Have you ever found yourself thinking twice before posting your content online? Perhaps you worry what people might think, or you get caught up in comparing yourself to other’s on social media. If this sounds like you, you may be experiencing an extremely common and normal side effect of success: imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome (or imposter phenomenon) is something that is commonly experienced by people who have found success in their lives or careers. When they achieve great things, it’s common for them to start doubting those accomplishments, and question why they’re doing so well in the first place.
They will neglect all of the hard work and effort that they’ve put in, and they’ll start believing that they don’t deserve to be where they are – that they’re an “imposter” in their success story.
You might know exactly what this feels like. And if you do, it can be extremely intimidating and isolating – but just know that you are far from alone.
Imposter syndrome seems to be especially common amongst women and minority groups. This tends to happen because these individuals are constantly living under harsh stereotypes and expectations. They’ve often been reduced to lesser positions of power, strength and authority in the past – so, whenever a member of these communities reaches a position of strength or success, they feel out of place.
The first study ever done on imposter syndrome showed that this feeling of being a “fraud” was something only women experienced. But as more studies were conducted, it started becoming evident that it’s not just women – anyone can experience it.
It was found that 70% of people will run into feelings of imposter syndrome at some point, to some degree within their lives.
While most are still able to excel in their work despite experiencing this phenomenon, it can still cause symptoms of anxiety and depression that can affect our overall satisfaction with life. It can affect our motivation and stop us from continuing on the path to growth and further success. Imposter syndrome thrives with perfectionist mindsets – something that seems to be pretty common, especially for people within creative fields.
Valerie Young, who wrote a book on imposter syndrome called The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, mentions some common beliefs found among people struggling with imposter syndrome:
Does any of that sound familiar?
Well if it does, don’t worry.
The good news is that imposter syndrome doesn’t have to ruin or rule your life. While it’s something that you may never truly be able to get rid of, there are ways to manage it with some shifts in lifestyle and mindset.
Social media creates the perfect environment for creators to experience imposter syndrome.
You are constantly putting yourself out there, trying new things, experimenting, and always having to prove yourself to your audience. It can feel like you are either getting pummelled in hate comments, drowned out by millions of other creators, or the algorithm stops working in your favor. It can often feel like everything is your fault, and you have no idea what you’re doing wrong.
So, today we’ve rounded up 8 mindset shifts to help you overcome this imposter syndrome, that will hopefully help you kick your anxiety and self-doubt out of the spotlight.
Oftentimes, we experience imposter feelings when we don’t think we’re qualified.
Maybe you don’t have a background in your creative area of interest or maybe the subjects you’re talking about in your videos aren’t exactly your areas of expertise.
But here’s the great thing about being a content creator: you don’t always have to be an expert.
Ali Abdaal is a YouTuber with over 2 million subscribers who creates videos all about productivity and personal development. In his video: How I Beat Imposter Syndrome, he describes how you don’t have to be a guru – you can simply be a guide.
You can be someone who is on a similar level to your audience, and approach your creative projects in an effort to work with them and collectively grow, rather than pretending to know everything.
A guide works to teach what they’ve learned so far, and helps lead their audience with inspiration.
This way of approaching your content might even help you improve your storytelling abilities and connection with your audience. We learn and connect best with people who are not too far from where we are in life. And it’s easier to build trust with somebody who is honest about themselves as opposed to someone who claims to have it all figured out.
You always know more than somebody else in the world. You have something unique to teach – especially if it’s coming from your personal experience. Nobody wants a “know-it-all” online anymore. They want a human. And no human is a true “guru”. Everyone is and always will be learning.
Ali also mentions that it’s common to feel as if what we know and what we have to share isn’t groundbreaking – that it’s nothing special.
But that’s only because it’s familiar to us.
Our own knowledge starts to become habitual in our minds. Our perspectives become a natural way of life for us, and what we already know doesn’t seem that interesting. The spice of our personality and what makes us unique starts to become bland to our own senses because we spend time with it all day, every day.
But when we share it with others, it will seem new and exciting to them. In other words, what’s obvious to us isn’t that obvious to those around us.
And that’s why you shouldn’t trust those feelings telling you you’re an imposter. You belong in the creator space because your perspective is unique to you and you will always have something to teach others – even when you think you don’t.
One of the most comforting realizations in life is that underneath everybody’s expensive suits, countless layers of makeup and prestigious university degrees – nobody actually knows what they’re doing.
We often look up to people who are “ahead of us” in life and we see them as being so much greater, smarter and more powerful than we are. But the truth is, when we do eventually “get there”, we’re often hit with the reality that it’s not everything we thought it would be.
