Imposter Syndrome and Its Effect on Your Esteem

young black woman, depressed looking at cell phone

Let’s be real – social media has overtaken our lives. And it’s created yet another growing problem – imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is when you are living a fake life on your social media accounts.

It involves inflated realities and deceiving others to believe your life is perfect. Or, maybe YOU aren’t doing it, but we bet most of the accounts you follow are doing that exact thing – making you believe a life that possibly doesn’t exist.

We went straight to Karli Kershaw, a Master Relationship and Inner Work Coach in Austin, TX who knows all too well about imposter syndrome. She actually coaches several women who live these curated lives on social media, and says it’s important to not believe everything you see.

Read more about Karli and her advice on self love and overcoming codependency

How Imposter Syndrome Affects Our Lives

social media; young woman with sad and happy face

The fact is, we are inundated with portrayals of perfection. We absorb everything we see on social feeds as the “norm” and what we are supposed to be doing. Take cosmetic procedures, for example. Karli says the real victims in these cases are women in their 20s.

“A lot of my clients are 27-32 and have huge insecurities around the comparisons on social media,” Karli says.

“Young women who grew up on social media have a whole other level of not-enough-ness. It’s shocking to me that young girls in their 20s they’re getting Botox and fillers and modifying themselves.”

Karli wishes women would learn to embrace their authentic selves and not curated versions that strangers portray onto them.

“We don’t have to fit into any box,” Karli says. “Stop comparing yourself to people you don’t know.”

What you DON’T See on Social Media

social media influencer videoing herself

If we open our Instagram or TikTok apps, we are likely to see a woman looking flawless. Hair on point. Airbrushed makeup. No wrinkles. No muffin top. Blinding white, perfect teeth. A beautiful home. But these are not effortless lives. Many of them are very curated.

Here’s what many on social media don’t want you to see:

  • Filters and post-editing
  • Multiple cameras and lighting to make them look better
  • Expensive hair and makeup jobs masking their natural look
  • 100+ takes to get it “right”
  • Fillers and face treatments
  • The pile of dirty laundry just out of frame
  • Normal life obligations like work and a fussy baby
  • An unhappy marriage
  • Sadness and loneliness 
  • Debt

They don’t want you to know all of that, because they want to come off as “perfect.” But even for them, what does “perfect” even mean? And why does it matter to them so much?

The real question is…why does it matter to you

Don’t Believe Everything You See

sad woman looking at cell phone

Again, what you are seeing in social media doesn’t tell the truth. In fact, it doesn’t even show the half-truth. You have to remember that in most cases, these feeds are fabricated. Just because someone looks happy and has everything together doesn’t mean that is really the case.

“I have a few clients that are influencers, and I’m sorry, but they are not living what they are portraying,” Karli says. “They appear successful. But many of them aren’t making any money. They’re in debt. It has been shocking to me that they portray one life, then come into a space of vulnerability with me.”

So why are they doing this, anyhow?

“They are chasing their self worth,” Karli says. “They are chasing something externally. Their outside does not match their inside.”

Social Media Hurts Celebrities, Too

Even celebrities aren’t immune to the negative impact from constantly scrolling social media and comparing themselves to others. Even worse, they deal with an immense amount of online bullying.

“Game of Thrones” icon Sophie Turner has spoken about her insecurities for years and is still intimidated by what she sees on her social feeds. She told Elle UK, "I have noticed that social media makes me incredibly anxious, and it's something I try to distance myself from…I wish I'd never got myself involved with it in the first place.”

How to Avoid the Effects of Imposter Syndrome

social media; putting away cell phone

Karli says it’s totally possible to use social media in a way that makes you feel empowered and happy, and it’s a lot simpler than you may think.

Above all, Karli says to keep this in mind:  most of what you see is fake or curated.

Then, unfollow any accounts that make you feel unworthy.

“If it has a negative impact, why do you keep going back?,” Karli says. “What are you seeking? If it takes away from your life and takes down your self worth, then cut it off. It’s not worth it. Stop following them.”

But most importantly – be clear about yourself, who you are, and your values.

“Again, this goes back to being who you authentically are on the inside,” Karli says. “Until you love yourself and do the internal work and stop thinking you are not worthy of feeling good, you will not find happiness. Most people feel unworthy of the things they aspire to be and look at social media, and it only perpetuates that feeling of worthlessness.

“We put on these masks and personas in order to be liked and loved,” Karli continues. “But it’s about integrity and honesty with yourself. Being able to push away the fake and unreal and misaligned.”

The Work Starts Today

karli kershaw with client

It’s never too late to reconnect with your inner essence and establish your self worth and value.

Karli offers insightful tips on her Instagram account and sets self challenges for you to follow. You can also work one-on-one with Karli to start the deep, inner work of discovering, accepting, and loving yourself.

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