Impostor syndrome

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From time to time, The Sheridan Press staff writes about people in the community who are doing good things and receiving an award or some form of recognition for their efforts. Nearly every time we interview the person, we hear something along the lines of, “I’m really not sure I deserve this,” or, “Surely somebody deserves this more than I do.”

When I participated in the CiViC leadership program, one of the first things the facilitators talked about was “impostor syndrome.” Many of us in the room weren’t sure we belonged there. After all, the training was meant for up-and-coming leaders or those who already serve as leaders in the community. Some of us aren’t volunteers for a variety of nonprofit organizations — we work, we support those causes in other ways, but we aren’t always leading the charge. Many wondered, “Are we really leaders?”

Or, maybe you have a group of super awesome friends. Have you ever looked around and thought, “How in the world am I in this group? I’m not that cool.”

For some, the fear that you’ll be “found out,” that people will discover you aren’t as high achieving as they think you are or that you don’t know as much as they think you do, leads to what is often called impostor syndrome. The phrase, according to Forbes, was coined in the 1980s to describe the feeling that you’re somewhere you don’t belong. 

The feeling stems from self-doubt and the inability to acknowledge your own achievements. Researchers have said that up to 70 percent of people have suffered from impostor syndrome at some point.

Recently, I’ve been reading about impostor syndrome and why it is so common. I stumbled across some advice on how to overcome the self-doubt.

Here’s what Forbes had to say:

• Focus on the value you bring; not on attaining perfection. 

• Own your successes. You didn’t get lucky by chance.

• Cease comparisons. They’re an act of violence against oneself.

• Hold firm to ambition. 

The research stemmed from a conversation with a friend of mine in Chicago. She’s a rockstar, but constantly doubts herself and her ability to achieve big things. First of all, she has already achieved big things. Big things that make me so proud of her. So how in the world is she suffering from impostor syndrome? The ever lurking specter of self-doubt is how.

Because she often feels like she doesn’t belong, she holds back. She holds back her talent, her ideas and her ability to make big changes in her world. She’s robbing her community of her gifts!

We’ve all suffered from impostor syndrome from time to time. But, when it starts to hold us back, we have to face it head on and, simply put, get over it. 

By |August 25th, 2017|

About the Author:

Kristen Czaban joined The Sheridan Press staff in 2008 and covered beats including local government, cops and courts and the energy industry. In 2012, she was promoted and now serves as the managing editor for The Press. Czaban has a journalism degree from Northwestern University.