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Fighting off The Imposter Syndrome, One Step at a Time

Shayaan October 15, 2020

Melassi Sassi, Startup Manager at IBM, spoke at 021Disrupt 2019 about the battles faced by those of us suffering from imposter syndrome, and the steps you can take to help you get over it.

‘Hey, you! What are you doing up here on this stage? You don’t deserve to be here. Let the professionals do the talking.’

Sound familiar? Eerily like the voice inside your head, whenever you’re the expert in the room? Did an unpleasant shiver go down your spine? Welcome to the club.

At any given moment, 70% of individuals are suffering from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a pattern of thinking that makes you doubt your skills, accomplishments and expertise, keeping you in constant fear of being exposed as a fraud.

But does it really even exist?

Well, if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation where you’re looking around in a panel, conference, or even lecture, trying to figure out whether you’re even remotely qualified to be there, then yes, I suppose imposter syndrome does exist.

Some of the most successful and well-known figures, like Neil Armstrong and Sheryl Sandberg, have expressed feeling like they’re frauds. They often feel like they don’t deserve to be in the positions they are in, and doubt if they’re good enough to be there in the first place.

But Melissa believes otherwise.

It does us injustice to truly believe that it is only dumb luck, and not our years of hard work, perseverance and talent that got us to the positions we are in. We’re just as good as the people around us. Sure, there’s always the fear that one day, you’ll stutter and someone will come up to you and say, ‘Hey! I know you’re not qualified enough to be here,’ but just because you don’t know the answer to every question doesn’t mean that you’re a fake.

So to oppose these fears and intrusive thoughts, there are a few questions you can ask yourself.

For example, what do you feel unqualified to do, and out of those things, how much are you actually unqualified to do, and how much is rooted in the fear that you’re not good enough?

What do you stand to lose, and what do other people stand to lose, when you’re too busy convincing yourself that you’re under qualified? Will other people be better off not having learned what you have to teach, or will they missing out on some amazing lessons?

Rather than listening to the negative voice in your head, choose to believe in something bigger than yourself.

Curate a group of people, friends or colleagues that can help you do the things that you’re truly not equipped enough to do, and keep those people close.

Stay in touch with your mentors, not only because of their experience, but because they’ll help you learn how to tackle the small things along with the big.

Think of the type of advice you would give your friends if they were going through the type of disbelief issues you put yourself though, then follow that advice. Oftentimes we find ourselves giving great advice to others, but aren’t self-aware enough to follow it ourselves. Practice what you preach!

And then do the thing!

Don’t be a stone in your own path, and stop yourself from reaching your own potential. Do the thing you’re scared to do, or believe you’re not good enough to do. Sometimes you’ll win, sometimes you’ll learn, but either way, you’ll have a lived experience of something your mind made you believe you couldn’t begin, and you’ll be able to do better next time.

Most important of all, imposter syndrome or not: do not compare yourself to anyone, as hard as it might be. No two people will ever follow the same path, so there is no reason to believe that your outcomes should be the same.

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