This is because things always look different from an outsider’s perspective.
One of the easiest ways to overcome imposter syndrome, is to let go of the need to hit an ideal position of having it all figured out, in order for you to finally “deserve” to be where you are.
There is no “winning” and there is no “top”. There is only here and now, and the journey. As long as you are committed to doing your best and growing, you are doing just fine.
“People who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or competent or capable than the rest of us…It’s very good news, because it means we just have to learn to think like non-impostors.” – Valerie Young
It’s time to tell your imposter syndrome that you are on the same playing field as everyone else, and every other creator. Everyone is just experimenting, telling their stories, being creative and throwing random stuff at the wall to see what sticks. There is no formula. There is no “right” or “wrong”, and your voice is just as valuable as everybody else’s.
And one day, somebody out there will hear your voice, and they will finally feel like they have found something they understand in this mess of a world. That’s the point of creating after all: to help us make sense of life and see that we’re never truly alone.
According to Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindsets that we can have: a “fixed mindset” or a “growth mindset”.
With a fixed mindset, we tend to believe that we can’t grow beyond the abilities that we already have. That our success, intelligence and creativity is all a part of a fixed personality we are born with – and we cannot change any of it. We see challenges and failures as proof of that inability to grow, and we often only push ourselves so far to seek out accomplishments that will reinforce those limiting beliefs about ourselves.
On the other hand, a growth mindset sees failure and challenges as opportunities. If you have a growth mindset, you see that making mistakes is what helps move you forward as a person. You believe in challenging and pushing yourself to defy any limitations you, or anybody else, may have placed on you.
It’s not possible to only have a fixed or growth mindset – but with practice, you have the power to determine which one will be more dominant, and how these two mindsets will work together.
When you have a growth mindset, you’re often able to accomplish more. As Dweck says, we “worry less about looking smart and [we] put more energy into learning.”
Adopting more of a growth mindset in your creative career can greatly help you overcome imposter syndrome, and challenge the feelings that might be holding you back from taking risks.
Focus on learning and continuing to grow rather than believing you need to reach a certain, elusive level of competency in order to be considered worthy. Everybody is in the process of learning, and seeing your ignorance as an opportunity rather than a fault, can do wonders when overcoming imposter syndrome.
So try and assess your mindset on the regular. Stop and be mindful about how you are approaching a given situation. This way, you can start training yourself to stop thinking in a fixed mindset, and shift towards one that helps you grow and improve as a creator.
It’s easy to always focus on the negatives.
Our minds are naturally wired to focus on the bad, rather than the good. This is called the negativity bias. This bias shows that, in any given situation, adults will commonly focus on and use the negative information over the positive.
For instance, if you’re a content creator, you might find that it’s especially easy to get carried away by hate comments or other people’s opinions of you. You might even end up internalizing them as your own fault – when in reality, people’s negativity has absolutely nothing to do with you.
With all of these elements at play, it’s no wonder that crippling imposter syndrome is so common among creators. You are constantly drawn to fixate on all that you’re doing wrong, rather than appreciate all that you’re doing right. That’s why it’s important to consciously challenge the negativity and focus on your strengths, rather than your perceived weaknesses.
There are many ways you can do this. Try making a list of all of the things that you know you are good at, and have proven to be good at. It doesn’t matter what they are, it could be a sport, a video game, cooking, writing – anything. Then, ask a close family member or friend to tell you what they think your strengths are.
You might find that people perceive you much differently than you do yourself – and you might learn that you have more strengths than you thought. This way, you can practice focusing on your wins with just as much importance as you do your flaws and failures.
Everybody’s experiences are different, and everybody deals with challenges at varying degrees. If you struggle with imposter syndrome, sometimes it really helps to just talk to someone about it.
Whether it be a mentor, a friend or a trained psychologist, telling people your fears is the first step to conquering them. But opening up isn’t always easy – especially when you might feel like a fraud deep down.
If you find yourself afraid to open up or not sure who to talk to, here’s some tips to get you started:
This will help you calm your inner critic, and give you the space to collect your mind and feelings. When you’re calm and collected, it makes it easier to convey your feelings, and accept other people’s feedback in return.
It’s entirely valid and okay to have imposter syndrome – and to even feel hesitant about telling people about it. When you give yourself the compassion to accept and identify what you’re experiencing, you might find it easier to open up to somebody about it.
Look for somebody who makes you feel heard, and somebody who really has the time to sit down and listen to you. You are deserving of attention, and your feelings shouldn’t be dismissed. That’s why finding a professional, or a really close friend that you trust can be a great outlet to vocalize your experience with imposter syndrome.
