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Mental Health

Imposter Syndrome and Learning to Silence Your Inner Critic

For me, 2019 has been a year of trying new things and jumping into unexpected opportunities. But, I find myself continuously having to remind myself that I am capable and deserving of the opportunities that have come my way. Any time I make a small mistake, I immediately question my competency. This lingering feeling of inadequacy (which I’m sure many can relate to) is what I have come to call “imposter syndrome”. 

“Imposter syndrome” is used to describe the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications. Times says it was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.

Personally, it usually manifests when I’m in a room with someone I admire a lot. All of a sudden, all of my accomplishments fall away, and I feel like a speck in comparison to them (I guess it doesn’t help that I am a seasoned introvert). Or, when I am accepted for something I applied for and am constantly worried that people will find out that I am incapable. Even spending too much time on social media makes me feel like an under-accomplished anomaly, who was never a child prodigy and won’t have a thriving career by 22. 

Slowing, I am learning to stop being my own harshest critic and own the progress I have made, instead of worrying about how far I have to go. Slowly I am battling my imposter syndrome. If this is something you can relate to, read the tips below and join me in my process of overcoming this crisis of confidence! 

Listen to your negative thoughts and put them in perspective

The first step to overcoming your inner critic is to listen to what your negative thoughts are trying to tell you. Have a think about where these critiques may be stemming from, and whether they hold any truth. Most of the time, these thoughts hold very little truth, and stem from the fact that we are too harsh on ourselves and place unrealistic pressure on ourselves to be 100% perfect all of the time. It is important to remember that we are all human, and that you are probably comparing your imperfections to someone else’s strengths. 

Talk to someone who knows you well

If you can’t get out of your own head, talk to someone who knows you well. An outsider’s perspective can often draw you out of your unfounded self-doubt and remind you of why those negative thoughts are often untrue. Somehow, even just speaking your worries into the world, instead of just storing them in your head, helps you to feel more certain of yourself.

Spend some time reflecting on how far you have come

Spend some time looking back and acknowledging all the things you have done thus far. Your younger self would be extremely proud. This will help you see that it wasn’t just luck or chance that landed you where you are, but years of steady work and dedication. We also need to remember that life is not a race. In response to a question about how she became so successful, one of my favourite YouTubers said: “I am not a supernova, overnight success story. I am the person that walked up the mountain one step at a time.” This really stuck with me, because it reminded me that everyone is at a different stage in their success story and moving at a different pace along a unique path. You cannot compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Fake it till you make it

Honestly, this might be an unpopular opinion, but it has worked for me. The inner critic, or the crisis of confidence might cause you to second guess your choices and stop you from leaping into opportunities for fear of failure. Here’s what I suggest: do it anyway. Yes, you might have a constant nagging in your head telling you you don’t belong and that you don’t deserve it, but the more that you take up space and defy that voice, the more you train yourself into believing that you are worthy and wanted. You can act like you aren’t an imposter, even if you still feel like one – your mind will soon follow suit.

I recently watched a TED talk on imposter syndrome, that really helped me put things into perspective. So, here is what I took away from it and what I will be repeating to myself every day: You are good enough. You need to pledge ownership to all that you are and be proud of your abilities and accomplishments. Most importantly, don’t let the fear of potential failure rule your life. I hope you do the same!

I am a third-year Multimedia Journalism student at UCT. I'm also the Chairperson and Correspondent of Her Campus UCT. Working with my amazing executive team, each day, makes me feel like I'm living out my childhood dream of being the Editor in Chief of a magazine! I'm passionate about sustainable development, with a particular focus on sustainable fashion, and I hope to be able to work in that innovative industry one day. I'm an advocate for slow living, and an ambitious introvert trying to find my way in the world. A dip in the ocean, or a walk in the mountain, are the two things that bring me the most peace.
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