I'm Learning How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Reading through my past journal entries from this last year, I noticed something peculiar. It was a feeling I had been dealing with for a while that I hadn’t been able to articulate. Turns out, past me had already done the job for me. 

Underneath the date, I starred at an old, exasperated note: “I HATE the feeling I get after I write a piece.” The journal entry led me to find someone who was becoming increasingly discouraged. 

“I feel very naturally and inevitably inadequate,” I wrote. “Like I’ve poured everything out from within me and even then, none of it is close to good enough. I think I’m always meant to be mediocre.”

The last sentence didn’t really surprise me. I’ve always felt this to a certain extent, and I’ve become familiar with this feeling, so familiar that it never occurred to me until recently that maybe it wasn’t the best for me. I know that encouraging this self-deprecating mindset isn’t going to get me anywhere, but it feels appropriately and extremely natural. Internalizing that I am innately mediocre has not only seemed to occupy a majority of my thoughts but has made itself domestic within my attitude and my outlook on life, making it feel near to impossible that I can ever feel anything else. 

What’s worse is that whenever I do accomplish anything, it feels like I don’t deserve any of these achievements. The people in charge telling me I’m qualified to work with them? Well, they must be wrong, I tell myself. They must be making some kind of mistake, I say in my head. This feeling of being intrinsically insufficient begins to permeate itself through the way that I navigate these responsibilities and positions, slowly diminishing the presence of the joy that does and is meant to inhabit my consciousness when I do all of these things that I am passionate about. 

How did all this happen? I found that my position was not that uncommon and that there were many young people who felt the same way. This feeling can be best described as “imposter syndrome” which The Independent describes as “feelings of severe inadequacy and self-doubt that can leave people feeling that they will be exposed as a ‘fraud’, usually in their work lives”. According to Forbes, studies show that seven out of 10 people experience imposter syndrome, which is more than half of the population.

And why shouldn’t we? The influx of social media and the importance we place on the images presented to us and vice versa along with living in a world with high and growing expectations makes any other reaction almost inconceivable. Another reason you could be feeling imposter syndrome is if you grew up with parents or teachers who put pressure on you, leading you to internalize their expectations. 

Like everyone in my position, I know that this mentality isn’t productive, but it feels so instinctive that I’ve had to come to the understanding that unlearning this intense feeling of innate mediocrity will be a long and tedious process. But I’m eager and ready to grow, to grow out of this feeling that will help me grow as an individual. It’s better late than never, so how do we begin to overcome this mindset? 

It helps to know and truly understand that there are people around us, people that we know, that are battling with the same sentiments. Knowing that someone successful and accomplished also deals with these things makes me feel like it’s possible to disregard these feelings that seem to intrude my mood and my mentality. 

Of course, this isn’t enough to overcome imposter syndrome. Learning to be more self-aware is a life-long journey, but constantly and consistently working towards it will help to overcome imposter syndrome. By being aware of these debilitating thoughts and feelings, you can reject them. Self-awareness in this context also entails being familiar with the bad and especially good parts of yourself. Recognize what is stopping you and figure out ways to eliminate these mental obstacles. Freeing yourself from the suffocating and limiting beliefs you have about yourself can make space for the happiness and contentment that you deserve. 

We all deserve serenity and happiness, but unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be life’s simple pleasures. It’s a pleasure that we must attain. I hope to get to a place where I can look back at that journal entry and feel free from those words that I wrote. Hopefully, I won’t recognize the girl gazing back at me through those pages and I’ll be uninhibited from this identity that I once assigned to myself.