The Perfect Imposter
Did you ever feel like you just do not belong into that room? Like everyone else is so much smarter than you? Like you have nothing to contribute that is worth listening to? Kind of like you cheated your way in there because people seem to think that you are smarter than you are?
We all get that feeling sometimes - hello, imposter syndrome. The most trust-worthy source on the internet, Wikipedia, defines imposter syndrome like this (I hope you read the first part of this sentence with sarcasm):
Imposter Syndrome (n.)
"Impostor syndrome [...] is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be."
I feel like an imposter all the time - whether it is when I consider whether my answer in class is good enough, whether I deserve to study at my university, or whether I am good enough to apply for a job. Imposter syndrome is like a little ghost that waits in the corner to prey on you. There is not necessarily a trigger for it - it just comes and goes. I have literally sat in lectures at university, looked around the room and suddenly my mind went like, 'you know, they're all probably smarter than you. They get that one word you didn't understand just now. They are probably ahead on top of their family law readings for this week. They deserve to be here.'
But the thing is, most people around me feel just like that when they look at my friends and me. Someone once described this to me as the 'Duck Effect.' Imagine yourself being a duck in the water. You are struggling to stay afloat and you are paddling frantically in order to get to your destination. And then you look to the other ducks and they are all gliding across the water gracefully. It seems like you are the only one struggling. But, in effect, all the others are struggling too under the water - you just do not see it.
We all have these insecurities that come to haunt us every once in a while. But some us have found ways to deal with them. One of my friends told me he just 'fakes it until he makes it.' This approach sounds somewhat weird, but his advice was actually really valuable. He told me that whenever his brain tells him he was not good enough for something, he gave himself an advance of confidence - just ten to twenty seconds. That is enough to say that answer you have been holding back because you were not sure whether it was right, enough to hit 'send' on that application, or to send a message which you have been overthinking for way too long.
And it has worked out for him. So I took his advice. And boy, it did change things. I applied it across all areas - whether it was sticking with my rate for sponsorships when being asked if I could lower it (despite fearing a brand might not be willing to pay that much and therefore not work with me), simply messaging people about stuff without overthinking twenty times how many wrong ways there are to interpret the tone of my message (you would be surprised how much one can overthink asking someone about their work on a group project), and applying for positions and scholarships where I was not sure whether my CV was good enough. And it has often worked out.
Interestingly enough, the few rejections for applications that I have gotten did not sting even half as much as the ones I had gotten when I overthought everything. When you simply hit 'send' on something, you are less emotionally invested at the application stage and that makes it easier to accept it when things do not work out.
I honestly do not fully have that confidence which my friend advised me to 'fake until I have it' but I am getting there by faking it until I really have it. It is becoming more natural for me to simply go for something. I still get doubts in my mind, but there is now an almost automatic response to it which is 'you've got twenty seconds of confidence. So, what will confident Elena do?' It sounds very cheesy and self-help-book-like, but it works for me. As weird as 'fake it until you make it' may sound, my friend was onto something.
So to all my fellow self-diagnosed imposters out there, give yourself a little advance on your 'confidence budget' of the day and at some point, it may no longer be an advance but confidence you actually have.
Lots of Love,
P.S.: The title picture for today's post was taken by Simon Hinger. He is a super talented new portrait photographer in my hometown.