Have you ever felt like you don’t deserve to be where you are? Like you aren’t good enough for the role you have been assigned? Or maybe you worry that one day everyone around you will realize you aren’t as skilled as they think you are. If you have, you’re not alone. So many people have felt this way at one point or another that numerous studies have been done on those exact feelings. In fact, these feelings have been given a name; Impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.” Many people experience Impostor Syndrome and would like to know how to overcome it.
According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, it is estimated that 70% of people experience Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. There are different kinds of Impostor Syndrome, and it affects people to varying degrees and in different ways. While there is no one reason people experience these feelings, there are ways to overcome it.
How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
Fortunately, there are many resources for those who experience impostor syndrome. Billy Boatright’s 2019 DEF CON speech at SEVillage is a great place to start. He recently released a book Swing Away: Conquering impostor Syndrome, based on this speech, where he takes a deep dive into Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it. There are also many articles detailing the different types of impostor syndromes and how to deal with them. Let’s discuss some key points.
Reframing is the idea that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it. Reframing can help you to have a better understanding of yourself and your thinking patterns, and help you adjust those patterns to more positive ones. Making this effort will help you be more positive overall and can positively impact your view of yourself. Granted, this is easier said than done. Let’s examine a few places you could start.
Try to remember how you got to where you are. Recall all the work you put in, and the people who helped you along the way. They likely support you because they know you can complete the tasks assigned and want to see you succeed. Remind yourself that their experience is valuable and learn and grow from it however you can.
Focus on to taking criticism constructively, not personally. The things you learn from it will help propel you even further. If you tend towards being a perfectionist, keep in mind that mistakes are part of the process. No one can go through life without mistakes, so use them to your advantage and learn what you can from them.
Don’t spend forever planning or waiting for circumstances to be perfect. Impostor Syndrome presents itself strongest for some when they give it time to grow. Don’t allow it that power. Instead of focusing on nerves or fear…act. Focus on the task itself and do the best you can. Chances are that once you start, you won’t have time to feel the concerns you had moments before.
Acknowledge Your Contributions
One SECOM employee recently went on her first physical social engineering job. This employee had no prior experience with this kind of job and was the youngest on the team. Due to this, she was struggling with the impostor feelings we have been discussing. At one point, the team was trying to breach an internal door and was having a hard time doing so. The team manager walked a few feet to the right of the door, where there was a line of in-counter trash holes with the garbage bins placed underneath each one. After shining his flashlight under the counter, he realized there was no door or wall behind them. The garbage bins could be pushed back into a small utility closet with ease. That closet conveniently had an open door that led into the room they were trying to access.
The employee previously mentioned was not able to help with the lockpicking of the door. She is, however, a petite person. She was able to lower herself down through the hole in the counter and open the access door for the rest of the team. This shows an important lesson; no matter how inexperienced you are (or feel you are), there will always be something you can contribute.
Think back to the last task or role you were assigned where you felt like an impostor. What were some beneficial things you contributed? Focusing on your contributions can help you recognize your worth.
While Impostor Syndrome is real and can affect us deeply, we can fight it; it doesn’t need to stop us from doing the job we have been assigned or trying new things. Reframing to more positive thinking patterns can help us understand that we don’t have to be the best in our field or the most experienced in order to have something important to contribute. Remember that, if you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean you don’t belong. Keep learning from these mistakes and pushing your bounds and growing. Impostor Syndrome may linger, but it doesn’t need to stop you.