When you speak out about what bothers you, it puts things into perspective. It allows you to get reassurance for things and beliefs that you may have blown out of proportion in your head. So, instead of engaging with your imposter fears, try engaging with somebody who can help you dive deep into what’s underneath them, and what systems you can put in place to work through them.
Sometimes the best way to get over feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt is to find a way to use them as fuel. Try challenging yourself to create and push through doubts with curiosity, rather than internalizing and identifying with them.
If you continue to create and do what you do best, you might just prove to yourself that you actually know more than you think. It all comes back to that growth mindset – if you believe that you are limited, you’ll keep accomplishing only what supports that belief.
Research is actually starting to show that it might be better to “lean into” more situational, casual feelings of imposter syndrome. Experts believe that it might just give you that edge to push you past what you never thought was possible. It’s best to not look at it as the enemy, but as a driver to do better – a reason to keep going.
This mindset shift will help you improve your capabilities even further as a creator, and prove to yourself that those thoughts of being a fraud were simply just that: thoughts.
Listen to your gut over your mind. Doubt, fear and discomfort are common when you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone and entering the great unknown – but that’s also where the greatest things happen.
Observing and meditating can be a great way to understand just how much your imposter syndrome is clouding your brain.
Meditation is a practice to achieve mindfulness – a state of being present. It can be as simple as just taking a few minutes to breathe and notice where your mind is at. It doesn’t have to be a big commitment, but a simple moment of your day to help you get in touch with your mental health – which is something we often forget to do amidst the hustle and bustle of being creatives.
Meditation and mindful exercises can vary, and don’t have to look the same for everyone.
Some meditate sitting down, eyes open or eyes closed. Some practice a sort of mindful, meditative walking or running. But the idea is ultimately to focus on your breath and train your mind to focus – to focus and observe, in a non-judgemental way, all that’s around you, and everything that interferes and happens within your mind.
It’s not to change what you don’t like, but to simply become aware of it. Just like imposter syndrome, you cannot completely get rid of it, but you can notice it, and stop it from completely taking over.
Meditation has proven to be extremely effective through a study at Yale university, in terms of preventing what is sometimes referred to as “monkey mind”. And it can be a great tool to help calm your wandering thoughts about self-doubt and imposter syndrome as well. It can help you recognize thoughts as thoughts, and simply watch them pass like cars on a street or clouds in the sky.
The author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Valerie Young, further mentions how you cannot necessarily get rid of imposter syndrome completely – but you can go from living an “imposter life” to simply experiencing “imposter moments”. It’s all about accepting when they happen and moving on, rather than reading into their meaning.
Once you see these fears as just fears, you no longer have to get caught up in their made-up stories. Instead, you can go out and create real stories of your own.
Many people experience imposter syndrome. And while some say it’s based on ones personality or childhood upbringing, some believe there are other factors involved that feed these feelings of being a fraud.
While there are many mindset shifts that help to overcome these predisposed beliefs and anxieties about ourselves, many sociologists believe that there are environmental factors that affect imposter feelings as well.
Much of the advice and research on dealing with imposter syndrome is encouraging the victim to almost “fix themselves”, as if it is their job to correct their behaviors or actions.
But rather, if we look at the deeply ingrained stereotypes and expectations in society, we’ll be able to identify the root cause of this widespread imposter syndrome that exists in the world today. And by finding the root problem, we can find the solution.
Maybe you don’t see yourself represented as much in a particular field or creative position. And therefore, if you achieve that position, you might feel like your voice is out of place. You might be conditioned to believe that you don’t belong there – simply because it’s new and unprecedented.
So while we have to rewire our brains to manage and control imposter thoughts, we also have to be aware of our environment, and our society as a whole.
We have to see that it’s not totally up to us as individuals, but it’s up to us as a collective to accept different people into roles where they are not usually seen – to adopt more equality and acceptance, and rid our minds of these stereotypes that are contributing to so many people’s imposter syndrome.
Because we are all meant to be here, and we all have a right to be here.
There’s so much pressure to be successful. And according to psychologist Suzanne Imes: “[t]here can be a lot of confusion between approval and love and worthiness. Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”
The only way to beat imposter syndrome in the long run is to break down those predisposed beliefs of what it means to be successful, to stop matching achievement with value, and to realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to be imperfect.
If you want to learn even more tips on beating imposter syndrome, check out Project Nightfall’s course “Unstoppable Confidence“.
In this course, you will learn all about personality types, viewer psychology, practical tips for how to boost your confidence and more to help you finally get on your way to living your dream life as a content creator.