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You Are Better Than You Think

On impostor syndrome and tackling self-doubt

Photo by Eyitayo Adekoya on Unsplash
Photo by Eyitayo Adekoya on Unsplash


As I write this article, I have just finished writing a high-stake University essay — a 2000-word piece I have spent well over 20 hours writing, on top of the endless hours researching, reading and time spent clarifying my knowledge.

Despite this endless hard work, I can’t help but doubt what I have written. Compared to other people, it doesn’t feel good enough.

I know that this thought process is irrational— I haven’t even seen anyone else’s work to compare to my own. But it’s an uncontrollable fear that enters my thoughts in high-pressure work environments. Compared to my peers at university, I often feel inferior.

This is a clear example of impostor syndrome: a psychological tendency to fail to internalize or recognize your own achievements. Instead, you have a persistent fear that you will be exposed as a fraud — as if you’re not really worthy of your accomplishments.

It’s predicted that 86% of people a year suffer from impostor syndrome. It takes place in numerous social situations, spanning from workplaces to sporting events and everything in-between.

Suffers put their previous success down to luck, downplaying their achievement and telling themselves that they’re inferior to their peers, who will surely find out soon.

Impostor syndrome is the main reason people lack the courage to try new things or take on new challenges. Not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t feel good enough.

  • Have you ever been offered a job, and naturally assumed they must have been short on candidates and you were just lucky?
  • Do you worry that your peers will realizethat you’re not ‘good enough’ every time your work is reviewed?
  • Do you feel inferior when sitting with your colleagues and friends?

If the answer is yes, then this one’s for you. Below are three steps that’ll teach you how to start recognising your strengths and put an end to impostor syndrome once and for all.


1. Stop Worrying and Appreciate Your Achievements

Appreciate the now by reflecting on your achievements. Stop downplaying them, too. You don’t get recognition and respect by luck — it comes from hard work, intelligence and competence.

Take a moment to appreciate that your hard work is paying off, and that very few people achieve as much as you have.

Read over your resume every once in a while and reflect on all your hard work. Tell your friend your feelings and let them share their perception of you. Accept the compliment.

The truth is, luckcan only get you so far.

You can’t get a £50k salary by luck.

You can’t get into your college course by chance.

You don’t form friendships with amazing people by good fortune alone.

They don’t hand out these jobs to anyone. There’s a reason you’re here. You’re in your career or college because you earned it. You formed friendships because people like you. You made this happen.

Even if luck does play a role, the ingredients to success are 3 parts hard work to 1 part luck — a fact that’s easy to forget when you’re spiraling into self-doubt.

Make sure you realize that this doubt isn’t real and doesn’t define you, and do so by grounding yourself back into the reality by reflecting on your hard work and the results it has achieved.

“Investing in yourself leads to success.” ― Felicia M. Johnson.


2. Learn the Benefits of Self-Doubt.

I agree, self-doubt does suck most of the time. But it does come with a handful of benefits that are worthy of mention.

For me personally, it’s prevented complacency. Rather than confidently and quickly doing work, it ensures I second guess everything I do. While this is extremely annoying, it guarantees that I always produce my best work, or at least, work my absolute hardest in everything I do. And yes, that is why I spent 20 hours on something as small as a 2000-word essay.

It also allows me to stay grounded and humble.Because most of the time I downplay my achievements. Rather than being ego-focused, I am more caught up in the task itself than the achievement: and I like to think (at least) that this allows me to be more genuine and true to myself, rather than seeking approval with high expectations.

My attitude is guided more towards actually enjoying writing a 2000-word essay and knowing I produced the best work I possibly could, rather than writing something lazily with the intention of it getting high marks.

Even when self — doubt is at the forefront of my mind, it allows me to appreciate the task I am undergoing. (Even if it does double my work time.)


3. Stop Listening to Others.

They’re full of shit. Most people in competitive work environments suck: they will tell you they don’t have to work at what they do and present to you an illusionof easy success.

It’s all lies. And I know it is, because an egotistical younger me used to do it too. In truth, it’s more than likely that they are just like you, they have to work at what they do. They’ve reached their current position through blood, sweat, and tears — and you can bet that it hasn’t all been sunshine and rainbows.

They’re no smarter than you, just different. As an undergraduate Philosophy student, I often speak to students who specialize in different fields of work to me: and when I do I often feel uneducated, stupid and lesser than them.

But, on reflection, it would be far healthier if I were to appreciate that they have just spent their time researching different work to me. This doesn’t make them superior.

In fact, if the tables were turned and I talked tothem about a field I specialized in and they were clueless about, I am sure they would feel the same way I do.

The next time you have an uncontrollable sense of self-doubt, remember that you are not alone, and what you are going through is normal. At least you have the courage to be honest about it rather than masking it in bullshit.

So the next time you feel like a fraudcompared to your peers, take a minute to realise that you’re just different and that compared to you it’s likely that they feel like a fake too.


The Takeaway

It’s completely normal to experience self-doubt from time to time. In fact: 86% of people do. To combat impostor syndrome:

  1. Appreciate your achievements. You earned them. You can do this by reflecting and realising that you couldn’t actually be in your position by luck alone, instead: your position reflects your hardworking and dedicated character.
  2. Recognise the benefits. Although we try to reduce self-doubt, we must stop perceiving it as inherently negative. Instead, it comes with a number of benefits which, if used correctly, can make you a rounder, more humble and genuine individual.
  3. Stop listening to other people’s bullshit. they are just like you, but are trying to give the illusion of success. In reality, it would be wrong to compare ourselves to a false illusion that has been created by an egoistical colleague. They had to work hard to get to where they are, too. Nobody has an easy ride.

Originally published on Mind Cafe.

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