Is it a little ridiculous to feel like an imposter… talking about imposter syndrome?
My friend Joy, who is a great public speaker, was asked to talk about the topic in front of a business group and called me to talk shop.
“I don’t really feel like an imposter.” she said.
Honestly, I don’t often either.
Like Joy, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on my abilities. I think I’m competent but I am very aware of my limitations personally and professionally. I also don’t ruminate on feelings a lot, so a worry of fooling the whole world is usually fleeting.
That said, we all have some version of “What the %&*$ am I doing?!?” moments that make you feel like you don’t know how to get out of bed in the morning, much less do a skilled task. So here are some things that keep Joy and I not feeling too imposter-y most of the time:
Strategy One: Know that it’s people who think they’re amazing all the time that we need to worry about.
You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect or even just the idea of ‘delusions of grandeur’ but the opposite, of course, is that if you are worried you aren’t competent, that probably means that you are actually.
I took an online psychopath test last year… and it said I could be one. I was so worried about this, I told a few close friends to see if they had noticed my tendencies and basically figure out if I was accidentally hurting other people. Everyone kind of laughed at me and said ‘Nicole, if you were a psychopath, you probably wouldn’t be worried about being one, ya know?’
Point taken. So if you’re worried that you are an imposter, chances are you probably aren’t one… otherwise you’d just be busy fooling everyone!
Strategy Two: Take an objective test.
Just about any skill has the ability to be measured… so if you really are worried you are too horrible at math to pass your accounting exam, you can probably use some objective measure to figure that out.
When I studied abroad in France, the school I was at was smart enough to give us the TEF. This shows us what level of French I am at according to a standardized test:
(This is why I groan whenever people ask me if I’m fluent- I haven’t been objectively tested in 15ish years and since then I know A LOT more… but I was only ‘elementary’ in grammar back then.)
Strategy Three: Ask yourself what you’d need to learn/know/do to get to the needed level.
What I find is usually when I ask myself a question like “What training or experience do I need to consider myself a Facebook Ads expert?” I realize that either:
1) There is actually something I can do about my lack of feeling like a boss in a subject area (take a class, pass a test, get less than $5 a lead on my lead generation ads consistently for three months).
2) The amount of stuff I feel I need to know is ridiculous and completely unachievable, by me or anyone else.
So that can be helpful. Kind of like asking yourself “What would make me not an imposter?” and just going for it… or understanding you are being ridiculous.
Strategy Four: Understand you know enough to help that person.
So if, say, Bill Gates called me up and asked me for computer help, I’d probably tell him I couldn’t. But if my mom asks for help on her computer, I definitely know enough to help her.
If someone comes to you for help or advice, ask yourself ‘Do I know enough to help this person?’ and if the answer is yes, you are not an imposter, my friend. You are helping!
All this to say is that Imposter Syndrome seems relatively common… especially as you reach higher levels in your education, career, and other areas of your life. But as a former therapist once told me, “Just because it’s a feeling, doesn’t mean it’s real.”
And in a world that make anyone generally not feel good enough, here’s hoping you can use some of these tricks to know from, inside yourself, you are not faking your talents and skills.