel anxiety and insecurities just as fiercely as my friends and clients’ do. Am I deceiving everyone? Am I an imposter?

Those thoughts suck and many can be sharply irrational. You have to find a way to deal with them.

But there’s also this side to Imposter Syndrome that I actually think is beneficial. It’s rooted in humbleness.

To think, after you’ve had some success, that maybe you aren’t ‘world-class’ just yet or a ‘ninja assassin in social media’ because you got 2 retweets, is a noble and scarce trait to carry around today.

Take a look at any blogger’s about page or social media bio. We live in a world where everyone’s puffing their chest out, self-proclaiming greatness, molding the perfect image they think everyone wants. In other words, lying. Everyone’s lying because we’ve been told that’s how you win. It gets you more business and more opportunities.

Which isn’t actually reality. It’s masturbation. Building yourself up to the world, completely oblivious to the fact that the world doesn’t care or believe you, isn’t a strategy, it’s embarrassing. You’re jerking yourself off to an imaginery audience.

People don’t care about your titles, your certifications, they don’t want you to be perfect, they just want to know if they can trust you and if you can solve their problem.

Can they? Can you?

Judge your merits on that.

Self-fulfilling prophecies are bullshit. ‘Fake it til you make it’ is dishonest (mainly to yourself) and it’s exactly why you’re so anxious. The only tactic you should resort to is this: do the work.

Ryan Holiday says it best.

“Giving yourself credit for something in advance does the opposite of encouraging growth, it breeds atrophy. And foolishness. And arrogance. And everything but the thing you want so badly to happen; that is, for people to respect you on your merits.”

But luckily for us, the afflicted, lying to everyone feels wrong.

We can’t puff our chests out without feeling dirty. And because of that, we have a conscience that won’t let us be assholes without knowing we are doing it. We have self-awareness. I’m thankful for that.

So where’s the middle ground? How can you stop feeling like a fraud without reeking of arrogance and overconfidence?

Start by being brutally honest with yourself. Look objectively at who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what you haven’t.

When you question your abilities, try to bring in outside help. Defer to other people who maybe see more objectively than you do. You might think you’re not good enough to coach someone older or wiser than you, but if people keep paying you for it, side with them.

Practice being proud of what you’ve accomplished. Know that it might take work for you but that it’s a healthy and worthwhile pursuit.

And if what you’re seeing in yourself isn’t enough, consider that maybe you have more work to do.

I have a workout system — just like you’d do at the gym — for anxiety at work and in your personal life. Sign up on the homepage to receive a free early copy.