Feeling like we don’t belong on the same stage as our competitors may not be the biggest limiting factor to performance, but it sure can create a lot of performance anxiety. Feeling like we belong frees up our attention to participate fully in whatever we’re doing. Yet, we can feel like we don’t belong, like we’re imposters.
Megan Dalla-Camina of Psychology Today wrote an interesting article called The Reality of Imposter Syndrome. She says, “The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud…that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they don’t deserve the success they have.”
She emphasizes that “A tendency toward perfectionism, fear of failure, continually undermining one’s achievements are all indicators that you might be prone…Perhaps the most limiting part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit our courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put ourselves out there in a meaningful way.”
She suggests that voicing our fears with trusted peer groups can help normalize the feelings and help us feel like we’re not alone. Writing down lists of our achievements, skills, successes can demonstrate that we really do have concrete value to share with the world.
Writing lists of achievements and sharing our fears with trusted groups can help us feel like we belong. However, relying only on achievement lists can perpetuate imposter syndrome because we focus on continually seeking evidence for belonging.
Connecting with trusted groups itself is a demonstration of belonging. Additionally, we can shift our perspective internally by making belonging a non-issue. “I exist, therefore I am, I belong.” This approach allows us to focus our attention on what actually needs attention: connecting with the situation and people we’re engaged with. Instead of letting our attention dwell in the mind thinking about achievement lists to prove we’re not imposters, we change the flow of our attention to connect with the world around us.
Doing this shifts our attention from feeling anxious that we won’t find enough evidence to prove we belong, to being excited to engage the actual situation we’re in. Belonging becomes a natural outcome of our engagement.