I was recently told that when human civilization was first getting established, we tended to form in groups of no more than about 200 people. This was a natural tendency - we are social animals, we gravitate to one another, but when the group gets too big, new groups spin off to form new towns, villages, etc.
The beauty of the 200 person group was that there was a defined role for everyone. It was easy to know your place. Maybe a few people knew how to make shoes, and from those few, the "best shoemaker" emerged. As a child, if you wanted to hone a skill, it wasn't unreasonable to set your sites on being the best at something, because you were competing with a rather known quantity; about 200 of your closest friends and family.
Now, however, we are not only in groups of thousands and millions, we are connected to BILLIONS of people via the Internet. If you are striving to be the best at something you can Google it and find people who have lifetimes of experience, PhD's, and 100 page blogs proving they are experts. It's enough competition to kill your drive before you even begin.
It fills your head with doubt, worry, unease and feelings of unworthiness that you, meager you, will never amount to anything with powerhouses like those in the world. So what's the point?
Here's why: EVERYONE FEELS LIKE THAT.
It's true. Even the guy with the 7 degrees from Harvard on the topic. We all suffer from comparison ourselves to one another and once we do we can get a mean case of IMPOSTOR SYNDROME.
Impostor syndrome sounds horrible, and it is. But we don't have to succumb to it once we name it for what it is. In fact, if we can get clear on the feelings and notice it arising as it's happening we can turn it into a tool that will propel us forward.
So what to do about it?
Next time you feel a tinge of self-doubt creep into the mix, try one or a few of these tactics:
GET CLEAR ON THE FACTS. Ask yourself - have I ever had success at what I'm trying to do? Name all the little things, and don't be shy. If you're just getting started, that's ok. One of the things you've done is DECIDED TO START, and that's a big one. How do you ever get anywhere without taking the first step.
WHAT WOULD OPRAH DO? Oprah came from a broken home and humble beginnings. Did that stop her? NO. And now she's one of the most powerful women in the world. How did she do this? She tapped into something inside her and didn't worry what others thought. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF. Get off Google. Ignore your competition. Look away from the Instagram feed. NOW and then...
DO SOME WORK. One of the best coping mechanisms for impostor syndrome also happens to be a productive one. Tackle one thing on your to do list. For extra points, do the hardest one. Our brains are hard-wired to love finishing things. Once you've done one thing, you'll get a dopamine hit and your mood will improve and doing the next thing will seem easier. Keep walking, one foot in front of the other.
CHALLENGE YOURSELF. If you're feeling "less than", then maybe you have a higher desire that you aren't setting yourself up to achieve. Ask yourself, "what do I REALLY want?" and make sure your goals, projects and tasks are setting you up to achieve it.
CLAIM AN ALTER EGO. Envision who you want to be. Get to know this person. How they act, what they wear, how they achieve things. Many professional athletes do this. On the field of play, they will often picture themselves as warriors and perhaps give that personage a name and personality. They fully create a super human/super power version of themselves and become that person during a game. For extra points, incorporate talismans that make you rise to the occasion. Wear a pair of glasses, a Wonder Woman -esque cuff bracelet, a suit jacket, or some other "power piece" that cues you into who you want to be, and then own it. When impostor syndrome creeps in, turn to your alter ego to crush it to smithereens.
You are not alone in this feeling. You are doing better than you realize. You are the only one is who going to go out in the world and do the work you are doing in your own unique way.
While it may feel like you can never be the "best" at what you do given the powerhouses in your field out there, tell me this: define "best". Best is subjective. Best is relative. You ARE the best choice for a client who connects with your style, your background, your way of connecting with them.
You are drawn to do what you are doing for a reason. The world needs you to show up and do YOUR best, and to check the impostor syndrome at the curb.
What's your antidote to feeling like an impostor?