Ever Feel Like a Fraud? You're Not Alone

This feeling has a name. It’s called “imposter syndrome.” Maybe you’ve stepped into a new role at work or want to start down a new career path—or maybe it’s even work you have a lot of experience in. Suddenly, it feels like you don’t know what you’re doing and everyone is about to find out just how unqualified you are. This is usually when we find we’re comparing ourselves to others and holding ourselves to impossible standards. Thanks to Facebook and Instagram it’s easier than ever to spiral into the depths of self-doubt and perfectionism.

Everyone else is faking it too

If you feel like you’re the only one making it up as you go, I assure you, you’re not. Most people feel this way at some point or another, no matter how successful they are, even celebrities and people who are deemed expert in their field.

Take Maya Angelou. She’s quoted as saying: “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.’ (Carl Richards “Learning to Deal With the Impostor Syndrome”) So, chances are, even if you’re really good at what you do, you’ll still have moments of feeling like a total fake.

Give yourself permission to fail

If you see the times you do fail as opportunities for success and breakthrough, you can become less self-conscious about failing in the first place. Just because you got a bad grade on that physics test or a negative review at work doesn’t mean you’re inherently bad at physics or bad at your job forever. That was one test and one review. We don’t usually get to see all of someone’s failures before they had a breakthrough. After all, we don’t typically start out being good at things. The things we’re good at take a lot of practice—and that means a lot of failed attempts.

Imagine a world where we actually got congratulated for our failures because we recognize these as the moments where real learning and growth is happening. If we gave ourselves more permission to fail, would we feel less like phonies?