Confessions of a Twenty-Something: I Feel Like a Fraud...
Yup- I said it... Even as I sit here and write this article for you, I feel unworthy of your attention. Why would you listen to me? I'm just some 24 year old kid who hasn't truly experienced life yet!
This is just one of SO many examples of how imposter syndrome can rear its ugly head and introduce a ton of negative self-talk into my system. I also experience similar imposter syndrome in my teaching career- I feel like I can always do better and I'm somehow failing these kids one way or the other. And don't get me started on the wellness empire I want to build for myself! I have so much imposter syndrome and negative self-talk around building up a business and selling products & service that I feel in my core would help people that I can barely move the needle on those projects.
I don't share this to go on a ~woe is me~ trip (far from it as I hate opening up about my weaknesses 😅). I'm opening up about this because I know it's so common in our society today, especially as twenty-somethings, yet we don't really talk about it with one another. So here I am- sharing my experience with Imposter Syndrome...
Before we dive into the journey, I want to take a moment to give this term we throw around so liberally nowadays a working definition. According to Psychology Today, Imposter Syndrome is "the belief that one is undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held." It's that gnawing feeling that creeps up on us and holds us back from reaching our full potential.
I lucked out in my journey with Imposter Syndrome as I didn't truly experience it until I was 18 and got rejected from every university I applied for except for one (Go Gators!). My whole life, I was told that I was exceptionally bright by my family, teachers, fellow students, etc. I prided myself on my intellect and essentially built my self-esteem off of that. So when I got rejected from all of these schools, my mind didn't recognize the fact that these were Ivy Leagues and ridiculous hard to get into- it just internalized this experience and blamed the one person that put in the not-Ivy-League-worthy work: me.
I can vividly remember the moment these rejections poured in. I physically could not move from the strong wave of emotion that crashed over me: shame, embarrassment, disappointment, failure, anxiety, and the deepest depression I had ever felt in my life at the time. My whole vision of my self was rattled. I was the smart one? 5% acceptance rate- that didn't apply to me! I was getting in for sure and was supposed to have my pick of the litter... right?
From there, I had to physically and mentally pick myself back up and reconstruct many of my views- from how AWESOME it was to get into the University of Florida (something I hardly even celebrated because it seemed like a give in in my mind) to how my intelligence still counted even if it wasn't externally realized by some colleges.
I couldn't be prouder of how far I've come in my mindset journey, but I would be lying if I said I believed in myself as absolutely as I did before all of the college rejections. There are still things, like starting a business and meeting new people, that bring about HEAPS of Imposter Syndrome. And not like the mild symptoms, but the ~almost completely unable to do anything remotely close to these concepts~ Imposter Syndrome.
I'm currently working through the Imposter Syndrome that continues to plague my mind and can confidently say I believe I can do anything ~within reason~ no matter how big the obstacle (either externally or internally).
If you can relate to my journey with Imposter Syndrome and are not sure where to start, I have a few tips that may help...
Feel Into Your Fear
Imposter Syndrome is usually fear-based. For example, you may tell yourself that you can't socialize. You have no friends and are incapable of making any because people aren't interested in you, you're different from the rest of them, nobody cares about you, etc. All of that is extremely negative and should be addressed immediately with your mind. To feel into this negativity and ultimately get to the root of it, two very helpful tools are meditation and journaling.
First, you can meditate on everything that's coming up, like a river roaring in your mind, and work to process the experiences that trigger this response. To illustrate using the same example, maybe you were bullied in middle school. You had a group of people persistent on making you feel less-than and like no one cared about you. This experience cut so deep that you started to believe their words- hence your thought pattern when it comes to socializing.
Also, you can put this process on paper through journaling. First, start by writing down the negative torrent of thoughts you're used to experiencing. Then, ask yourself, "Why? What's coming up and being triggered right now?" In these moments, let your mind go. More often than not, it'll lead you right to the source of all this negativity.
Shower Yourself in Positivity
Now that you're aware of the source of the negativity (a HUGE first step), it's time to infuse your life with some targeted positivity! When Imposter Syndrome rears its head, meet it with kindness and compassion. Think of it as your inner child/teen expressing their deepest darkest fears. Let your inner child/teen feel through their feelings and remind them that you're here for them no matter the outcome of whatever the subject of your Imposter Syndrome is. I know it sounds a little wild (it sounded wild to me when my therapist recommended it), but I promise it's worth a shot! Using this method has allowed me to move mindset mountains in the past few months.
Also, having a consistent affirmation practice can really help! By reciting affirmations, you slowly but surely start to boost your self-esteem regardless of what goes on in the outside world!
This practice can look different for everyone! In my world, I write myself an affirmation every morning based on what I've been feeling challenged with, often listen to guided affirmations, and work to randomly compliment myself.
Do It Scared
This is hands-down the hardest part, but it's so necessary to move through your Imposter Syndrome. The only way completely out of fear is through, so it's time to make a plan to pull on your higher self and become the version of you that can do the things you dream of!
When you're doing this, there are a few things you need to keep in mind...
Small steps are huge in the grand scheme of things and are better than no steps at all
Your dreams are bigger than your fears
You can do anything you set your mind to
You have a whole community supporting you!
Now go out there and achieve your dreams!