5 Ways to Stop Being a Fake

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5 Ways to Stop Being a Fake

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Have you ever fallen prey to this epidemic?

In Mindful Living by Design, we always address the phenomenon of the Imposter Syndrome. It’s a syndrome that seems to beleaguer many of us, regardless of gender, race, or class. It’s the feeling of “oh my gosh, someone is going to find out that I have no idea what I’m doing.” It’s feeling like being the Biggest Fake, even if others think we have “made it.” It comes to no surprise, then, that this topic is gaining more attention by the mainstream media. The good thing is that by talking about this Syndrome in a public forum (with public personas admitting to having it – see Dr. Maria Klawe’s, Harvey Mudd College’s president, recent article ), we can begin to realize that we are not alone. We can also recognize that we can shift from feeling like a fraud to finding a sense of personal motivation and confidence.

Self-Confidence

As many of you who have been following will know how much I adore the work by Amy Cuddy. Please check out her TedX talk on body language and power dynamics if you haven’t already done so. Another great talk is from Dr. Ivan Joseph, who shares observations of how to get rid of the negative Self Talk we all do and build our sense of confidence. As he notes, there are enough people telling us we can’t do something, so why would we want to say the same thing to ourselves? By practicing, focusing on what we do well, and changing our perspective, our sense of confidence can soar while removing that little voice telling us we are frauds.

We all have those moments of feeling like a fraud. However, we can find ways to dismiss those feelings before they start guiding our action.

1. Remember others feel like Imposters too
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if others have told us we’re great at what we do or that we have shiny academic credentials. We still often think we are the only one in the room with a big cloud over our heads and that we should keep our head down for fear that someone will soon discover that we have no clue what we are doing, wonder why they hired us in the first place, or that one misstep will reveal all our foibles. That we don’t belong. Keeping in mind that many of us are likely thinking the same can help us get out of our heads. In fact, most people are likely so concerned about their own feelings of inadequacy, they really don’t have time to pay attention to your perceived one. After all, if Tina Fey and Maya Angelou can feel like fakes sometimes, we’re not alone.
2. Refocus your energy
If you feel like an Imposter, you likely expend a lot of energy worrying that someone will find out or focused on how to avoid “being found out.” By the end of the day, you’re exhausted. All that energy leads to nothing but wasted time and a depressed soul. Imagine redirecting that energy to focus on the present, your natural strengths, and doing what you need to get done well. Focusing on your natural strengths is a far more enjoyable and positive approach to growth. Your performance will increase, and with it, your confidence. You will also feel re-energized as you become more productive and alive.

3. Don’t mind others
Imagine if you were a celebrity and sought every sense of your self-worth from the tabloids (unfortunately, some do). Even if we haven’t quite made it to the tabloids (be grateful), many of us rest our sense of self and identity on what others think. 

While relying on peer opinion is more natural during the adolescent years, as we mature, it’s essential to not worry about what so-and-so thinks, and instead focus on our internal sense of value and self worth. The reality is that most people don’t really care or have the time to worry about what you’re doing. And if they are, they are reflecting their own sense of insecurities. While we can be generous to support them in releasing those insecurities, when we try to lead more authentic lives, we stop concerning ourselves with others and more on letting our own natural light shine.


4. Look for ways to fail
While actively seeking out ways to fail sounds like the worst remedy for relieving a syndrome where we already feel like failures, this process can help us in many positive ways. Learning to fail helps us to be comfortable with the feeling – it’s not a great one, but as we’ve all experienced it, we also know that it’s never the end of the world and that we’re going to be OK. It also gives us permission to try things that we otherwise would not because of fear of being found out. Complacency is hiding. Complacency is letting our Imposter Selves become our selves. Taking risks – and yes, embracing failure – is the only way we can continue to grow and live.

5. Surround yourself with true friends

Research has shown that many of us overestimate our abilities in some areas, while underestimating in others. If we surround ourselves with naysayers, we’re going to always be told we’re not good enough. If we surround ourselves with yes-men, we’re going to always be told we’re the Best Thing Ever. It’s important to have a few true friends and confidants who truly support you and want the best for you. Consider a few people – both close friends and professional acquaintances, i.e., mentors – who will not be afraid to tell you the truth, good or bad.
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