I was hosting our monthly multipotentialite mixer in the Puttyverse the other day and someone asked about imposter syndrome.
You know, imposter syndrome! The “psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” (Wikipedia)
Almost immediately, several people piped up in the chat: Yes! This is something I experience, too.
Are multipotentialites more likely to experience imposter syndrome than other people? And more importantly, how do you make it go away?!
I immediately turned to Puttylike to find a blog post to share. I’m certain I’ve written about this before…
Turns out I haven’t!
I did write about it in my book, How to Be Everything, though.
Maybe I’m feeling a bit of imposter syndrome here…but responding to someone’s cry for help with: “buy my book!” seemed super uncool. 😉
However, imposter syndrome is such a common challenge for multipotentialites, that I’d really like for this information to be freely accessible. So, today I’m publishing an excerpt from my book. I hope this helps.
The following is an excerpt from How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up
Multipotentialite Ailment #4: Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is a belief that deep down, you are a fraud, that you shouldn’t be here, and that one day everyone will wake up and realize it.
The funny thing about imposter syndrome is that it tends to get worse, not better, as bigger opportunities and successes come our way. When my TED talk was featured on TED.com, I was elated. In the weeks that followed, I received accolades and heartfelt thank-yous—incredible e-mails and messages from all over the world. And all I wanted to do was hide under my bed. They all think I’m so smart, but what if my ideas are utter garbage?! What if I’m a big fat phony?! I don’t even have any credentials!!!
Over time, as I began to see the impact my work was having on people’s lives and I focused on new work projects, I started to believe in myself again. But you better believe that imposter syndrome has come up again for me—maybe even during the writing of this book. What if the publisher was wrong about me and they think this manuscript is terrible and demand that I return my advance?!!
You get the idea.
Here are a few ways to deal with the disheartening fantasy of imposter syndrome:
1. If you were actually an imposter, you wouldn’t get imposter syndrome.
Imposters are liars, bent on tricking others and profiting from that deceit. I’m pretty sure you aren’t one. You aren’t trying to deceive anyone. You’re just trying to do good work, and the effort to create something new sometimes always inspires uncertainty.
Philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” If you occasionally doubt yourself, take it as a sign that you’re one of the good ones.
2. Refocus on the work itself.
Imposter syndrome usually arises when we become preoccupied with what others might be thinking or saying about us. Instead of focusing on how you are perceived, get back to work. Show yourself through your own actions that you know what you’re doing. Turn the negativity and fear in your head into action.
3. Everyone feels this way sometimes.
Everyone experiences imposter syndrome from time to time. Well, okay, not everyone. As we just discussed, con artists probably don’t experience imposter syndrome. But every well-meaning person who is pursuing something that matters to them feels as though they don’t belong some of the time.
As the saying goes, try not to compare your insides to other people’s outsides. If you’re standing in a room full of colleagues, I guarantee you that you aren’t the only one feeling like there’s been a big mistake and you actually shouldn’t be there.
So, are multipotentialites more likely to experience imposter syndrome than specialists? Well, maybe. It stands to reason that if you move through fields more frequently and have less experience relative to the people around you, you might feel more like an imposter.
On the flip side, it does, paradoxically, seem like the more accomplished one becomes, the more one seems to experience imposter syndrome. And I’ve heard from many specialists that they too suffer from crippling imposter syndrome. So, I don’t think it’s unique to multipods.
I think, ultimately, if you’re doing something meaningful, imposter syndrome is pretty inevitable. I’m not sure it ever fully goes away, but you can certainly learn how to deal with it when it comes up. And you’re definitely not alone.
Want to learn more about our “multipotentialite ailments” and how to deal with them? Check out my comprehensive book to help you build a life around ALL your passions.