Imposter syndrome is like the really mean cousin you grew up with. To be honest, you aren’t exactly sure how you are both related but she pops up at every cookout and family event ready to trash talk everyone- especially you. Remember that time you pivoted your career path and were super excited to share your new journey as a writer with Aunt Julie? Imposter Syndrome sauntered over and loudly proclaimed that you had no idea what you were doing and proceeded to question why you even thought anyone would read what you wrote. Remember when Uncle Rob was praising your decision to chop off all your hair and go blonde? Imposter Syndrome found her way to your table and questioned how you would ever get a job looking like a weirdo.
Imposter Syndrome sounds like a real drag right? Imagine having her around every time you want to do something new or go after what you want. As unimaginably painful as that sounds, many of us welcome her into our lives with open arms each time we doubt our dreams and abilities. Imposter syndrome is more formally described as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
My first experience with Imposter Syndrome occurred when I was in my first seminar at Brown University. I was a freshman on full scholarship- a feat I was immensely proud of accomplishing. I came from a low-income immigrant household and was only one of two students in my high school to receive admission to an Ivy League University. I cruised in to my classrooms on cloud nine, but found myself tumbling as I slowly realized the poorly funded high school education I had received did not compare to the elite boarding schools and travels of my classmates. I wondered how my classmates knew so much already. I lamented the fact that I, a lauded writer in my community, did not know the difference between MLA and Chicago formatting. What the hell were footnotes? The questions were endless and I slowly began to believe imposter syndrome when she told me that maybe I was not as good of a writer as I thought. She also whispered some nonsense about academia being a far out dream. Unfortunately I listened to her.
My saving grace was joining the a cappella group, Shades of Brown. I knew I was a great singer, that was something I had known for over a decade- so, Imposter Syndrome knew she did not stand a chance. Singing and performing resurrected my confidence in my creative abilities and I was able to (mostly) trump Imposter Syndrome and her lies for the rest of my undergraduate career. Or so I thought.
She came knocking on my door after she heard my visual arts teacher wanted me to submit my work to the Juried Arts Show senior year. “You aren’t even a real artist,” she sneered “maybe you were good when you were younger but it’s been a while and your work isn’t even that great.” Harsh, right?
It would have been even worse if I had let her get to me, but I blocked out the noise and ended up having my work admitted for the gallery display in Brown’s Annual Juried Arts Show of 2018.
Even as I’ve embarked on a career as a visual, multi-media artist, she has relentlessly tried to pop up every now and then. “Who would hire you as a creative director? You think you’ll actually get published? Think again, sis!”
However, now things are different. I have a foolproof formula of silencing those imposter syndrome thoughts and I am going to share them with you! I wholeheartedly believe we all deserve to live the life we want without her lies infiltrating our minds, hearts, and souls- I hope my tips can help you kick that mean cousin to the curb once and for all.
1. Remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished ON A REGULAR BASIS
It’s funny how much we remember the times we flop, and then coincidentally go blank when it comes time to remember all our wins. When this happens, Imposter Syndrome views it as an opportunity to creep into your psyche. BUT when you have the proper ammunition, she doesn’t succeed. Each time I do something awesome, I add it to my list of awesome things I’ve done. This list comes in handy when it’s time to apply to your dream job, or even negotiate for a high salary at your current job. It’s a concrete reminder that, yes, you have accomplished amazing things and no-one can ever take that away from you.
2. Only surround yourself with people who speak positively
We become the energy that surround us. It’s a fact, Deepak Chopra told me himself. If you are constantly soaking in the negativity of people around you, and letting them drown you with their “I can’ts’” and “It wont’s,” then how will you be able to levitate higher? Find a friend, colleague, or even professor who always has something nice to say about you. Talk to them more! There’s a reason they see light in you- I know for a fact they will help you locate it even if you’re still blinded by all the negativity.
3. Write down your dreams and look at them EVERY DAY.
This is absolutely integral to shutting out the doubt. I have a list of dream accomplishments that I wrote when I was 16. I revisit these dreams every so often, and one day I looked up and realized I had accomplished the majority of them. There’s just something about authorizing your aspirations on paper-it makes them feel more real and less imaginary. Putting pen to paper adds a certain quality to your dreams, almost as if you are notarizing a contract with yourself. You are promising yourself that you will do all you can to make these dreams come to life- regardless of what anyone says.
4. Repeat affirmations to yourself everyday
This is perhaps my favorite thing to do. Some will call it narcissism, some may even call you pompous. I call it confidence and self-love. There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling yourself all the amazing things you love about you. I think more people should write love letters to themselves, it does wonders for your self esteem! One of my favorite childhood authors, John Green, would always tell his fans “don’t forget to be awesome.” I internalized that message and began repeating it to myself in the mirror every morning in high school, a time when we all struggled in one way or another. Fast forward over half a decade later and I still repeat his quote to myself before I do something awesome that kind of scares me.
5. Stop taking advice from people who are not where you want to be!
This tip might be the hardest to implement because it often involves blocking the uninformed opinions of your family, close friends, or even your romantic partner. Misery loves company, and it’s alarming how often people who are still struggling to reach their dreams bring others down as well. The next time you think you should stop doing what you love and what you’re passionate about because of outside noise and opinions, remember that when it comes to your dreams your opinion matters the most. Take advice from people who are happy and successful doing what they love- they will be the first to tell you that perfection is a myth and passion and perseverance will get you much further!