I used to think that long distance runners were crazy! I had a friend in High School that ran cross country, and I honestly couldn’t understand why you would run if someone wasn’t chasing you. Fast-forward 15 years and I’m standing at the starting line of the Rock n Roll Marathon in Phoenix.
After I crossed the finish line, tears began streaming down my face and I felt so many different emotions and one of them…was that I was an impostor.
I didn’t start running until I was almost 30 years old. After watching a documentary on marathons, I told myself I was going to run 26.2 miles, even though I had never run further than a mile at once and I am certainly not built like a runner.
I have thick thighs that don’t allow me to wear cute little running shorts without chafing from hell, my average pace was far from fast, and I would soak in Epsom salt baths after runs and question why the blisters on my toes were worth it.
Even though I put hundreds of miles on my legs over the years as I trained for half marathons and marathons, it wasn’t until I was 40 that I finally was able to say, “I am a runner”, and actually believe it.
What Is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which someone doubts their skills, talents and accomplishments or who they are. It is the overwhelming feeling that you don’t deserve your success. And it is accompanied by the continual internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
I don’t have children, but I have nieces and nephews and friends with children, and I have heard most of them say that when they first became a parent and gazed into the face of their crying baby they thought to themselves, “What the heck do I do with this thing? What if it doesn’t stop crying, who the hell put me in a position of authority over this helpless human?”
What about that new job that you walk into on your first day and you start to question how you beat out all the other highly qualified candidates. You begin to doubt that you were the right fit for the position and think they probably made a mistake when you were hired.
What if you are in the process of navigating a challenging transition in life and you are figuring out what your next chapter is going to look like. You are trying new things, exploring who you are, working on transforming yourself, but how do you do that without feeling like a fake?
Impostor Syndrome can be linked to feelings of self-doubt, fear of success, fear of failure, or self-sabotage. It often strikes when you are: starting a new job, starting your own business, becoming a first-time parent, crossing the finish line of a marathon or rebuilding your life after a challenging transition.
These feelings can inspire you to work harder, but they can also lead to you revise your aspirations and become less ambitious.
Some of the common signs of impostor syndrome include:
- Accrediting your success to external factors (other people or luck)
- Criticizing your performance
- Comparing your actions to others
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- Struggle to accept compliments
So what do you do? How do you overcome this?
The first step in overcoming Impostor Syndrome is to know that it is normal. Shutting down your inner critic isn’t always easy. Start with acknowledging what you’re feeling, and try to figure out why.
- Write it down: Why you’re feeling this way. Write (or record) the negative thoughts you are feeling. Be as specific as possible about each situation. Keep a record of the positive. Whether it is feedback or accomplishments.
- Be Aware: Feeling unqualified doesn’t mean you are unqualified. Be aware of the negative thoughts and feelings you have and try to counter those with reality-based statements, such as, “I am qualified for this task because….”, “I am proud of myself because….”
- Give Yourself KUDOS! When you meet a goal or finish a project, celebrate that it was your skill, talent, determination and motivation that made it happen. Enjoy your successes and accomplishments, no matter how big or small.
- No More Comparing: Rather than compare yourself to other people, compare yourself to yourself. Are you doing your best? If the answer is yes, that’s all that matters.
- Own it: It’s ok for whatever you “are” today to change. If you picked up a new hobby this month, you don’t have to be the “best” at it to own it! Maybe in a year from now, it no longer resonates with you and that is fine. People change careers, people change hobbies, we are constantly changing. Stop not owning your “now” because it might change in a year, focus on today!
Impostor syndrome is very natural and comes with the ambition of being someone who wants to make the most of their life. You don’t have it all figured out, you ARE figuring it out and that is not being an impostor…that is called being human!
Remember, You Got This!