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Are You an Impostor?

by Beth on December 10th, 2015

In a recent interview Adele was asked what she thought about her album “21” being ranked by Billboard Magazine the top album of all time. She said she was beyond grateful, but thought it was ridiculous. “I feel like I should be number 50 or something. I’m just waiting for people to turn up tomorrow night and start throwing rotten fruit at me.”

So Adele has it, too! Impostor syndrome is the tendency to underestimate your value. While anyone can have it, it affects more women than men. When we are praised for our success, instead of accepting it or even relishing it for a moment, we start thinking we are unworthy of the praise. We worry that people will eventually discover we are impostors who lack the abilities for which we are being recognized. They might even throw rotten fruit at us!

Comedian Tina Fey says she thinks, “I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” Meryl Streep, who has been nominated for more Academy Awards and Golden Globes than any other actor in history, has said, “You think ‘why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”

If Tina Fey, Meryl Streep, and Adele, whose latest album “25” had a record 3.38 million-selling debut week, experience impostor syndrome, I’m guessing some of you might, too. So what can you do?

  • The first step is to recognize you have it and that you are not alone. Say, “I have impostor syndrome, just like Adele.” Remind yourself that we all tend to underestimate our own worth and to overestimate the success of others.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Social comparison is guaranteed to make you feel insecure. You are uniquely you. Don’t try to live someone else’s life. Embrace your uniqueness!
  • Write down your successes in a victory log. Include professional accomplishments, as well as life goals that you are proud of having achieved. When people say nice things about you write that down, too. Keep your victory log handy so you can read it whenever you start doubting yourself.
  • Remember that failing at something doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough. Everyone fails! If you don’t fail from time to time you aren’t trying to make a meaningful difference.
  • Try faking it. Act like you are confident despite your insecurity. The only way to grow is to challenge yourself and that requires doing things that are outside of your comfort zone. It is easy to feel like an impostor when you are trying something new or tackling a stretch assignment. But that’s the only way to learn and grow. So raise your hand and volunteer for that project that scares you. If Adele can do it, you can, too!
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