Impostor Syndrome is "a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.'" The term was coined in 1978, but only became a hot topic of conversation recently. In an increasingly competitive job market — the perfect world of social media and sharing all the positive, amazing internships and trips and shiny new jobs — about 70% of people are said to have felt like a fraud or like an impostor at any given point in their lives. Though it is said to affect women more than men, the number of people who have doubts about their abilities is actually roughly equal across the gender spectrum.
Millennials are the most-qualified graduates out of any generation in history, according to a Pre Research study. Students take up a variety of unpaid internships, volunteer gigs, and hobbies to complement their diplomas, and still, we have countless young people feeling inadequate or unworthy of the opportunities presented to them. All I have to do is look around at former classmates and friends to see how poorly some feel about their ability to hold a job or succeed in an internship. When I began writing, I took a leap of faith, believing some people would like my writing. I started getting to know this industry by following people whose work I admired, on Instagram and Twitter, and I began to doubt my abilities and myself. I was paralyzed by self-doubt and thought that others would be better suited than me. If I did have a piece published, I thought it was just luck, not talent and craft. Social media can be a great way to share your work, cultivate your brand and develop a voice and a following, but the comparisons it creates can also be a real killer of creativity and confidence. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” Theodore Roosevelt said. He was right.
So, what can you do to combat the much-dreaded impostor syndrome? Well, it’s a good idea to embrace it. Accept that everyone will feel down and out about their abilities at some point and that it can be dealt with.
You got the job because you were qualified. If you weren't, you wouldn't have been hired! You got into the course because they thought you were a good addition to it. If they hadn't, you wouldn't have been accepted! So, accept that doubting yourself is normal, but use logic — as difficult as it is — to defeat that self-doubt and inform your brain that you are indeed the best person for the job, whatever that job may be. Next, shut off your social media or at least curate it to be positive. Sophia Amoruso always says, “Social media is the highlight reel of someone's life.” If they don't choose to share their struggles — the hard work, the no's — then you won't ever know and you don't really get to see the journey, the steps it took them to get to where they are. Only getting to see the wins can distort your reality and make you question yourself. Just because you are not where they are yet and you have not reached your goals the way you would like doesn’t mean you won’t. The main thing 2018 is teaching me is patience. We have to be patient with ourselves and with our dreams. Believe that if you put in the work, then things will fall into place. Not everything will be picture perfect pink, but it will still be a pretty picture, nonetheless.
Inês Mendonça is a regular contributor to Pink Things.