Written by Amy Lien
Perfectionism is a disease limiting your success and I’ve got the cure for you!
Ever feel like your successes never meet your own expectations? Didn’t apply for that job posting just because you didn’t meet that one single requirement? Or do you feel as if your accomplishments were just an utter struck of luck?
Well you’re not alone. In fact, Albert Einstein even believed that his work wasn’t worthy of being recognised! That’s right — the man behind life-changing theories about light, energy and motion! Commonly enough, up to 82% of people have experienced imposter syndrome in their life.
The imposter syndrome is an internal psychological battle that makes an individual doubts their abilities and successes, and experience feelings of being a fraud in their own life.
I have felt like an imposter ever since my early days in school.
Growing up, I would always get good grades but never consider myself as “smart” or someone with a wealth of knowledge. I was definitely no natural genius so I had to put in the hard work to keep up with my friends, so that I wouldn’t appear any less. Though having a solid set of my own accomplishments throughout all of my schooling years and great supportive friends who only accelerated my growth, I still found myself comparing my successes to others and never meeting my own expectations.
Even though my friends would always shed light on my successes, it never appeared good enough to me. I still felt like a fraud and that they’d realise it soon enough.
As sports captain in primary school, I thought, “I just got lucky because the other athletes probably couldn’t be bothered to run for the role.”
As student councillor, I thought, “I am a basically nobody compared to this group of great leaders. How long until the school realises that I can’t make a difference?”
As a Year 12 graduate awarded with the Ambassador Award, I thought, “This is clearly incorrect. They are going to realise they called the wrong name soon. What did I even do to be deserving of this award?”
As a Head Social Media Manager, I thought, “My work is not good enough — I can make it better. Again… Again. No, I can still perfect this.”
The constant internal scuffle about my abilities and skills were ongoing throughout university. I joined a social club at university to make some friends in hopes to make my university experience a memorable one. Two years later, I landed the role of Vice President of one of the largest university clubs in Western Australia. Yet, I still found myself questioning whether I’d be equipped with enough skills after graduation to actually get a job.
Have I done enough?
Who would hire little ol’ me? I know nothing.
Even putting this into words, I feel like an absolute mad man for thinking this way but the struggle to get into a healthy mind space where you actually believe that you’re good enough amongst others is very much real. I had to do a lot of inner child work as I realised that these skewed beliefs began at an early age. Family upbringing and dynamics have immense influence on a child’s growing idea of themselves and how the world works.
Coming from a family that highly valued success and achievement meant that cold hard criticism was common in the household. My ambition, strive for praise and critical mindset was ingrained into me in my early
stages of life. I know that all my accomplishments are something to be proud of and that I deserved my successes because someone saw something great in me during times at which I failed to see myself.
However, there is still that little voice in my head, my younger self, that still
doesn’t feel worthy and questions whether I have done enough.
The first step in healing is to acknowledge your wounds from childhood, whether it be complex traumas, emotional neglect, or limited recognition. Many people feel the need to ‘man up’ or to just move on from it, however childhood wounds will slowly turn up in your adulthood life as deep feelings of anger, low self-esteem, addictions or other psychological illnesses. Taking time to sit with your feelings and comfort your inner child for the shame that comes with these wounds is the first step to developing security that your younger self needed.
Imposter syndrome can also be a superpower! I wouldn’t go so far to say that this phenomenon is a “good” thing, however focusing on the advantages can soften any stress and pressures that we place on ourselves. Being aware of it can also help you catch yourself when you’re lost in these imposter thoughts to evoke good practices of it instead of spiralling from your fear of failure and getting caught.
Imposter syndrome is a sign of ambitious work ethic.The Dunning-Kruger effect explains that individuals who are competent are often filled with doubt, whilst those who are less competent will overestimate their abilities. Feeling like an imposter will just push you to build your knowledge and seek ways to develop your skills. In other words, you won’t stay complacent and always be on a journey of self development!
This ambitious drive can propel you into uncharted territory and great success, but just remember to celebrate your accomplishments and acknowledge your hard work!
Make sure that you also take time off to rest and avoid burning yourself out.
Imposter syndrome makes you more empathetic and compassionate.
Feeling like an imposter is widely common and even the world’s most renowned and successful people have struggled with these feelings, so you are definitely not alone. The struggles of these intrusive thoughts are universally experienced and going through it can help you be more
understanding of your fellow colleagues. Lady Gaga has even expressed, “I still sometimes feel like a loser kid in high school and I just have to pick myself up and tell myself that I’m a superstar every morning so that I can get through this day and be for my fans what they need for me to be.” Similarly, you can choose a mantra to counter feelings of doubt and remind yourself of who you are and what you’ve accomplished.
Let go of your inner perfectionist to reach your full potential.
Many people who experience imposter syndrome are often high achievers with high standards and committed to always doing their best. However, perfectionism will only feed into your unrealistic expectations and prevent you from taking the next step. It is perfectly okay for you to
experience roadblocks in your work and productivity levels. This is the big one that I struggle with, letting go and just accepting that my work is good enough. It’s easy to become fixated on something and to work endlessly on a task until you lose yourself in it. When I catch myself doing this, it’s important to take a step back and remind myself that small mistakes will not result in me turning into a complete failure. Remind yourself that you are responsible for your next step — being lost in the perfection of something will only hold back your full potential as you’re not putting it into action. Mistakes are relevant for growth and development, so just let it go and keep moving!
When I feel like I’m losing my way, I always look to these resources:
- Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations
- What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it?
- How you can use poster syndrome to your benefit | Mike Cannon-Brookes
- Book — Stolen Focus by Johann Hari
- Alternatively, this podcast episode is great at highlighting how external forces can distract us and steal our focus.
Imposter syndrome is a long and tiring fight with ones self. To all those kids out there struggling to recognise their achievements whilst facing societal pressures — you are not alone, you are seen, you are heard. It will all be okay! Surround yourself in work environments and relationships that promote positive mentoring and support systems.
Although I am still overcoming these deeply rooted beliefs myself, it’s a hard ongoing journey and I am here to remind you that you are on the right path as long as you’re taking that next step. Just keep going and remember that you hold the power in determining your own self worth.
Everyone is also experiencing their own doubts so will you be okay with someone else getting recognised for their work, whilst you were the one holding yourself back? No more overthinking — just take a step and put your potential into motion.