Have you ever had the feeling that you've been asked to do something that you're not qualified for -- and that it's just a matter of time before everyone else realizes it? And the more personal or professional success you achieve, the more afraid you are that people will discover that you don't actually know what you're talking about? Or maybe you believe that your achievement relies on luck, fantastic timing, or even tricking others into getting where you're at.
This fear is called "imposter syndrome."
Individuals who suffer from imposter syndrome believe they are lying to the world, and that their achievement relies on mere chance or someone else's mistake in believing in them. The more people who praise them, the more fear they feel. And it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, as people with imposter syndrome generally keep striving for success to attain that praise, then don't or can't believe it when it comes. The main issue lies in that one's expertise in doing something properly does not alter one's own beliefs.
There are lots of outwardly confident individuals that are also influenced by this fraudulent feeling. Celebrities, politicans and leaders from around the world have openly confessed to feeling insecure in their abilities. Fundamentally, nobody is protected from this feeling of fraud -- irrespective of fame or performance.
That said, here are a few techniques you can use to help fight the imposter in you.
Talk About It
In my career, I surround myself with other men and women who are willing to talk openly about their careers -- and lives. I have found that they often feel identical doubts and pressure I do.
Sharing your insecurities may be an important step in beating your imposter syndrome. Imagine how powerful it is to trust likeminded people and have them encouraging us throughout our lives. By sharing your thoughts and feelings, you are able to promote one another and provide ideas to kill the imposter within.
Ditch the Perfectionism
In software development, I've seen a tendency to hold back releasing projects until they are 100 percent complete. This generally stems from a fear of being beaten by phantom competitors, customers who won't like what you have, or other anxieties, but it usually means you've missed the market opportunity.
To conquer your perfectionist tendencies, establish realistic objectives and accept that errors and failures are a part of life. Then, use a structured post-mortem process on your failure so you don't dwell too long over your mistakes.
Accept the Compliment
Recently, I was at an event where someone thanked me for a talk I had just finished giving because they found value in it. My immediate reaction was to deflect and ask them a question about themselves. They kindly, but firmly, replied, "I just told you I liked what you were teaching. Accept the compliment."
This propensity to downplay the achievement and reduction is pronounced in people with imposter syndrome, as they might attribute their success to the fact it is a simple job that anyone could do, and they frequently find it hard to accept compliments. To combat this, simply practice saying "You're welcome" whenever someone thanks you for something.
Before you can develop further in your career, you have to become truly conscious of your weaknesses -- and acknowledge how great you really are.