Sometimes I feel like an impostor. Especially over the past couple months, it’s been difficult to get back on track after life takes you down an unplanned path. Even with my certification in nutrition, I would eat unhealthy but give advice to others. I wasn’t exercising as much as I once did, but gave my opinion on different exercise plans. The fact is, to some degree, I relapsed… not back into drugs, but back into an unhealthy life and had troubles getting back into the swing of things. My battle plan wasn’t being implemented any more. With my confidence shaken, I began having thoughts that may be familiar to you as well…
I don’t belong here.
I’m not good enough.
I got lucky.
They’re going to realize I’m that smart.
Researching it more, I stumbled upon something called the Impostor Syndrome which “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
By why does this happen? Most people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are fully competent. Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, had an idea:
Additionally, psychologists found something called the Dunning–Kruger effect which “is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.” Basically, think of the first few contestants in America’s Got Talent.
And this happens with a ton of successful people:
…the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.
I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
So, what have I done to cut the cycle of feeling like I’m an impostor? Well, first off, I must admit that I believe this feeling is something that will always creep up. The only thing I can do, I believe, is to become more aware and mindful of when the feeling starts creeping in and examine why and how it made it’s way into my mind.
Anyway, here’s what I’ve done:
1) Take Off The Mask
For some reason, I’ve been comfortable in telling everyone about my accomplishments of beating addiction and obesity, but writing this post has been terribly difficult. I wanted to write it sooner… actually, I’ve been wanting to writing for about a month now. It’s not me telling the world that I’m a fraud, but it’s more about telling the world and those going through their own journey that they may find themselves down an unplanned path. Like many addicts, relapsing is hard on the mind and body. It’s hard to shake the mindset that you can rebound, which leads me to my next point…
In a previous post, I spoke about the Growth vs Fixed mindsets mentioned by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. This also goes along with my belief in stripping away performance goals and learn towards learning goals. I’ve been focusing on how I can improve any aspect of my life, even if it’s just by 1% (something that one of my favorite writers, James Altucher discusses in Choose Yourself! and The 1% Rule for Creating All Habits).
“The 1% Rule can be applied to everything. If I spend 1 less minute feeling regret and use that to feel gratitude, how much better for my stress levels will that be in one year’s time.” – James Altucher
Getting back on track requires small steps, and that’s why I love applying the 1% rule everyday until I’m back on track firing on all cylinders.
3) Aim For “Good Enough”
At my job, we often discuss what’s a “minimal viable product.” Without going too technical, it’s part of the Agile Manifesto and lean manufacturer principles originally developed by Toyota. Basically, when we think about a feature we think about what’s the smallest increment we can release to get us towards the final feature we want. It’s not settling for a sub par feature, but we’re always looking for simplicity. We’re looking for what’s “good enough” from the get go. This is important as it also allows us to constantly adapt when we notice things aren’t going as we originally planned, or, more importantly, when bugs are discovered we can squash them before they get out of hand. And bugs do happen, in fact, did you know that Microsoft begins every project with the certain knowledge that they will choose to ship [a software product] with known bugs?
Being good enough isn’t settling for a lower standard. Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, says, “The single most important piece of advice I can give is: Remember that good enough is almost always good enough. If people go through life looking for good enough results, the choice problem will take care of itself. Go through your day getting a good enough cup of coffee and a good enough toasted bagel and so on and so on and life will look much sunnier.”
Being good enough is the secret to happiness. Instead of constantly trying to keep up appearances and the illusion that you’re perfect, accept that you’re not. Don’t build on self-confidence, but rather build on self-compassion and learn to forgive yourself when you screw up.
As author Neil Gaiman says:
The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.
Lastly, it’s important to know that everyone wears a mask every now and then. It’s part of life. However, from now on if I’m going to be wearing a mask it won’t be because I’m an impostor, it will be because I want to be a super hero. And being a true super hero means allowing everyone to know who you are, how you are, your vulnerabilities, and what you want out of life.