The feeling of belonging is central to our happiness. When we don’t feel it, we’re generally less happy and less driven. Regardless of what our history says about us, no matter how much we may have accomplished in the recent past, if we don’t feel like we belong we start tumbling down the hill of self-doubt and questioning.
This is bad. This is very bad. Self-doubt and questioning pop up all over our lives and once the downward tumble starts, it’s hard to stop. In fact, the feeling of self-doubt is so widely experienced that there’s even a syndrome named after it: the imposter syndrome.
The imposter syndrome is the feeling that we don’t belong, that we shouldn’t be where we are and we shouldn’t have the responsibilities we do. For example, and this is purely hypothetical of course, the imposter syndrome may make someone say, “I’m just a kid from Texas, what business do I have holding down the job I have in New York City?” Well my dear friend “kid from Texas”, that’s exactly what I want to talk about today: how being mindful of these feelings can help us combat them:
DON’T LET IT STOP YOU
The debilitating part of the imposter syndrome is that it can make us second guess what we’re doing and what we’re worth. If you don’t think you belong where you are, you’re unlikely to reach, let alone land, beyond it.
We’ll talk a little more about this in a bit, but you are where you are for a reason. Most people are looking to improve in one area or another, including professionally. Don’t allow this semi-frequent mindset stop you from reaching the height of your goals.
The best way I know how to do this – among other ways - is to acknowledge the presence of that feeling and work with it. Don’t shut the door on it completely but let it in and do your work in its presence. Pushing on with the feelings of not belonging right there with you will prove how beatable they really are.
HEAR THAT LITTLE VOICE? ANSWER IT WITH DEFIANCE
That nagging, incessant voice telling you that people are going to find you out, that you’re a fraud, and that this is all going to come down in spectacular fashion, that’s what’s so powerful about the imposter syndrome. It takes us away from what we’ve accomplished, and moves our focus to what others have accomplished. When we get somewhere, we start to compare ourselves to other people in that position and our confidence plummets immediately. This is another topic for another time, but comparing yourself to someone else will only serve to damage you and your work.
Don’t shut that voice out, shut that voice up. Look that voice in the eye and prove to it why you belong where you are, why you’re going to succeed. Once you do that, all that’s left to do is your actual work, which, believe it or not, is the easy part.
YOU’RE RIGHT WHERE YOU BELONG
Remember in college when that one friend could sneak in anywhere without issue? They would tell you that all you needed was confidence. That if you walked in with confidence, no one would stop you. Take that advice to heart because it’s surprisingly appropriate.
I want you to listen very closely: You are where you are because you earned your way there. An interesting aspect of the imposter syndrome is that it’s very common among high achievers, meaning that the people who feel they don’t belong are the ones who belong the most. The mind is silly and it’ll convince you that even though you worked your butt off to get where you are, you don’t belong. I’ve got news for you, you’re not wrong, it’s wrong. You’ve earned your way to where you are. You wouldn’t be there if you didn’t deserve it.
We lock ourselves in narratives built by our ego – the one that says we’re not good enough, or that we will fail – and that stops us from building our own narrative. Once we can break through these ego-built walls, we can start building our own successes and start feeling like we belong.
Until next time – look around, you belong here.