When you’re going through the thick of any inner battle with your mental health, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you’re all alone. “No one else has felt this anxious in the history of human time.” we might tell ourselves. Or, no one more depressed… only, rational thought rears its head once more (if we’re lucky!) and we realize that of course this can’t be true. The probability on a planet of over 7 billion people? Unlikely.
It’s reassuring and comforting to learn that others are suffering too; not because we want others to be in pain, but because knowing that others understand the complex emotions we’re feeling helps us to feel less alone. What’s better; if a friend or family member that we consider successful shares with us struggles that they’ve overcome, we are given the gift of encouragement that there is hope for us too.
There’s a different kind of gold nugget that we are gifted sometimes and that is when a celebrity opens up about her mental health. These people that honestly don’t feel like real people most of the time represent unattainable ideals that are impossibly hard to compare ourselves to. So, when it came out this week that the mighty fashion icon and powerhouse presence in the industry, Alexa Chung, suffers from Imposter Syndrome, it felt like a warm hug that I knew many Dumplings would want to learn about.
If you’re unfamiliar, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological condition whereby a person feels like a fraud in his or her role in society. Sufferers report a constant fear that they’ll be “found out” and a harsh light shined upon their lack of achievements that means they are undeserving or unworthy of their position in a workplace, social circle, relationship or academic environment.
When one lives in a constant state of fear that her lack of qualifications or skills will be revealed to peers, the pressure to avoid failure at whatever cost becomes overwhelming. If we never feel good enough as we are, we must continue to push ourselves to achieve more. As you might imagine, this frequently ends up in many tears, heaps of panic and a string of sleepless nights when the going gets tough.
I’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome in my own life as well as being on the receiving end of a coworker who suffered with it intensely. It’s been shown that a third of millennials struggle with this lack of confidence; many of whom feel strongly that these inner demons prevent them from doing as well as they’d like in their careers.
My story in the workplace was interesting; I experienced a strong butting of heads with a coworker who repeatedly used any opportunity to frame me as incompetent in front of the boss. To me, it felt embarrassing and cruel. I tried my best and worked really hard; why would someone choose to behave this way? What had I done wrong? It wasn’t until a year or two later after our paths had diverged somewhat and we were no longer working together that she revealed her struggle with Imposter Syndrome and her fear of failure that served as fuel for the malicious behavior she knew full well she was guilty of. She had seen me as competition that stood between her and the top and the possibility that I might get there instead of her was too hard to stomach.
When we talk about these fears openly and honestly, we are met with kindness and support from others. It’s OK to admit that you need a little love and encouragement from your friends when you’re wrapped up in the chaos of self-doubt. That’s what our support systems are there for: to remind us of our strengths when we’ve become too blind to see them. And we all have them; strengths, I mean. Sometimes we just let our fears overshadow them.
There is a diamond in the rough of all this, though. Back in 1999, a study was conducted at Cornell University by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, the findings of which were coined the Dunning-Kruger Effect. What this essentially means is that it has been found that incompetent people are completely ignorant of their incompetence. The study revealed that those who fly through life entirely confident in their abilities are probably the only ones truly undeserving of their positions. Having the skills to be self-aware and question your sense of ability are the very things that one needs to be successful and perform to a high standard. Life is never fair, is it?
Whether you suffer from Imposter Syndrome in the workplace, in your social circle or anywhere else in life, remember that it’s normal and not necessarily a bad thing. Most importantly, never let anyone make you feel that you are undeserving of those things that you want; those things that set your soul on fire, inspire you and fill you with joy. The heart wants what the heart wants and hard work will get you there. Having an awareness of your self and where your weaknesses lie only further serves you to grow and develop into an even brighter person. You’re not an imposter, just a human.
Do you struggle with Imposter Syndrome? Do you feel better knowing that you’re not alone?
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