Have you ever felt like you’re not enough for your job? That when you get somewhere it’s only due to circumstances or good luck? Have you felt like whatever happens now, eventually people will realize that you’re not really that great?
Yes, it’s just as we thought, you have impostor syndrome.
What does it look like?
Don’t worry, 70% of people have experienced Impostor Syndrome. As we’ve previously discussed, it makes you feel that every achievement is a false positive and that every result is due to good luck or mere coincidence. This creates a constant fear of being “found out”.
Another way of describing it is the feeling of being a secret agent (but not during the epic and heroic moments where there are guns and explosions), more like an infiltrator who is about to be exposed. Imposter Syndrome is the perception that no matter how hard you work or how much you achieve, your self doubt about your skills and capabilities remains. It is feeling like you are not up to the job while it’s in progress and then failing to give yourself the credit you deserve for your achievements.
The problem begins with feelings of doubt and anxiety arising at the most inappropriate of moments, when you need to deal with a situation. You are faced with two problems: the situation itself and the doubt about how capable you are to solve it.
While researching and discussing this subject internally, we found that there are some social norms that don’t help us in coping with Impostor Syndrome. Actually they do the very opposite, they create a vicious circle that causes us to constantly doubt that that we are heading in the right direction.
Our purpose is to help people to break free from the paradigms that limit them, which is why we want to analyze 3 paradigms or mantras that have been incorporated into our daily working reality. We believe them to be a little obsolete, to say the least:
Fake it till you make it
This common expression in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, is part of the romanticization of success, it creates a false promise that once you get all the things you want, you will no longer feel pressure, nor will anyone doubt your ability to accomplish things. This approach can be risky for two reasons:
→ As you advance on your career path, so will your responsibilities; therefore, the challenges you face will have the same or even greater level of complexity. The stakes will be higher and so the vertigo could become immense.
→ It’s likely that with this approach, your vision of success will become increasingly unattainable. You might never get everything you “want” and due to this, you might never consider yourself good enough.
This phrase normalizes that sick race to achieve things (often without caring about how), and it encourages the type of ambition that keeps us in a constant state of anxiety, rushing to achieve things that we’re not always clear about. It also normalizes the idea that when you are “successful”, all the problems will vanish, along with your doubts, right?
As stated by some random people named Albert Einstein and Meryl Streep:
Einstein and Streep make it abundantly clear that if your self worth depends solely on external recognition, no amount of achievement is ever going to convince you.
At Fuckup, we believe that perfection, success, and all of the social values that create personal recognition are rhetorical and honestly don’t matter too much 😉 What we do believe in is personal progress. One of our values is to be 1% better every day.
Developing our capabilities and identifying our circle of competence will help us to objectively reinforce our confidence in what we are able to do. Something you can do when you experience that feeling of anxiety is locate and point out where your doubt lies? Is it in your technical skills for meetings or maybe in your public speaking ability, What is the doubt that diminishes your self belief?
In doing this, you do not invalidate your entire person, but something specific that you can improve with training.
The important thing is to maintain a growth mindset or as Carol Dweck explains, to think of capabilities as skills that you haven’t yet mastered.
Vulnerability accepted as Weakness
When someone asks us how we are, there is a 99.9% probability that the answer will be: “fine”. (unofficial data, or scientifically investigated by anyone)
This is a social reflection of a paradigm that tells us that being vulnerable, being sad or having failed at something is synonymous with weakness and that in the world we are living in that will be a roadblock for progress. This causes us to suffer through these ups and downs in silence and even in secret, because if people found out, it would affect our professional or even personal value. The concept of “being able to do something” has been incorrectly connected with “strength”.
We all know how attractive the term “knowing how to work under stress” sounds, but even conceptually this implies that not allowing an emotion to be visible is a good thing. Fucked up world right?
We choose to raise our voices about this, even though nobody else does, actually we speak up for exactly that reason: nobody talks about it! We believe that sharing the mistakes, difficulties and obstacles that we struggle with helps us to connect on a more human level, this normally opens the door for empathy. Knowing that someone else has been through the same thing as you, helps. A lot!
That is why it is important for teams to create social support. Melinda Epler, founder of Change Catalyst, states that this “allyship” is achieved by creating spaces for trust where our daily difficulties can be shared with transparency and vulnerability.
Remember that 70% of people have experienced impostor syndrome, this means that more than half of us have felt or are feeling this way … Then why is hiding it normalized?
At Fuckup we each share a weekly report with the team, this report lists general achievements and challenges and Fuckups, this later section is well read by everyone. When someone on the team makes a mistake or admits that they are not at their best, none of us are surprised, rather a general feeling of connection and support arises.
In summary. It’s ok, to not be ok. And better still to share it.
As we grow, it seems as though we are continuously hiding everything that represents our true personality, we begin to look for accepted social behaviors that help us to fit in better. Or to put it in other words: “to be cool”.
You study a career that will make you financially stable, you wear the clothes that will make you look successful, you read the books recommended by the gurus of the moment and you stop listening to the weird rock bands you like because nobody listens to them.
You start to create and define a persona that isn’t necessarily what you are, and start behaving and looking more like how other people think you should. The problem is that you’re trying to be something you’re not and there is a slight chance that you suck at pretending.
It is time for us to ask ourselves: what we were before they started telling us how we should be?
Larry Cornett, Leadership Coach & Career Advisor, mentions how important it is to accept the fundamental truths about yourself. These characteristics are not formulated by the recognition of others and cannot be affected by external criticism, they are simply parts of who you are.
At Fuckup, we call this being authentic and living a life without filters. Once you are at peace with what you are and what you are not, the feeling of not being enough fades away.
We have also realized that having authentic and diverse people on the team strengthens us as a collective. We think better together when we think differently.