I am writing this email* with lots of love, so please read it in that spirit ♥
Twenty years ago impostor’s syndrome was seldom talked about, but nowadays most of us have heard of it. And because of how popular the term has become I have noticed that sometimes people can confuse their natural feelings of insecurity for impostor’s syndrome. So I want to take a moment to distinguish between what impostor’s syndrome is and what is not.
Impostor’s syndrome is a feeling that you are not really good at what you do or that you are not a legitimate expert, even though you are. You do have the skills, knowledge, experience, credentials, etc. but you still feel like at any moment people will figure out you fooled them, you really know nothing, and you are not as good as they think you are. Impostor’s syndrome can affect anyone and for many reasons.
Sometimes, though, people innocently think they have impostor’s syndrome when what they are experiencing is the discomfort that often comes with growth. And this misunderstanding can make them feel even more insecure and miss wonderful opportunities.
Let me explain: if you are new at something and you doubt whether you can be successful at it, you are experiencing normal insecure thoughts. For example, it’s common to feel insecure when you start a job or a business. Lots of things are new, and you might have not yet experienced being able to deal with a number of unfamiliar challenges. There is also the uncertainty that comes with being in an unknown environment, with people dynamics you don’t yet fully understand.
This insecurity is not a worrisome condition, it’s simply what sometimes happens when we are operating outside of our comfort zone. The more we recognize it for what it is, the better we can handle it. It’s like muscle pain after working out: that pain tells you that you have reached the edge of your training level, and it’s useful insofar as it stops you from working out to the point of injury. It’s also a sign you are doing things right: you want to train until there is a bit of discomfort, otherwise you will not improve.
In the same way, there is a certain confidence that only comes from getting out of our comfort zone: we become confident by handling what life throws at us - including the occasional success or failure.
Going back to Impostor’s Syndrome… let’s say you have been a teacher for a few years and you still feel like a fraud: you have plenty of evidence you can teach, but still you feel this crushing fear inside that any day you will be "found out." That sounds like it might be impostor’s syndrome.
Your first year as a teacher, though? Of course you have some insecurity, who wouldn’t?!?
I can tell you from personal experience and from working with many clients over the years that thoughts come and go, and they can and do change. Confidence can grow, patterns can disappear, and the impossible can become possible.
So whether you are feeling insecure or dealing with a deeper issue, don’t be discouraged! There is plenty of help out there, including professionals who can talk to you depending on where you are at. The important thing is to take that first step in the direction of your own wellbeing.
And don’t be afraid of feeling insecure: it happens to the best of us! It just might be a sign that you are growing 🙂
*This post was originally written as part of my weekly newsletter. You can subscribe here to start receiving it