When in the throes of an Imposter Syndrome struggle, you may feel that you're the only person in your circle (or in the whole world) who suffers from this level of self-doubt. In those moments, you're certain that every label you've assigned to yourself, including inadequate, incompetent, undeserving, unqualified, fake, and unequivocal failure is absolutely accurate. The pain associated with the Imposter Syndrome is very real, but the self-assessment that put you there is not.
Rooted in cultural inequities and beliefs connected to hurtful past experiences, the Imposter Syndrome embeds untruths that can cripple even the strongest among us. The bright side is that you're in good company. The doubt that you may regard as your deepest secret is shared by the highest achievers.
When Sheryl Sandberg wrote, Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead, she included that, "Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn't embarrass myself--or even excelled--I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again."
After shooting his movie, Hologram for The King, Tom Hanks told NPR that he related to the character's sense of self-doubt. "No matter what we've done, there comes a point where you think, 'How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?'"
Even the highest achievers, such as Albert Einstein and Maya Angelou, suffered from this corrosive form of low self-esteem. The Imposter Syndrome rears its ugly head even as external success heightens, as sufferers believe they are only faking it better and doing a good job of hiding it.
According to some estimates, up to 70% of successful people have experienced impostor syndrome. And according to Seth Godin, it's much higher. "Yes, you're an impostor. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best," Godin wrote in a blog post.
So, what do you do with this information? You embrace the fact that you, like most high-achievers, have doubt about your ability and deservingness. Of course, you do, because to achieve the things that are important to you, you must step into a new frontier and do things you've never done before. Taking risk is frightening for most anyone, including people who have already achieved fame. Still, whether it's social, financial, physical, or related to reputation, successful people do it just about every day. The fear in and of itself is perfectly normal and fine; it's when you allow it to block you from taking the next step that it's no longer okay. The longer you dwell on these negative emotions, the less time you have to spend productively achieving your goals.
Challenge your negative thoughts by looking for evidence to the contrary and keep a running list of your successes, no matter how small. Don't simply read the list, have someone else bombard you with the uplifting truths that it contains. As a business coach, I keep what I call an "amazing list" for my clients. When I hear self-doubt creeping into a client's voice, I rattle off a string of their accomplishments. Hearing proof of their own amazingness recited back to them always results in a dramatic about-face.
Stop hiding it.
There's no shame in self-doubt, and now you know that you are, indeed, in good company. Leaders in all industries, including the entertainment industry, are talking about their Imposter Syndrome symptoms. Follow their lead, don't remain alone with your head trash. Also, read up on the Imposter Syndrome; a Google search will take you to a list of many insightful books on the topic.
Lastly, congratulate yourself, because if you weren't afraid it would mean that you're not taking those gargantuan steps necessary to take you to your dreams.