Imposter Syndrome: How to Break Free

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By Michael Lee Howard-Mayhew

The excitement set in as I sat down with my friend Heidi at the Rose City Comic Con. I had waited months to get the chance to see actor Wil Wheaton speak. We both got to the event early and found seats. I was surprised we were in the middle and only four rows back. Little did I know that he would be talking about imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome

This being my first year at a Comic Con, I wanted to make sure that I did all the “right” things as I learned from watching everyone around me. Within a short time Wil Wheaton started to talk about the Imposter Syndrome in creative people. It seriously hit me like a ton of bricks. 70% percent of people experience this psychological block, but it spoke to me directly.

Imposter Syndrome Explained

What is Imposter Syndrome? There are many detailed versions of this, but in a nutshell Imposter Syndrome is the feeling that you are faking your way through life. In most cases this manifests itself in a variety of ways in the workforce or for some of us it affects our creative endeavors.

The biggest manifestation of this syndrome is that somehow you will be “found out” and deemed to be not as worthy of the gifts and talent you share with the world. For me this has been the downfall of my creative outlets. The idea that I will start writing and think “this has been done before; others will think I am copying what others are doing.” The truth is that this is all in my head.

Since hearing this idea, it’s been fascinating to learn all there is to know about this programming and how I can move forward and past it. Here are a few tips I have learned along my path to improve my self-esteem and let go of the imposter syndrome:

Strategies to Break Free from Imposter Syndrome:

*Call it out and change your thoughts:

When you have those thoughts that you are not worthy of your success, call out the thoughts and remind yourself that they are not true. Then, shift your mind to the fact that you are talented or worked hard for the accomplishment. Finding a way to listen to your inner voice that celebrates your achievements versus your inner critic can be a defining way to rid yourself of feeling like an imposter.

*You are the best you:

This may seem practical and make sense, but how often do we compare ourselves to others and what they are achieving? The truth is that you are the only one who has your unique point of view and your successes are yours to celebrate.

*You have a role in your success:

Remember you did not get where you are at by being bad at your accomplishments. You are the one person who is following your specific path. That is a powerful thing to remember. The second you start to internalize the positive voices, the critic will quiet and then allow the rewards in by believing they are okay, if not great!

*Realize you are not alone in your feelings:

Did you know that celebrities Tina Fey, Chris Martin (of the band Coldplay), Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, Don Cheadle, Denzel Washington, Rene Zellweger, Meryl Streep (who I think is one of the best actresses ever), Michelle Pfeiffer, even Maya Angelou all have at some time or another confessed to feel like they were “faking their way” to their successes. When we sit back and hear that these people have felt that way, it can help us feel a bit better in knowing that we are all just trying to be the best we can be.

*Make a list and own it:

A couple of years ago, I was feeling that I was unsuccessful because I didn’t have a college degree. In the workforce the world sees having a degree as something very important. Even if the degree is in something that has nothing to do with the field of work that the person is working in. My résumé looked sad and as if I had only one or two skills. Then I sat down and started writing down all the skills I acquired as a volunteer. Holy crap! I felt a lot better. I had two pages of real skills that were really marketable skills.

When you start to feel that you lack marketable skills or you are not worth the time you spend doing what you do, think about what you can own. Get a jar or a box where you can put achievements in them and when the time comes when you feel “less than,” look through the notes you have made and internalize by giving yourself positive affirmations that you are very capable.

Acknowledge or Accept your Imposter Syndrome:

In Tara Brach’s book “Radical Acceptance,” she shared a really cool story about Buddha and the demon Mara.

One day, Buddha was teaching a large group, and Mara was moving around the edges, looking for a way into the group. I envision Mara rushing frantically back and forth in the bushes and trees, making plans to wreak havoc. One of Buddha’s attendants saw Mara, ran to Buddha and warned him of Mara’s presence. Hearing his attendant’s frantic warning, the Buddha simply replied, “Oh good, invite her in for tea.”

This is how you should approach your feeling of imposter syndrome. Invite the “demon” in and have some tea and offer some acceptance that this can be a certain type of copacetic relationship. But, don’t let it control you.

Needless to say, after hearing Wil Wheaton speak and sharing his words, I was less anxious to move forward in my given endeavors. I am writer, photographer, singer, creative soul who is not faking it, but sharing my gifts with the world. You can too!

Express yourself freely. I love this quote by Dr. Seuss, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.”

So, what are your thoughts on this? I’d love to start a dialogue below. Please leave a comment.

imposter syndrome

Works Cited:

Brach, Tara. Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha. New York: Bantam, 2003. Print.
Edwards, Vanessa Van. “Impostor Syndrome: Stop Feeling Like a Fraud.” YouTube. YouTube, 16 July 2014. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.
Eschenroeder, Kyle. “21 Proven Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome – StartupBros.” StartupBros.com. Start Up Bros, 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Jan. 2016.
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The Many Benefits of Volunteering

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By Michael Lee Howard-Mayhew

Wanna volunteer at the Dave Matthew’s show?” Jocelin enthusiastically asked me.

