No matter how accomplished we are, how much time we've spent getting our lives in order, or how talented we are, for many of us, there's still a little voice in the back of our heads telling us that our success is a house of cards waiting to crumble at any moment. While success can take some getting used to, if you're absolutely convinced that your good life is undeserved, you may be suffering from impostor syndrome.
According to the American Psychological Association, impostor syndrome, while not a specific mental illness or diagnosis, is a "very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt," meaning even those with a stellar CV and loads of achievement markers in both their professional and personal lives may be suffering. Impostor syndrome was once thought to effect only women, but new research suggests that the phenomenon occurs in people of all genders, although it's more likely to strike women, members of certain minority groups, and those whose families prided themselves on high achievement and competition So, if you've worked hard, are getting accolades for it, and still don't feel like you've really earned all the good things that are coming to you, what should you do about it?
The first, and perhaps the most important, thing to do is relax. Not only is impostor syndrome totally normal and extremely common, it only happens to people who are doing pretty well in life — people who are actually overconfident in their ability or don't care much about their achievements don't tend to suffer from impostor syndrome. After you've taken a breath, try to assess the situation in your head versus the one you're actually living and make a list. Write down the concrete goals you've achieved, like getting a degree, a promotion at work, or a glowing performance review, as well as a list of things you're worried that you're faking your way through. Once you see the two lined up together, you might just realize that you're actually doing pretty well.
Another way to fight the feelings of insecurity that come along with impostor syndrome is to make a conscious effort to stop comparing yourself to others, whether they're family, friends, or coworkers. There's always going to be someone out there with a bigger house, better relationship, or a career trajectory you can only hope to replicate, but that doesn't mean you're not deserving of the good things in your life — just remember, there's someone out there who thinks you have it all figured out, too.