Three Ways Society Makes Us Feel Like Imposters

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Schools Teach Compliance

One reason you feel like an imposter is, with rare exceptions, society doesn’t teach us nor does it encourage us to stand out from others or to stand up for ourselves


Public schools and I’m wagering a major portion of private and parochial schools teach us to be compliant.


In other words,


When people are taught to be compliant, they don’t feel like they can or should stand out.




This contributes to their feeling like imposters.

Insecurity Stops Most People From Recognizing Our Strengths


A second reason is there are few people we will ever meet, who’ll tell us, ‘You’re an amazing person who does great things’. It takes a very secure person to do that, there aren’t a lot of those.


Said another way,


Insecure people will not recognize your strengths because that would make them feel inadequate.




I’ll never forget watching someone at my employer comment on her daughter in a picture she shared with a friend. Basically, she was stating, given her daughter’s appearance, ‘Doesn’t she think the world of herself.’


It’s my hope that the mom doesn’t come down on the daughter


There is nothing the matter with feeling good about ourselves.


Where we go over the line is when we feel superior to others.

A Significant Part of Society Thinks Everyone is Just Like Them

This stems from a psychological phenomenon called projection.


That is, you project onto others what you are. You see the world as you are.


I see it all the time.


Duplicitous people assume everyone lies because they lie.


Honest people assume everyone is honest because they’re honest.


If someone thinks everyone is just like them, their unconscious thought process is…


How could they stand out?


How could they be truly gifted?


They’re just like me.




Hence, we need to blaze our own trail…

Hence, we need to blaze our own trail and not wait a lifetime hoping someone will recognize our strengths.

The first step in blazing our own trail is understanding our personal strengths.

What If I Don’t Know My Strengths?

Achievement Stories

Achievement Stories are a great place to start.


Before we start documenting our achievements, we need to understand the meaning behind Malcolm Forbes quote,


Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.


This natural predisposition, that is, of minimizing our gifts because they are commonplace to us and therefore do not appear special, makes us overlook and underestimate our gifts.


Even Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, It’s just that I stick with problems longer.”


If you’re not familiar with writing Achievement Stories, I’ve dedicated 16 pages to them in my book, Job Hunting Secrets (from someone who’s been there).


Dr. Katharine Hansen also has an excellent guide for creating Achievement Stories called, You Are More Accomplished Than You Think: How to Brainstorm Your Achievements for Career and Life Success

Strengths Finder II

StrengthsFinder 2.0 is the best tool for anyone who wants to fully understand the strengths they bring to the table.


That’s why I can never say enough about my Strengths Finder test.


In fact there are more than a thousand coaches who’ve been trained to help others understand their Strengths Finder results.



I can never say enough about the Myers Briggs personality test.


The best source I have ever seen on determining and understanding our Myers-Briggs personality temperament is (1)

Concluding Thoughts On Overcoming Feeling Like an Imposter

Ultimately, overcoming feeling like an Imposter requires that we think differently about who is best to advise us, coach us and counsel us through our journey.


That is why I wrote the following,

Perhaps the greatest lesson you will ever learn is no one understands you like you do.

Everyone you meet will judge you based on their experience, values and beliefs.

No one understands what drives you, your strengths and capabilities and how long and hard you will work to achieve your goals.

Who do you think will be better equipped to advise you throughout your journey —

Someone who doesn’t know you or someone who knows you like no one else?

Clark Finnical


(1) For more information about these evaluations see my earlier article The Unbiased Truth Is the Best Remedy For An Imposter Syndrome

Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Clark Finnical is the author of Job Hunting Secrets (from someone who’s been there), LinkedIn Strategies to Take Your Career to the Next Level and 12 Lies Told to Job Seekers.

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