One of the ways I know that summer is brewing is when Jocelin and I start planning for our yearly Reverb events. Reverb is a non-profit environmental organization geared toward “concert greening” that we volunteer with at specific live music concerts. We have volunteered with Reverb consistently for the past several years in which we have learned of the many benefits of volunteering and volunteerism.

It is such a great way to get out in the nice summer weather and see some good shows. We also get to catch up with each other and volunteer with a great organization whose vital purpose “creates and executes comprehensive, custom programs to green the tour itself while engaging concertgoers to take action for the environment.”

Benefits of Volunteering

Jocelin and I volunteering with Reverb at The Dave Matthews Band festival.

Why I Like to Volunteer and the Many Benefits of Volunteering

I get asked often why I like to volunteer and what the benefits of volunteering are, so I thought this would be a great chance to share the many reasons:

*Community – One of the advantages with volunteering is building and being part of a sense of community. I have volunteered for several events and causes over the years ranging from film festivals, to reaching out to at-risk youth, doing HIV testing, facilitating support groups, as well as fulfilling other critical needs. The one common factor with all the organizations that I have worked with is the sense of community where myself and all of the other volunteers are contributing to and creating avenues of inclusion. I really felt needed and a part of something greater. The stronger that we as active citizens are in coming together as one with the planet and each other, the stronger the world at large becomes filled with hope and positive changes.

*The Light Bulb Moments– I have found that in every group that I have worked with for any length of time, you will meet a spattering of people that you are deeply affected by when volunteering. Some may seem obvious. For example, when I was doing HIV testing it was easy to see the instant impact I had when giving a test result. Usually, a relief thankfully.

My Favorite Experiences While Volunteering

My favorite experiences are the ones that surprise me. The latest adventure I had was working with Reverb at the Dave Matthews Band Concert at the Gorge in Washington State. The obvious fandom of DMB fans was so electric and it was very exciting to be at an event that raised money for local Farm to Family programs. I got the incredible opportunity to speak with the actual farm owners who were chosen as the local charity from Wenatchee, Washington to benefit from Reverb’s fundraising. Being able you raise over $6,000 plus in this one night and then be able to hand to this local charity, was amazing. The festival went on for three nights, so each night a similar amount was raised. Getting to see the instant impact brought me a lot of joy. That is the moment you walk away and know that your time was well spent.

benefits of volunteering

Difference Made in Numbers

*The Impact– According to Volunteering in America’s website, In 2013, one in four adults volunteered through organizations nationwide. Volunteers also were twice as likely to donate financially. Sadly, the downside is that in 2013,  it was the lowest volunteer rate of the past decade. According to an article from US NEWS. Many organizations rely on volunteering more than ever. I can say from my many experiences as a volunteer that we have instances where not everyone shows up. So, you are greatly needed. Being a volunteer helps non-profits stay in business while keeping costs low. Do your research though to see the breakdown of donations, so you can feel good that the money raised is getting to those in need.

Benefits of Volunteering

Meeting Jack Johnson while volunteering with Reverb in 2010.

*The Perks– Okay, so I have now shared with you the serious side of volunteering, but did you know that a lot of the volunteering gigs do comes with perks? You learn various new skills from getting better at working with people to promoting a cause you believe in. If you are someone who wants to enjoy taking in a free concert, check out Reverb’s volunteer opportunities. Not only is it a good cause, but you get to go to the main musical acts for free, potentially meet them and you usually get cool free swag. What is this? You receive unique concert memorabilia, such as a free high quality t-shirt to take home with the band and specific concert info on it. We also got a limited edition, Dave Matthew’s Band reusable Nalgene water bottle and some yummy Cliff Bars bars to snack on. Each show has its goodies.

When I was a volunteer HIV tester, I was also given some great swag as well and met some amazing people that I have created long lasting friendships with. I was also able to get to know my community a lot better though the events that I have participated in.

Could Volunteering Be For You?

Thinking of volunteering? I suggest finding something that you really believe in. You can volunteer alone and meet new people or volunteer with a friend. Volunteering with someone not only helps you to be more motivated to get to the event but it’s also a great opportunity to spend time doing something you both really love. However, you can sill go on your own, because you will meet new friends who also love music and so, you are rarely alone.

There are just so many benefits of volunteering. It pays future dividends and gives you such a feeling of hope in humanity as well as shows you that caring communities are within reach. There are many others out there that want to make a difference in their communities, save the earth and do good.

Need somewhere to start? Network for Good  is an awesome place to begin! Another site, GiveWell.org is  a research tank that has found agencies that are truly improving people’s lives. A book written on altruism that is incredible is called, Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make A Difference. Another highly recommended recent guidebook on volunteering to check out is Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World by Rosenthal and Baldwin. Are you a student? Amazon offers free shipping!

Remember, the key is that you walk into volunteering knowing that it is rewarding all the way and around and that there are so many benefits of volunteering!

Please let us know what you think of this post by leaving a comment below. Do you have any volunteer gigs to suggest or avoid? Let us know below. Thanks for reading Feel Better Wellness and here’s to feeling better through volunteering!

*If you have enjoyed what you have read, please consider clicking on the affiliate links, so we may earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) to support this site. We only refer our readers to books or advice that we support and believe in.