Imposter syndrome: the mysterious curse of successful people
I have a friend who is highly successful in his field. He doesn’t seem aware that he has done well for himself. High grades through school, scholarships, placements, and he’s now in a very prestigious job. None of it seems to matter to him. It’s not that he doesn’t value what he has, it just that he still doesn’t think it’s as much of an achievement that everyone else thinks it is.
The other day I realised why this could be. None of his achievements are his own.
Have you ever found yourself in that situation? You’re being told you’re good at your work, but you’re not sure? Perhaps you wonder if you really belong there.
It’s common for successful people to feel as though they don’t deserve to be where they are. Part of it comes from a competitive environment, but it also comes from the feeling of control. Sometimes we feel as though we aren’t in control of our our lives and it’s a negative feeling about negative situations. The car broke down, your colleague got the day off you both asked for, the dog puked on your bed. You have no control and it’s all just rotten. But it is possible to have the same uncomfortable feeling when things are going well, such as promotions, networking opportunities or free gifts. It not the actual outcome that’s making you feel uncomfortable. It’s the obligation that you never asked for. It’s still a feeling of not being in control.
In the case of my friend, he was naturally good at schoolwork. All his school-related decisions were made by his teachers. When school was finishing he didn’t choose something he was passionate about. He let the course choose him by offering a scholarship. His excellent grades got him a good job placement, which lead to good jobs but these jobs were orchestrated by his network and colleagues rather than by himself. By 30 years old he managed to get to the top of his field without the feeling personally achieving anything. He was missing the sense of accomplishment.
Resetting your confidence
You can fix this feeling without giving up everything you’ve earned (even if you don’t feel as though you’ve earned it). All you need to do is change one thing. It could be your job, if you want. But it could also be a change of hobby, a new routine or even a new wardrobe. Find one simple thing that is your decision and own it. It will build your confidence and calm your nerves to know that there is at least one thing in your life that is entirely your own doing.
But guess what? He’s just gotten a new job. Same industry, different role. It includes travel. Everything will be new and he’s experiencing a new feeling – control of one’s own destiny.
It’s never too late to experience something new. Is something stopping you from taking a chance and making a change?