Simply put, “Imposter Syndrome” means that a person believes they may be a “fraud” in his or her own mind. That person doubts their accomplishments or spends a lot of time downplaying them. For example:
“I was my high school valedictorian, but I went to a small school.”
“I did receive that promotion at work, but only because no one else who wanted the position.”
“I won the contest, but there weren’t that many participants.”
You get the idea. No matter how large the accomplishment or how much that person is showered with praise from others, it does not make a huge difference.
Many of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome and don’t even realize it. I actually did not know this about myself until I viewed a TEDx Talk from a Facebook friend in which she spoke about this in herself.
So, do YOU suffer from Imposter Syndrome?
I realized a little bit ago something else that may largely contribute to Imposter Syndrome.
The “IF” factor.
We often hear about “WHAT IF?” meaning that we are encouraged to live life to the fullest and not have doubts, wondering “WHAT IF?” we had not done something we’ve always wanted to do. While that is immensely important, that is not what I’m referring to here.
What I’m talking about is how the “IF” factor steals your joy.
You’re a man who is married to a gorgeous woman, as people tell you often. You say to yourself, “Well if I didn’t make good money at work, I wonder if she would even be with me.”
You’re driving a nice car and you receive a ton of compliments. “Well if I did not have a co-signer, I probably would not have been able to get it.”
You’re a woman who recently won a beauty pageant. “Well if _____________ did not drop out, I probably would not have even won.”
In short, even when you’re able to be satisfied with what you have, you torture yourself wondering what would happen “if” this or that was different, and usually in a negative way.
What makes the “if” factor a little different than what happens with Imposter Syndrome is that it isn’t something in stone. In other words, with Imposter Syndrome itself, we have already determined that we are a “fraud” in some kind of way. The “if” factor doesn’t have us quite there yet, but it plays with our minds to have us spending a lot of time wondering.
But here is something to keep in mind. There will always be an “if” that exists. We are not where we are today because following a strict blueprint. I just retired from the Army after serving for 21 years, but that was not the plan when I first joined back in 1997. So I can point to a LOT of “ifs.” That doesn’t take away from the accomplishment.
That is what’s most important to remember. Never allow an “if” to steal your joy. You are where you are for a reason and often, a good reason. Don’t focus on cutting yourself down wondering “if” something was different. It isn’t different. That’s the key. And that’s okay.
“If” Beyoncé didn’t receive that first record contract or did not split from Destiny’s Child. But she did.
“If” LeBron James was not sought after during high school. But he was.
“If” Drew Bledsoe did not get hurt and Tom Brady never got that chance to start a game back in 2001. But he did.
Life is about taking advantage of your opportunities, however they come. Do you think Beyoncé, LeBron or Tom Brady would be nearly as successful if they spent all their time stuck on what “if” the opportunities did not come for them as they did?
It is easy for those of us suffering from Imposter Syndrome to find extra ways to tell ourselves that we are frauds, especially when a difference in one mere circumstance would change it. But even in the most successful people, the “if” factor exists. There is no way to avoid it.
Even in the two “guarantees” of life, meaning death and taxes, the “if” factor remains. If death happened at a different time. If you owed a different amount in taxes or received more money. It never ends.
When that “if” starts to creep into your mind, remember the “but.” That is what’s most important.
Something else to keep in mind is that NOT everyone will take advantage of the same opportunity in the same manner. So success is NOT something inevitable to where it has to happen.
If someone else is where Beyoncé was, the outcome may have been totally different. Same for LeBron James. And MANY NFL quarterbacks have replaced others due to injury and obviously not have gone on to win 6 Super Bowls in 18 years. So it’s not as though everyone would see the same success.
It’s all about what you do with those opportunities.
The “haters” will always be there to remind you how “insignificant” or “irrelevant” you would be “if” this or that didn’t happen that placed you in a better situation than you were before. But that’s their job. That’s why they exist. Pay no attention to them. Misery loves company. The end.
You could always say to them “If” they spent less time being haters, they would be better off, too. But I digress.
“If” is not something only meant to take away from you. It could and does apply to absolutely anyone. Just remember the “but.”
Because when all is said and done, that is what people will remember far more than the “If.”