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Aditi Chaudhry
Aditi Chaudhry

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What is Imposter Syndrome?

This article was first published on Medium. You can take a look at it here.

Wikipedia defines imposter syndrome as “a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.’” I like to describe it as the opposite of the Michael Scott syndrome (Michael Scott from the TV show The Office). Michael Scott was a great character, but anyone who has seen the show can attest that his confidence was not justified by his competence.

Michael Scott

To me, imposter syndrome is when you are competent, but you are not confident in your competency (try saying that 5 times fast).

The graph below shows confidence and competence on either axis. Ideally, as our competence grows, so does our confidence. People who experience Imposter Syndrome fall to the left of the dotted line.

Competence v Confidence

When you’re going through imposter syndrome, you feel like a fake. You don’t feel good enough and no matter how hard you try, you feel like nothing you do will ever be good enough. You’re terrified that one day you’ll be exposed as the fraud you believe yourself to be (note: I didn’t say the fraud you are). It’s quite debilitating, going through these thoughts and emotions. So what should you do if you feel yourself overcome with such thoughts?

Step 1: Acknowledge the thoughts. I know this sounds cliché, but if you don’t recognize these disruptive thoughts, you can’t overcome them.

Step 2: Stop belittling yourself and your achievements. I’ve found one of the most common symptoms to be negative self-talk. People will under-sell their achievements or say “they just got lucky,” when in fact their success could be attributed to merit and hard work. So reframe your thoughts and what you say in a more positive light. This is different than bragging or being arrogant or not being humble about your accomplishments. You are simply telling the truth about what you have done, it’s not your fault that it sounds so good.

I used to talk about writing as “just something that I do, it’s not a big deal, people probably don’t even read what I’m writing.” When in reality people were reading my articles and commenting telling me how they learned something from what I wrote. Now, I tell people that I write about technology and reach over a thousand people on Medium and that I’m happy and proud of my work. People’s perception of you is based on your perception of yourself. If you don’t think you’re great or worth it, other people will have a hard time seeing it as well.

Step 3: Have a group of friends, family, mentors who will help empower you. Surround yourself with people who want to see you rise to the sky, not ones who would drag you through the mud. Whenever you’re having a moment of self-doubt, go talk to someone from your trusted circle. They will remind you of your potential and brilliance.

Step 4: Make an empowering playlist! I have a “confidence boosting” playlist on Spotify that I listen to whenever I need a something to help hype me up and get me to say “yes, I can do it!”

Hopefully these steps can help you overcome your feelings of imposter syndrome and help you achieve your full potential!

This is my tenth post in my "What is" tech blog series. I'll be writing more every week here and on my blog!

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