LinkedIn and Imposter Syndrome
LinkedIn is the place to be for a productive community, but should you really want in?
Trigger warning: mental illness.
I’d never realised how difficult it was to continue with daily life with a thick cloud jeering at all my rational thoughts, stamping some version of “you shouldn’t even try, fraud” every time I blinked, in every place I looked.
I recently joined LinkedIn. The productive working community on this platform makes it a digital capital city for corporate minds and switched-on intellectuals and I wanted in. My posts did surprisingly well and I became surrounded by notifications of success and shiny titles of people moving up in the world. However, in turn, I began to wonder if this online space was counterintuitively instilling thoughts in me that I was fraudulently undeserving of the connections and reactions I had to my work. Here was a space where individuals encourage power, success and celebrate each other, so why was I feeling the opposite? My mind had begun to panic and translate these posts to flashing warning signs that invalidated everything I do and everything I love, with the thought that there would always be someone who has done it already and, most likely, done it better.
It is unquestionably easier to speak of imposter syndrome, the internal experience of believing you are less competent than others believe you to be or than you actually are, than it is to live in its unrelenting fog. Parasitic on the mind, imposter syndrome prays on individuals at their most vulnerable in a way that isolates them from their lives. Today’s society is one driven forward by merit and success and, as a result, individuals have become far more susceptible to experiencing this fraudulent feeling. Even with the progressive destigmatisation of mental health issues and failure in adulthood and the work industry, it can still feel vital to glamourise these issues, to sugarcoat them in some way. And despite the encouraging nature of platforms like LinkedIn, we cannot feel collective whilst we feel overshadowed by the individual responsibility that we have to make our own mark in an original, new and shiny, never-seen-before way. Combating our mind’s narrative of being undeserving of the achievements and rewards we have worked for becomes twice as hard when we live in a world that isolates us, enough for this mindset to be granted a dominant space.
I was curious about how easy it would’ve been to shift how I was thinking, and began identifying what had triggered this response initially. Interestingly, our brains, evolutionarily, have always scanned for threats within a space or situation that we are posed with. When those threats are real, this response is extremely useful, but when these are fears or thoughts that are unreal, our mind feeds the false threats through the same response. Applying this to imposter syndrome, our brains get triggered by something that happens in life, a job offer or opportunity, maybe a pay rise, and automatically the anxiety that comes with being fraudulent and incompetent also manifests self-sabotaging tendencies to escape this feeling.
Staying aware of the current position you are in, understanding the time it has taken you to get to where you are and remembering the failures you have endured can help put your successes and failures in perspective. Additionally, platforms that make it undoubtedly easier to compare personal aspects of your life to others’ filtered highlights give rise to the self doubt that multiplies itself when faced with intrusive thoughts. Through a constant state of comparison, we forget to notice ourselves, instead neglecting our own advantages and successes for thoughts of what others have that we don’t. It is imperative to help your mind out by providing consistent reminders for yourself of this, in whatever way you do it best. Journaling, daily affirmations, meditation, or a gratitude diary are just a small selection of ways to keep your mind present and focussed on yourself. No matter how far you have come, you have made progress and there is space for progress to be made. And when you think about that, it’s exciting.