If you’ve ever had a crisis of confidence, a fear that one day someone will spot that you’re not “an expert,” then you’ve surely experienced imposter syndrome.
I’ve always loved the advice, however hard it may be to put into practice, that you should never compare your insides with everybody else’s outsides. How we present ourselves to the world, our public persona, is often considerably different to how we feel on the inside.
The outside you can seem confident, assertive, knowledgeable, and capable, while, at the very same time, the inside you feels vulnerable, lacking in confidence, and convinced you’ll be uncovered as a fraudster at any moment.
Until recently, I hadn’t realized this feeling was so widespread, that I wasn’t alone in feeling this way, or even that it had a name.
I believe that cumulative knowledge empowers and that the more people that know and understand something, such as multipotentiality for example, the less of a problem something feels. It’s a bit like strength in numbers.
I was inspired by Jo Moore’s recent post about launching a business when you’re not an expert. She describes with insight the feeling that other people may “criticize me behind my back, and wonder who on earth I thought I was.”
Even seemingly successful people feel like this, folk who, to the outside observer, appear confident and fully in control. Interestingly though, it seems those that are successful are the most likely to question their competence, a strange dichotomy as they are often the most able.
Key reminders to help you cope with imposter syndrome
1. If you feel like an imposter, you’re probably not!
If you have the self-awareness to be able to spot when there’s more you can learn, you’re more than likely astute enough to understand where the limits of your experience or skills currently lie.
The real imposters don’t recognize that they are way beyond their abilities and are more likely to continue to plow on regardless, getting ever more out of their depth.
2. You don’t need to know everything (it’s just not possible)
There are many different levels between novice and professional, and everyone starts their journey at the beginning. Just because you feel you don’t yet know “everything” about a subject, it doesn’t actually mean you don’t have sufficient knowledge to be competent at what you’re doing.
Even the professionals are still learning most of the time and there’s always something new to explore, whatever the subject.
3) A little uncertainty keeps you sharp
In the same way that the adrenaline rush of stage fright can boost your performance, so a little bit of doubt can help prevent complacency and keep you on your toes.
You’re more likely to regularly review your skills and look at ways to expand and update them if you recognize there is more you could do. Which is great news if you enjoy learning as much as the average multipotentialite!
Back to the question of multipotentiality and imposter syndrome.
We have way more beginnings – whether that means studying a new subject, launching a new business, or starting a new job in a completely different industry – than the average person. Combine that with our pluralist tendency to avoid specializing, and I begin to wonder if we are more prone to suffering from imposter syndrome than the non-multipotentialite? I’d love to hear your take on the matter.
Have you ever felt like an imposter, expecting someone to call you out at any time? How did it make you feel and what did you do to counteract it?