I am jealous of people who have always known what they want. I look at the people who knew that they wanted to be–doctors, artists, engineers, and writers–from the time they were 8-year olds. A part of me always knew that I would end up on this career path, but I took the not-so-scenic route. It took time for me to make up my mind and wholeheartedly declare that I am a journalist. But I have days where I question myself because of how long the process takes. I mean, how could I, a last-minute entry, compete with people whose whole lives have led to this moment? If you’re feeling the same, we aren’t alone. This is called imposter syndrome.
VeryWellMind defines imposter syndrom as “an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.” It makes you doubt your abilities and feel like everyone else is much better than you. The more you sit with imposter syndrome, the more you feel like a fraud. I used to think that you can work your way out of imposter syndrome. I thought that the more accomplished you become, the less you feel like an outsider.
For example, I thought that getting a college degree would get rid of my imposter syndrome. I thought that my days of looking around a room and wondering, Why me? would be over. Getting a college degree was my way of proving to myself that I belonged. That I could also do it, and I was just as worthy. I quickly realized that life works according to a scale that I may never beat. I was happy about getting the degree, but I didn’t get it cum laude, so it’s clear that I don’t belong…right?
Job hunting while dealing with imposter syndrome is a nightmare. There are days when you don’t send any applications because you think you don’t measure up. The automated rejections serve as proof that you don’t make the cut. It feels like each step backward is evidence that you’ve been pretending all along.
Overcoming imposter syndrome is an uphill battle that takes conscious effort. The first step to overcoming it is recognizing it. The ability to tell the difference between feelings and facts goes a long way. Whenever I have a negative thought about myself and my abilities, I ask myself, “Is this a fact, or is this how I feel?” Do I feel like I’m not good enough to apply for this job, or is this a fact? Was the rejection because they think that I’m not good enough, or was it because I’m not the right fit for this role?
Dealing with imposter syndrome means coping with perfectionism. I only feel like a fraud because I expect myself to be perfect. The slightest mistakes are proof that I’m imperfect, and therefore less deserving. Accepting that I’m not always the best candidate and sometimes someone more equipped for the role helps me deal with imposter syndrome. I constantly remind myself that what is meant for me will, eventually, make its way to me. I never thought that I’d be good enough to write for a global media outlet, yet here I am–imperfections and all.
Another way of handling imposter syndrome while job hunting is realizing that the rules are a social construct. If 7 out of 10 adults struggle with imposter syndrome, who is the standard? Who decided what I’m not good enough? Who told me that my mistakes define me and that they discount my achievements? I know that I have internalized imposter syndrome, and I also know that I belong here as much as anyone else. Believing that you’re worthy of the job, that you fit all the requirements, and that the company would be lucky to have you goes a long way.
Imposter syndrome is not overcome in a day. It takes time to undo patterns of negative thinking. Realizing that you’re human and treating yourself with more grace can make a visible difference. Remember that you’re more likely to feel like you’re a fraud when you’re doing things that prove that you aren’t.
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