Imposter syndrome: a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. Colleges can be breeding grounds for these types of emotions – you are inclined to think that you’re just one of thousands of students in your school, one of hundreds in your major, and that nothing can set you apart from the sea of gifted people you’re surrounded by. These thoughts define and amplify imposter syndrome, which often leaves college students feeling stuck and unmotivated in their quest to not only find success, but to ultimately find themselves. If you think this applies to you, you can rest assured that even the most successful people struggle with self doubt. There is absolutely no one who has had a perfectly smooth process in pursuit of success, but what it all boils down to is how people approach these roadblocks. Read below to find out how you can overcome self doubt, and make success your way of life.
1. Practice being mindful of your thoughts
It’s possible that before or while reading this article, you may have identified with some of the symptoms of impostor syndrome. Being aware of having them is one thing, but being mindful of them requires actively monitoring the thoughts as they come to your mind. This also includes identifying potential triggers, habitual thought patterns, and what usually results from you entertaining and internalizing said thoughts. Once you are able to acknowledge your patterns, you will be better able to nip negativity in the bud before it escalates to the point of crippling you. Apprehend the “I’m not good enough” and transform it to “I’m more than capable.”
2. Force yourself out of your comfort zone
Say, for example, you’re apprehensive about trying out for the dance team because – well, you don’t have much experience in dance. In fact, you don’t have any experience at all. So, despite the fact that the flyer clearly says “No previous experience required!”, you feel inclined to let the opportunity pass you by on the grounds that it’s just not for you. That’s the voice of your friendly imposter syndrome telling you, yet again, that you’re a bare-faced fraud if you even dare to step out of your usual activities. This is the part where you draw on your skills of mindfulness and acknowledge that if the thoughts dissuading you from doing something sound excessively bitter and harsh, you should probably do it anyway. (As long it is safe. If so, do it with all your might.)
3. Comparison vs Inspiration
You’re probably familiar with the idiom “comparison is the thief of joy.” This saying holds true, especially when it comes to intensifying the impact of self doubt. We oftentimes see people and feel envious of them for what they own or what they have achieved, compared to what we have. It’s human nature to make comparisons, but it’s also in our capacity as humans to know when it’s beneficial to be inspired by others, rather than being envious. This doesn’t mean that you should try to follow someone’s steps down to the grain – that would be imitation. Instead, you should observe their steps, perspectives, habits, and even their mistakes, then examine where you think your goals could benefit from taking a similar approach. Remember: seeing someone living their best life should not make you feel bitter or discouraged – rather, it should motivate you to do everything it takes to find your own light.
4. Be conscious of your (actual) limits
Ignore the false limits that paranoia and self doubt try to place on you. On the other end of impostor syndrome is the weird space of being so highly revered by people who put you on a pedestal, that you lose touch with your actual limits – the things you don’t know, or that you can’t do. You can get so used to people looking to you for answers or for guidance, and not being able to live up to their expectations can trigger those pesky feelings that try to tell you you’re being a fraud. By now, you should know that this is far from the case. If anything, it shows authenticity. The smartest, fastest, strongest, and most hardworking people in the world all have limits, and rather than criticizing themselves for having them, they strive to surpass their limits to better themselves and those who look up to them.
5. Affirm your value everyday
Think about it this way – if there was nothing outstanding about you, there would be nothing for you to doubt in the first place. Essentially, self doubt comes from a deep, warped fear of one’s sheer power and potential. You hold yourself back because you’re afraid that if you reach for the goal, you might not achieve it – but what if you do? What if you do get the internship, make the team, get the role, or learn the skill? You’ll never know what lies on the other side of that hypothetical question unless you drop your doubts and go for it! The main takeaway from this should be that your mere consideration of the goal is a sign that you have the ability to achieve it – even if not immediately. Your value as a person can never be diminished, but it can always expand!