Imposter Syndrome and the Internet

Ray Beam Mindset 14 Comments

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. 

Meryl Streep

‘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?”‘

Natalie Portman

‘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.’

Lupita Nyong’o

“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.”

Ryan Reynolds

“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.

Rethink Failure

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.

Just Disconnect

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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Comments 14

  1. It’s so hard not to compare to others on social media. Sometimes I do wonder if I put on a fake face on social media, and others I wonder how much I see is not real life. I’ve been disconnecting from facebook a lot lately, as much as I can while still running my blog.

  2. I think we all experience impostor syndrome sometimes and it’s great that you’re talking about it. I love those quotes, and there’s something reassuring about knowing that even the most successful people feel the same way.

  3. That is so true. It is so easy to be fake happy and just fake online. That is why I try my best to be as real as I can be. This post definitely gave me stuff to think about!

  4. I think I’m on the flip-side with the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Always fixing the problems, which can be so exhausting. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve started enforcing boundaries. It’s hard watching my friends feel like impostors.

  5. re think failure is a good one. Is it failure or a different way to success? Is it failure or a new start? Is it failure or a much needed lesson?

  6. I absolutely love that you have addressed this. So many feel like they need to be like everyone else in order to fit in.

  7. Oh wow. I believe I have this. Once my boss told me I did such a great job with a graphics project, and I thought to myself, “how could she have been impressed by that?” I kept wondering what’s so great about what I did that she was so impressed by it. lol

  8. So this is a real thing. I’ve felt the way you have described, but never knew there was a name for it! I earned my doctorate degree last year, I’m 60 now, just starting my long delayed career (after being “just” a homemaker for 20+ years), and I still don’t feel like the well-educated, professional woman others say I am!

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