Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome.
Are you afraid that you'll be exposed as a fraud?
Everyone has had those dreams – of being outside and realizing we forgot to get dressed, of being exposed for the fraud we really are. We are afraid that we are just playing a role and if “the world” (our employers, colleagues, friends, even family) discovered who we really are, the relationship would be over. (After all, they who are so perfect and infallible could never maintain a relationship with flawed human beings like us.)
This problem has only intensified in the age of social media and has now been given an official name – “The Imposter Syndrome”, defined as a psychological pattern in which one doubts one's accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and don't deserve all they have achieved.
As our dreams attest, this is not something new. Even though I never actually practiced law, I am still plagued by dreams that I didn’t graduate law school (this may have something to do with the poor grades achieved in my final year there but that’s another issue!) and it is now almost 38 years later! Such is the weakness of our self-esteem and our tendency to compare ourselves with others and come up lacking.
As mentioned, social media contributes to and heightens this insecurity when we view the presentation by others of their “perfect” lives and accomplishments. As much as we know the amount of editing that has gone into this presentation, we allow ourselves to be taken in by it. Even though we know that it is akin to false advertising, we are nevertheless seduced by it.
How can we combat this pervasive feeling of worthlessness? There are many practical tips starting with stay off social media. We can define ourselves as students instead of experts and take pleasure in always learning and growing. We can enjoy the hard work and effort that went into our accomplishments and not measure them in reference to anyone else’s. But ultimately, we have to dig deeper and recognize that we are not our external presentation of ourselves, we are not our Facebook profile or our Instagram pics. We are souls with a relationship with the Almighty.
He created us and we carry His imprint on us. Accessing the Divine within us builds our sense of self, connecting to the Almighty transforms it. If we look at ourselves as our career accomplishments, our fancy vacations, our children’s college acceptances and our social popularity – all those events that populate a Facebook page – we may feel great or we may feel inadequate. But both would be an illusion.
Because our real self and our real worth comes from the actions of our soul – the times when we expressed caring for others, when we put them before ourselves, when we gave to them, when we transcended our own needs and desires to work on our relationships with our fellow human beings and with the Almighty Himself. You won’t see those accomplishments listed on any social media post. And we will never feel like an imposter for those quiet anonymous moments of giving and connection.