How To Overcome Insecurity: Am I Deserving?
The headline for this post is a question I have asked myself far too many times. At this point in my life, I attend one of the top schools in my country, dare I say the Caribbean, and I have been in the top percentile of my class for the past five years. There is also this award ceremony that is held each year where I am often in attendance. Despite all of this though, why do I ask myself “Am I deserving?”. All my life I have worked hard. Living in a society of people of color, it is expected that you must do well. I’m expected to not only bring success and happiness to myself, but also to my family. I am also female, which only adds additional weight to an already heavy load.
So why is it that I feel as if I am unworthy, a fraud who is not supposed to be here? That one day someone is going to walk up to me and tell me they made a mistake? This is an issue that affects many of us but we keep it to ourselves. We keep it a secret and go about life feeling out of place and scared. We traverse school, home, and our workplaces, waiting for that final wake up call, despite all the work we have to put in.
Two words can sum up this tumultuous feeling, imposter syndrome. It is defined as “a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.” Yup. Right now, you are probably saying to yourself “that cannot be me because I do not work that hard.”
Despite this, take a moment and ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you feel like your work must be a hundred percent, all the time?
- Do you feel guilty when you take a break and constantly think of the work you could have done during that time?
- When you fail at a project, do you begin to accuse yourself of being inadequate and consider giving up entirely?
- Do you set extremely high or impossible goals for yourself?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then there is a high chance that you have this syndrome.
Initially, this condition was only considered to affect women. What’s the saying? “It’s a Man’s World”. Working or studying in an environment where you are a woman, it is often expected that you are not up to par with your male counterparts. Consequently, we receive lower pay for the same or even better quality of work and are even barred from receiving certain jobs in specific fields. In addition to this, our ethnicity may, unfortunately, be a defining factor. Based on our skin color or race, there are already lesser expectations of us. Some consider this a benefit, as it pushes us to do better, to overcome these stigmas to then prove those persons who held them against us wrong.
When someone views you in such a light, however, it can sometimes be that your work and actions are never enough. You are never enough. Therefore, we continue to question ourselves and push ourselves to do more, achieve more, living a life of insecurity and self-doubt. Then when we fail, actively chastise ourselves to do better. There is no space for incompetence.
Where Does That Leave Us Though?
- With low self-esteem.
- Pushing ourselves until we burn out.
- Destroying our relationships with ourselves and others.
- We build up walls, question ourselves and those around us who we may think want us to fail as well.
Such a life is far from healthy but what can we do? It’s our condition; our circumstance. Our gender and ethnicity have placed us here, right?
Know This: You Don’t Need to Fake It Till You Make It
When experiencing this syndrome, it is usually a fake it till you make it type of scenario. To address this syndrome though, here are some practices that can be put in place:
- Imposter Syndrome affects a number of persons. You are not alone. That is one of the most important things to understand. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can actually encourage these feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, and insecurity.
- Once again, I repeat you are not alone. Once you recognize this, then it is possible to disclose your feelings to someone who you trust, and who you can talk through your feelings with. This may be a teacher, a parent, a counselor, or a trustworthy friend. It is best to find someone who will not immediately jump to conclusions, judge you, and only exacerbate these feelings. If the conversation reaches this point, stop, change the subject and seek out someone else.
- Learn to fail. We are not perfect, so do not pressure yourself to be perfect. It is not possible. That is one of the beauties of being human. We can reflect, learn from our mistakes, and try to do better next time. If we were all perfect, then what would be the point of life? The sooner you accept this, the easier it becomes.
- Accepting constructive criticism is also very important. These are suggested corrections aimed at improving yourself and your work. You must not take it personally and begin to allow doubt to creep in and make you believe you are incompetent and unworthy when in reality it is the opposite.
- Additionally recognize, own, and celebrate your achievements. You did that project, you made that PowerPoint, you aced that exam, you got that raise. You, that was all you. Take a deep breath and acknowledge that your hard work paid off and no one can take that from you, no one. This allows you to cultivate self-confidence and happiness with yourself and prevents you from pushing yourself to the point where you crash.
- Instead of giving yourself a task that is far too impossible to complete at once, create milestones for yourself to accomplish that goal. This prevents you from giving yourself impractical standards so that when you fail, you do not beat up yourself. On the contrary, self-development occurs with skill-building and learning.
- Do not be afraid to ask others for help. There is usually always someone who is willing to offer a helping hand, so do not isolate yourself and believe that you must complete this on your own.
Dr. Valerie Young, outlines in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, the various groupings of persons affected by Imposter Syndrome and how to cope based on their specific scenarios. Imposter Syndrome and related mental experiences must be acknowledged and faced. No one said it would be easy, but with a great support system and a desire to get better, it is possible to overcome them and be a better you. The authentic you.
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