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How do I Know if I’m Suffering from Imposter Syndrome?

Last week I talked about Reshma Saujani’s commencement speech at Smith College (you can read last week’s post here). I want you to watch that video because Ms. Saujani is an amazing speaker who makes some really important points.

There were a couple areas I had a difference of opinion about, and maybe I’m blending this with some other articles about that I’ve read recently that we should stop telling women they have imposter syndrome, because it’s reinforcing the belief that we are, indeed, imposters. Well, I see that point, sure. But I think it’s the second word that makes me feel okay about it – syndrome. We aren’t actually imposters, we just feel like that, because of the way we were taught to exist in society.

And I think it’s a really easy shorthand that helps us discuss the feelings we’re having with our peers, and that is really valuable.

So this week I want to talk about some of the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome. Here’s how you know if you’re secretly feeling like a fraud, even if not consciously, even though you are NOT one:

  • You’re working too hard – you’re burning out because you’re working hard to prove you belong in your space
  • You’re downplaying your accomplishments when you achieve a goal or when someone compliments you.
  • You’re a perfectionist – often delaying putting things out in the world because it’s not perfect yet, and you fear judgement.
  • You’re constantly seeking approval – asking permission, doing things because you think you should, or because that’s what everyone else is doing, even if it doesn’t feel right.
  • You’re comparing yourself to others – a sure way to reinforce your imposter syndrome, because you’re always going to come up short compared to the Instagram perfect mega mogul.
  • You’re generally not confident – not putting yourself out there, not applying for grants, not marketing yourself, or taking on work or clients that you don’t want because you don’t think you have any right to turn things down.

I’ve experienced every single one of these, and I still do on a regular basis. Because knowing that these are symptoms of imposter syndrome doesn’t make it go away. But it certainly is the first step, and it’s helpful to know that this is something we all experience. So next week, I’m going to give you a few strategies for overcoming what can be a really crippling feeling!