Imposter Syndrome

When my coach took me to my first martial arts tournament, I couldn’t help but feel like I didn’t belong. And watching my coach completely run through his opponent’s didn’t make me feel any better. Here I was, as nervous as I’ve ever been, and I’m watching my coach win flawless victory after flawless victory. And he wasn’t nervous at all. So I figured if I’m this nervous I must not be prepared; I must not be good enough. I found out later that this feeling had a name. It’s called ‘Imposter Syndrome.’

Have you ever felt that you’ve only accomplished what you’ve accomplished not because of anything that you did, but because of luck or good timing? And that eventually you’ll be exposed as a fraud? “It’s only a matter of time till they find out that I’m not as good as they think.” “One day they’ll discover that I don’t know what I’m doing.” That’s Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that you don’t actually deserve your accomplishments. And the bizarre thing about it is that Imposter syndrome rears its ugly head, despite contradictory evidence. Even when the whole world tells us we deserve it, we tell ourselves that we don’t.

This feeling isn’t without cause. The cause is our habit of comparing our insides to everyone else’s outsides. We’re constantly aware of our own flaws, our own imperfections, our own doubts, insecurities, and quirks. But it’s hard for us to imagine that other people are having the same internal dialogue with themselves. Or are just as flawed as us. As a result, we come to the conclusion that success is for other people; successful people are nothing like us.

When I saw my coach competing in such a composed, calm manner, I said, “Why can’t I be more like him; I wish I didn’t get so nervous.” But what’s interesting is that when I asked him about it he told me, “Believe me, I was really nervous, too. I just didn’t show it.” Here’s the key: Appearances are deceptive; a person’s outer image is a filtered version of their true self. Perfection only exists when imperfections are hidden from plain sight.

It may seem to you that the people you look up to just have it all together, that they just have it all figured out, that they don’t get nervous. That they’re nothing like you. But if you could just get a peek behind the curtains, and see past the veneer of perfection, you would see that everyone is flawed in some sense. The most confident people sometimes doubt themselves; the best businessmen make sometimes make the wrong decisions; the well experienced still get nervous. Successful people are just like you.

Keep in mind that no matter how much a person has accomplished, they’re still human. And to be human means that you are flawed. No one can escape that. If others can succeed despite their flaws, so can you. Don’t let Imposter Syndrome convince you that you don’t deserve to be successful. It isn’t just for other people; success is for you, too.


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