Anxiety leading up to a big event is a normal reaction. Fear of failure stops many people in their tracks, but you have managed to push through it. Most people experience a mix of excitement and wariness leading up to a major challenge. But for some, another, insidious feeling lurks beneath the surface.
‘It’s not that special,’ a little voice whispers. ‘I just got lucky. I do not deserve this. I’m a fraud.’
Fear may not stop you, but Imposter Syndrome wants you to believe your accomplishments mean nothing. And the internet can make it worse.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the sense of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While it is not a mental disorder, the stress and anxiety it causes can be very real. And, it can affect anyone regardless of race, gender, or any other factor. Check out these quotes from talented stars who struggle.
‘You think, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”‘
‘When I got to Harvard just after the release of Star Wars: Episode 1, I feared people would assume I had gotten in just for being famous, and not worthy of the intellectual rigor here.’
“What’s it called when you have a disease and it keeps recurring? I go through [acute impostor syndrome] with every role. I think winning an Oscar may in fact have made it worse. Now I’ve achieved this, what am I going to do next? What do I strive for? Then I remember that I didn’t get into acting for the accolades, I got into it for the joy of telling stories.”
“I went to a lot of events this year because of Deadpool, so you get into the tux and try and look like a grown-up. But to be honest, I still feel like a freckle-faced kid, faking it until I make it.”
Social media can be a double-edged sword. The post that makes you feel inspired one day can make you feel like a nobody the next. Picking and choosing the parts of your life you show to the world, can increase these feelings of being a fraud.
Social Media and Internet Imposter Syndrome
People with Imposter Syndrome struggle with feelings of incompetency, negative self-talk, and comparing themselves to others. Social media can definitely exacerbate these feelings. Everyone is trying to portray the best version of their lives — whether it’s what their lives actually look like or not.
While I fill my blog with posts about fitness, fandom, goal-setting, and working to be the best version of yourself, it does not always match up to my real life.
(Smash cut: me standing in pajama pants and a hoodie in Target buying cat food, cat litter, diet coke, aleve, and a single halloween decoration. Fast-forward to eating a pint of halo top for dinner, four hours deep in an Arrow-binge session. My apple watch reminds me it’s time to stand up…. and I ignore it.)
I often feel guilty trying to run in the same circles as people who do crossfit competitions, churn out stunning cosplay, or run successful blogs. Then, I put up content that may pass that along to the next person. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. If you’re already prone to feelings of inadequacy, the internet becomes an amplifier.
How to deal with Internet Imposter Syndrome
Find Value Outside Accomplishment
Stressed about a lack of growth opportunity at my current job, I started sobbing to my therapist. “I know my worth as a human being isn’t dependent upon my productivity in a capitalist society but it still sucks.”
“Well good, I just wanted to make sure you knew that,” he said.
It can be hard in a society that stresses productivity, achievement, money, and success, but you have value as a human being. Take a moment and think about the people in your life who would love and care about you even if you didn’t have a penny to your name.
Write down a list of traits that may not be profitable or marketable but make you you. Are you good at making terrible puns and dad jokes? Can you memorize weird information about obscure topics? Maybe you’re willing to drop everything for a friend in need or you just have a great laugh. What is it about your random combination if DNA that makes you special?
Be Real With Others
It took almost 4 months to increase my one-rep max snatch from 65 lbs to 70 lbs, often failing to hit 65 lbs at all! It was embarrassing to me, to be struggling so hard with this particular movement.
I connected with my followers — real people, not numbers when I took a risk. Instead of posting a shiny new snatch PR, I posted a video of me falling on my ass on Instagram. People could have looked at me, thought I was weak, and turned away. Instead, they came out to share their stories, their struggles. They reminded me why I decided to blog in the first place.
Being honest about failure can be hard when you’re afraid people will discover you’re a fake. The reality is, everyone around you is failing.
Being seen as a fake or a failure is one of the hallmarks of Imposter Syndrome. The truth is, every successful person you see has failed more times than they’ve succeeded. The difference is that they don’t see failure as an end result but a learning opportunity. Instead of wasting time and energy trying to avoid failure, facing it head on and learning to welcome it can help you go farther.
When you carry the entire world in your pocket, it becomes hard to disengage. While being able to connect to anyone at any time is a great privilege, it does not mean we have to do it all the time.
It is okay to take a break from Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, or any social media platform. It is okay to opt out of trying to show how much you have it together. It’s okay to just take a day and binge watch a TV show or go on a walk and not talk to people on the internet. It’s okay to have a day when you don’t do anything.
If you feel like a fraud, you probably are not
Chances are, if you’re spending time worrying about whether or not you’ve actually earned your achievements, you have.
The flip-side of Imposter Syndrome is the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Simply put, people who have low levels of competence lack the self-awareness to understand their lack of competence. That’s probably why you’re the one fixing the mistakes of your coworker who thinks they are hot stuff. You know the one.
Take heart, and realize you’re not alone in your worries and you are worth every one of your achievements and more.
Have you struggled with Imposter Syndrome? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to sign up for the Superpowers Sold Separately Newsletter or our new Eight Week Fat Loss Course!
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