Beating Impostor Syndrome (At Least Enough To Get Ahead)

Let’s not kid around, a lot of people have a soundtrack to their lives. I don’t mean a playlist in your music player, or that there is literal music that follows you around. A lot of you have probably said the phrase “this reminds me of xyzsong!”. And sometimes it’s not even music you listen to. It can be a random jingle, maybe an instrumental piece or a song that you heard once on the radio. But the thing is that if your life was movie, it would have started playing at that moment. For me, one of the songs that does this the most is “I Got Confidence” from Sound Of Music. I don’t have it in my Ipod, I am not even that big of a fan of the movie. But that song will pop a lot in my head…usually when I have zero confidence. It’s the soundtrack to the moments I am convinced I am fraud and people will find out. This song plays whenever I get the impostor syndrome.


confidence, sound of music, impostor syndrome

Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that somehow you don’t deserve an achievement you have recently made. It usually includes feeling you have somehow gotten this through less than honest means. Most people associate it with academia but truth is, it happens in a lot of situations. A recent promotion, a debate, awards, being in a position most people don’t associate with some aspect of yourself such as race or gender, they can all trigger it. But the main idea is that your confidence suddenly disappears.

confidence,sound of music,impostor syndrome

Now sometimes the moment passes by quickly. You can take a deep breath and go one, maybe you listen to some inspirational pep talk or a funny story, or maybe google something and then begin skimming through articles, or look for tips. And yet, there are times where even the more theatrical of ideas can take you out of the slump. That is when you have run into a problem. Because it is no longer just a lingering doubt, it might even be paralysing! So here are a few ideas to deal with this, even when you think you can’t deny impostor syndrome.

Know your enemy

Most people are familiar with the first of the Twelve Step Program. The simplest way to describe it is that to solve a problem you first have to recognize it. The impostor syndrome will make you think the problem is yourself and there is no way to solve it. And here is where the problem can come in. Many people who write on this assume you can easily spot when the feeling of being a failure is not real. But not everyone can simply switch around their thoughts.

This doesn’t only include people where the self doubt is tied to deeper issues such as depression or anxiety, in some cases impostor syndrome stays because you stand out in a group. Race, gender, sexuality, culture, and more plays a role. When you see no one like you this can lead to you thinking that indeed you somehow coned everyone. It also can mean that you don’t consider that you can’t even be on the route to impostor syndrome because you are not the kind of person who succeeds.

Broken walls near Qutub Minar
When doesn’t provide a door…

Creating a strategy

How do you forge ahead when it seems that you either are an impostor or that you wont even get the chance to experience the wonders of crippling self doubt? Well, let’s see it from this other point of view, what do you have to loose? At least that has been what I have been trying to think.

It’s easier said than done, that is very true. So this idea might seem contradictory: get a second opinion. In my case I usually ask someone to read things over as I write them. It’s people I trust to be honest about both things that need fixing as well as things that are right. Getting a second opinion can help calm your insecurities. How ever, considering this is on what to do when they don’t go away for good, make sure you either find one person who doesn’t mind being sent work repeatedly or more than one person you can send the work too.

Race, gender, sexuality, culture, and more plays a role. When you see no one like you this can lead to you thinking that indeed you somehow coned everyone. It also can mean that you don’t consider that you can’t even be on the route to impostor syndrome because you are not the kind of person who succeeds.

Social media can be a wonderful tool for the aspect of believing you are not “the right kind” of person. In these spaces you can find not just people who you can exchange ideas with but also people who can help you find previous work that you can identify with! You can find campaigns, curated masterlists, websites with critics from different backgrounds, or just a good community. When you see these kinds of works or meet these people you start realizing that the audience you thought would never exists for you is there and looking for more.

Finally, one of the things that can help is changing how you define goals. It’s a common piece of advice that if you set smaller than a bigger ones you have a better chance at reaching them. And it’s true. Learning to celebrate smaller goals can help deal with impostor syndrome because you might have an easier time embracing these small goals. Something like a promotion might seem like a daunting goal and once you get to it you might feel that you are behind a curtain about to be revealed by a girl from Kansas and her dog. But maybe something like setting an amount of work to do in a time, like say a weekly goal, it’s easier to feel you did accomplish these smaller points. An example of a current small time goal for me? This post.

Getting around to writing this was a process. It was a rather crazy and not at all linear process. I still feel a lot like an impostor. I could say I am going to ignore the voice in my head but it’s not true. Impostor syndrome is not necessarily something you beat easily. And even when you have, you never know if it will come back. For now, I am going to go ahead and take the plunge and have confidence on confidence alone. Who knows, maybe it will become confidence in me.

Do you have your own ways of dealing with impostor syndrome? Share on the comments! 

Featured Image By Tom Woodward, cropped for emphasis.