You’ve likely experienced moments when you’ve felt like an outsider, unworthy of your surroundings, or compelled to conform to an environment that doesn’t align with your true self. In response, you may alter your natural demeanor or mimic qualities you believe others find appealing—this is a manifestation of imposter anxiety. You do this in a bid to gain acceptance or favor, using these masks as a remedy to save face. However, when you step back and observe the bigger picture, you must ask yourself:
How far can denying myself truly take me?
When you explore this question, you’ll likely realize that the effort required to maintain an inauthentic persona is exhausting and the long-term benefits are minimal. Given the draining consequences of forsaking your true self, wouldn’t it be wiser to change your environment rather than your identity?
Take a moment to consider the costs of sacrificing your genuine self for the sake of fitting in:
1. You limit your boundless potential. Staying in an environment that fails to appreciate your uniqueness hinders your potential. It’s challenging to fulfill your unique purpose when your valuable time is spent in settings where norms and expectations don’t align with your values and desires. You possess a distinct set of talents and abilities that no one else on Earth can replicate. Why deny yourself the right to express them by remaining in disempowering spaces?
2. You risk burnout. The strain of conforming to an environment and worrying about presenting a façade can lead to burnout. Contrarily, being your true self is less stressful. It’s essential, then, to be in an environment where your authentic self is celebrated. With numerous responsibilities demanding your energy, it’s critical to spend your time in spaces where you don’t have to exhaust yourself with pretense, but can instead, channel your energy into being your authentic self.
3. You deny yourself of true success. Genuine, lasting success stems from embracing your authentic self. Prioritizing an environment that doesn’t support you means you’re helping others achieve their goals at the expense of your own. How much longer are you willing to put your own aspirations on hold while fulfilling the desires of others? Avoid future regret by exploring how to put your own success first and place yourself in empowering environments where you can flourish.
In any social context, ask yourself: Do I feel pressured to change who I am, or am I appreciated for who I am in this space? You can determine whether it’s worth sacrificing your true self to remain in imposter anxiety-provoking environments. My hope is that, in your decision, you opt to change your surroundings before ever contemplating changing who you are.
Ijeoma C. Nwaogu, PhD, is a credentialed life coach and owner of Everlead, LLC, a leadership development coaching and consulting enterprise. Nwaogu has led numerous talks across the United States on overcoming imposter anxiety.