Can You Overcome Impostor Syndrome?

An Exercise for When You Feel Unworthy

This is a screenshot from the comment section of a trailer for the movie Inception.

How did I end up here?

Well, I have a little ritual that I perform every month or so. It’s simple. I begin by identifying some project or person that I like or respect.

Then I go on YouTube to see how long it takes me to find a video comment where someone says something like, “I’m not impressed,” or “This is overrated.”

Whenever I conduct this experiment, I time myself.

I want to know how long it takes before I can track down someone who’s willing to scream “impostor” at someone or something that I feel is worthy of my admiration.

This exercise has never taken me longer than 90 seconds to complete. I’ve never failed to find a comment like the one in the screenshot.

The project I chose this time was Inception. I love Christopher Nolan’s movies and see him as a genius filmmaker. He’s the last guy that I would ever see as struggling with Impostor Syndrome or being accused of being an impostor. Combine that with the star-studded cast for this film and we have ourselves a strong case for a film that everyone will love.

Nevertheless, Inception turned out to be just like all the other past candidates. It took no more than 20 seconds to find someone who wasn’t impressed.

Why do I do this to myself? It keeps me grounded. It purifies me of my illusions. It reminds me of the simple little fact that there are always people talking smack about the things I believe are cool.

My loves are someone else’s laughs.

My inspirations are someone else’s irritations.

My standards for success are someone else’s standards for stupidity.

And if this is true of the things I consume, it’s probably true of the things I create.

The voice of Impostor Syndrome often says, "People are going to see right through me and realize I'm not a true expert or creator." It makes us afraid of being exposed to the public as frauds and pretenders who don't really know what we're doing.

Here's something I want you to remember during those moments:

Even when your inner voice tells you that something or someone is worthy of praise, sometimes those things still fail or get criticized.

So the next time the voice of Impostor Syndrome tells you that other people might look at your work as if it’s not worthy of praise, remember that this is true for everyone.

Like Inception, you and I are no exception.

Do your best anyway.