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Too often we feel like we’re not good enough. In an age of social media, this happens even more because people tend to share their success more often than their struggles. It can make you feel inadequate and question whether you belong or have something worth sharing.

If these sentiments feel a bit too familiar, then you’re perfectly normal. Seriously. Many people, including me, regularly feel this way. So I want to explain why this happens in more depth and share how I’ve learned to manage these feelings.

 

Impostor Syndrome
The first thing you need to know is that this feeling is so common it has its own name: impostor syndrome.

Self-doubt is very real, even from the people you would never expect it from. For example, Maya Angelou said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'” Tom Hanks has said “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?'”

If these two legends genuinely feel this way, then we have to realize that no matter how much we accomplish, this feeling will stay with us.

 

Why Does It Happen
One of the most common reasons for feeling impostor syndrome is that no one is a prophet in their own land. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to take for granted what we are familiar with. For example, you may tell your significant other about a restaurant you want to eat at. Your significant other hears you, but doesn’t really seem enthusiastic about it. Then, one day your significant other tells you that a friend talked about that same restaurant and said it was amazing. Now your significant other can’t wait to go. You sit there looking dumbfounded thinking, “Seriously?! I said that same thing a few days ago and you didn’t even care!” I can write this, knowing you’re smiling or nodding your head, because we’ve all been on one side of that experience or the other.

The same thing happens in education. Your colleagues may have known you for years and may not acknowledge your achievements because again, humans have a tendency to take for granted what we’re familiar with. Instead we focus on all the things we’re not or still have to do. It’s hard not to internalize how others see us, but we need to be in control of your own self-image.

 

How To Manage It
For me, the first step in managing our impostor syndrome is by asking ourselves this one centering question: “Will what I’m doing help someone else?” If the answer’s yes, then you are absolutely not an impostor. In fact, if you could help someone else and you don’t help them, might that be even worse?

Sometimes we feel that we have to wait until we get to some unrealistic achievement level (that’s mainly in our head) and keeps getting farther away. But what you have to remember is that if you can help someone else, do it. Sure, others might know more than you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference for someone else.

 

Conclusion
Impostor syndrome is perfectly normal to feel. In fact, if you never feel impostor syndrome, that might be something to be curious about. When you do feel it, remember to ask yourself my centering question: “Will what I’m doing help someone else?” The answer is almost always yes; and when it is, go for it.

Also, let’s try to be more open about our struggles so we give people more complete representations that help people maintain better perspective.


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