A hallmark of imposter syndrome is the belief that when you succeed, people will expect even more success from you in the future. This creates anxiety and pressure since you doubt your ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat again.
Steve, a robotics student, built a robot that won the state high school robotics championship. He was immediately invited to take part in a national robotics competition, in which recruiters from several top engineering schools would be scouting.
Steve began to panic. What if I don’t get lucky again? People will know I’m a fraud. Everyone thinks I can win. If they only knew how incompetent I am!
People suffering from imposter syndrome have a built-in belief that, whatever good thing happens, it’s due to luck or someone else’s help, but not a matter of genuine effort and skill. Imposters believe that the source of your success is eternally “out there.” Luck is the only thing you can count on. And luck is a fickle thing.
Here’s one thing we forget when suffering from “Oh my, people will expect so much more from me now that I’ve succeeded. If they only knew it was dumb luck.”
Expectations are yours to manage.
High expectations can drive you nuts but it’s easy to forget that you can manage expectations. You can be honest.
Listen, I know I succeeded in project X but that doesn’t mean I will succeed in project Y. I can only do my best.
Managing high expectations, however, might not satisfy an embattled imposter syndromer. We tell ourselves that people will have high expectations no matter what we say and there is no escaping that. We can only pray that luck is on our side again. Anything but realize that success was due to effort and skill, not blind chance. Anything but trust ourselves.
What are we to do?
The alternative is to treat the voice of the imposter as you would any doomsday voice inside your head that criticizes you. The following free video offers a great way to handle it.