Imposter Syndrome: What Is It and How to Mitigate Its Effects
We all get it. You can be a photographer, a writer, a makeup artist, an accountant, or a business person. Imposter Syndrome is a psychological condition where people believe they are fakes or frauds. They believe that they are not competent, intelligent, talented, or creative and that others will discover that they are fake or frauds as well. It is a fear, an anxiety. And it holds you from taking that next step that could advance your career.
This is a very common condition in the world today due to the high standards that we set for ourselves. We are always trying to do more and more to prove to other people that we are successful and often fail to realize that we are just as good as anyone else.
Take A Break From Social Media
If you find yourself falling into Imposter Syndrome, one way to mitigate its effect is to stop looking at social media. Social media is a double-edged sword. It can be a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. No matter how successful you are, there is someone out there who is more successful than you, and we should not let their success define who we are. Don’t let this discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Turning off Instagram or putting away Facebook and LinkedIn could give you that time to self-reflect and leave the noise on the Internet.
To quote an article on the effects of social media on mental health on McLeanHospital.org, “Social media has a reinforcing nature. Using it activates the brain’s reward center by releasing dopamine, a ‘feel-good chemical’ linked to pleasurable activities such as sex, food, and social interaction. The platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.” So the easiest way out of that trigger is simply to take a break from it or turn it off.
Another way to mitigate the effects of Imposter Syndrome is to practice some mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental exercise that focuses on the present and helps people be aware of their thoughts, feelings, and sensations and being able to accept them as they are without judging them.
Above: Model Jillian Gurley (DirectionsUSA) | Makeup and hair by Sarah Broyhill | © Kris Fulk Photography
There are several benefits to mindfulness: it improves self-awareness, reduces stress, improves focus and concentration, and reduces negative emotions such as anxiety and depression.
But how does one practice mindfulness, you might ask? You can try these same methods I use:
- Take 5 to 10 minutes to feel yourself breathe: breathe in and out, and feel your lungs expand and contract as you do.
- Be in the present.
- Ground yourself with what you are doing *now*.
- Think about your body and feel what your body is feeling. Contract and release your muscles from your toes to your hands and arms.
- Don’t think about the past or the future. Again, be in the present.
Similarly, you can try meditation. Meditation and mindfulness are two very different things, but they are both great ways to deal with stress and anxiety. Meditation is the practice of stilling the mind and focusing on the present moment, while mindfulness is the ability to be aware of what is going on around you in the present moment without judging or reacting. Both of these practices are very important to our overall well-being. Meditation is a great way to clear your mind and focus on your goals, while mindfulness helps you be aware of your surroundings and react appropriately. But if you have ever been stressed out and tried to meditate, you know that it’s hard to do. It takes practice and patience to learn how to keep your mind calm and clear. The best way to practice meditation is to start small. Try to meditate for a few minutes every day. The more you practice, the more you will be able to clear your mind and get rid of stress.
Do Something You Enjoy
Another way to lessen Imposter Syndrome is to do something you enjoy. Perhaps even taking a break so you can relax. For example, if you enjoy drawing, go draw something. If you enjoy baking, bake something (I love to bake chocolate chip cookies, myself). If you enjoy playing guitar, play something. Try to take a break from whatever is triggering your feeling of anxiety and inadequacy.
The Benefits of Being Over-prepared
If relaxing does not help, the last method I suggest is to be over-prepared. Feeling inadequate can rear its ugly head when you feel like you don’t know the totality of the task at hand, so I try to over-prepare for those tasks. Then I can tell myself that yes, I do know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about. Not only do I know the subject matter, I have also thought of all the ways that a project could have problems and thought of their solutions beforehand. This is always my approach to every project, which settles any nerves I may feel. However, if your feeling of inadequacy persists, see if finding a mentor can help you prepare further.
Remember, you are not alone. We all feel this way some time in our lives: we are all human. Don’t let Imposter Syndrome stop you from making a difference in your career. Try to do at least one of the things I suggested above - start small and build on it. You might be surprised at how quickly you get over this feeling. The more you put yourself out there and the more you do, the less Imposter Syndrome will get in your way.