Imagine this: you applied for a Global Talent opportunity that is “out of your reach.” You did your best to follow every step of the application process. Then the good news came: you got accepted! But suddenly, you feel like you don’t deserve to be an intern at this company. “It’s just luck,” you tell yourself. Your head is filled with self-doubt, and you thought: “My work is good only for this time. Next time they will find out that I’m not fit for this position. I’m just a fraud!”
Does the story feel familiar? I want to assure you that these thoughts are normal. Let’s dive into this phenomenon and learn how we can deal with it.
If you can relate to the scenario, there is a chance that you experience impostor syndrome, a flawed belief system where someone has a massive doubt in their abilities despite external evidence that proves otherwise. Studies have shown that 7 out of 10 people have experienced the phenomenon.
Impostor syndrome can occur in various settings like a new environment, academic settings, workplace, social interactions, and relationships (platonic and romantic). Studies have suggested that impostor syndrome can negatively affect job performance while increasing burnout. Impostor syndrome can also cause people to withdraw from opportunities. Basically, it can sabotage your future.
(Some of) my personal experiences
I had my first intense experience of impostor syndrome in academic settings when I got accepted into university. My family was proud of me, my friends congratulated me, yet I only felt like I got accepted because of luck.
Other than that, not many people have heard of my major, so I got in because I had no competitors, right? I thought, “I don’t deserve the praise. I’m just fooling my friends and family into thinking that I achieved something great.”
In relationships, I have felt like I’m tricking my best friend into wanting to spend time with me. Sometimes, I had this guilty feeling in me, as if I was using them for my benefit. Another example, I feel that my English is terrible, despite evidence that proves otherwise (like the fact that I wrote this blog).
How to deal with it
Tip #1: Treat it as a friend’s thoughts
You already read my experiences battling impostor syndrome. Therefore, I’m sure that you already know how ridiculous my thought process was. Recognize that we can be much meaner to ourselves compared to how we treat others and use it to your benefit! Instead of listening mindlessly to your thoughts, you can treat them as if they were your friend’s.
Tip #2: Talk to other people
In the same spirit as the previous tip, talk about how you feel to your trusted allies. This could be your best friend, family member, and even a colleague if it occurs in the workplace. They can give you a “second opinion” about your thoughts and remind you that the feeling is common.
Tip #3: Keep a diary
Keep a diary of your reactions to achievements and praises. By keeping them in notes, you can learn to recognize the pattern in your behavior and resist the thoughts in the future. This is one of many strategies prescribed by Clance and Imes.
Tip #4: Accept your imperfections
Sometimes, impostor syndrome happens when you’re too focused on being “perfect.” That’s why any kind of achievement might feel fake or simply not enough. Therefore, practice your thoughts to accept that perfectionism is impossible. Nobody is perfect, even though they seem to be.
Tip #5: Therapy sessions
While impostor syndrome is not a medical diagnosis, attending therapy sessions with a professional will definitely help you to combat it. Reach out to therapists that are accessible for you.
So what now?
As young people, we often experience new things in life like getting accepted to university, attending a workplace for the first time, meeting new friends, and building relationships. Impostor syndrome can hinder your ability to face them, and when you’re not careful, it can lead to missed opportunities in life.
You already know that many people have experienced impostor syndrome, but here’s the catch, however! According to Australian psychologist Dr. Amantha Imber, “The most successful people in the world embrace self-doubt and are not afraid to look stupid. And if you’re avoiding doing something because it makes you nervous, remind yourself that these experiences are the richest ones for helping you learn.”
Now you know that impostor syndrome is common (even among successful people!), recognize that this feeling is normal and can be dealt with. As there are many tips to deal with impostor syndrome, do the ones that suit your needs and abilities. I wish you the best of luck in facing whatever new challenge you’re about to encounter.
I hope this blog can help you recognize that what you are feeling is normal and can be dealt with. So, don’t let impostor syndrome sabotage your future as a young person. Check out our Global Talent or Global Teacher opportunities and experience the AIESEC way to prepare yourself for the future.6