Beating Imposter Syndrome

Beating Imposter Syndrome

Ever felt like a fraud? Surprisingly, this feeling is familiar to the majority of us.

At the start of the year, upon reporting at Gearbox Kenya – my industrial attachment station, my supervisor gave a brief of the project that my colleagues and I were to complete by the end of the attachment period.
The project integrated embedded system design, IoT, robotics, and machine learning. In addition, by completing my attachment, I was required to develop a personal web portfolio that showcased critical engagements at my attachment.
My little background in tech made me feel less capable of meeting the deliverables of the project. A little chit-chat over the lunch hour with my colleagues revealed that I was not the only ‘imposter’ around.

My colleagues shared the same imposter feeling. Our supervisor’s trust in us had hit the ceiling. This feeling of incompetency is referred to as imposter syndrome.

It has been shown that imposter syndrome affects around one-third of young people globally. In addition, 70 percent of the rest of the population is likely to experience imposter syndrome at one point in their lives. Imposter syndrome is associated with our identities and sense of self-worth. Imposter syndrome is characterized in three ways:

  • Thinking that people have an exaggerated view of your abilities
  • The fear of being exposed as a fraud
  • The continuous tendency to downplay your achievement

It is common for imposter syndrome to surface whenever we take on new roles and responsibilities. In this instance, feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and guilt ensue. As a consequence of imposter syndrome, victims sabotage their success, obsess over minor mistakes, and put immense effort so that they may prove themselves worthy.
The outcome of the frequent sabotaging, obsession, and working twice as hard translates to burnout and feelings of being miserable at one’s workplace.
The constant stress of questioning oneself compounded with anxieties and working pressures will often leave an individual feeling exhausted daily. The impact is detrimental to one’s health and often results in depression in the long term.

It is then vital to acknowledge imposter syndrome and implement means of overcoming this destructive feeling. Imposter syndrome can be overcome in four ways:

Keep a positive mindset.

The majority of us usually downplay our achievements to be humble. Humility is a good trait. However, unlimited humility can hurt one, especially if there are feelings of self-doubt. Keeping a positive mindset entails remaining in the present instead of thinking about the future or worrying about the past. Focusing on the reality of our situations will quickly erode anxious thoughts.

Celebrate your wins.

We often get so focused on the outcomes of our work that we forget to take a pause and honor ourselves. We worry that it is a waste of time or will make us seem like “show-offs.” But celebrating yourself is a simple and fun way to combat imposter syndrome.

Use social media(mindfully).

The internet can be good and evil when building up or breaking down feelings of imposter syndrome. Through platforms such as LinkedIn, we can interact with, follow, and connect with people we never had access to before. You can use these powerful tools to research people you admire and see what they’re doing with their lives.
To gain the benefits of the internet and surpass the downsides, practice self-awareness as you scroll through your feeds and score the search engines. Unfollow people who bring you down and focus on the educational or inspirational content that feeds your best self, remind you to express gratitude for your wins, give yourself grace, and visualize the future you want.

Make a Plan

The idea here is to be strategic as opposed to reactive. When you feel like a fraud, you may naturally panic. To prove yourself, you may produce a long list of goals and deadlines to hit without taking the time to strategize how you will reach them. As a result, you may be entirely overwhelmed and unable to execute your objectives effectively. You set yourself up to fail before you even begin. You can protect your ego by reminding yourself that you will face obstacles. You should expect and prepare for them to avoid any soul-crushing setbacks or surprises.

To sum up, remember that even the most accomplished people have room for improvement. Making mistakes is inevitable. If you learn from those mistakes, it’s okay to fail now and then.
Part of the journey to overcoming imposter syndrome is learning from each experience you face. Not every piece of advice will work for everyone, so take notes along the way and reflect on what feels best to you in different situations. Imposter syndrome is a battle that you can, and with practice, will win.

Tony Nyagaka

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