Do you ever feel like a sheep in wolf's clothing? Do you question your value, accomplishments and dread that one day you may be exposed to be the fraud you feel like you are? You are not alone. In truth, research has shown that well over 50% of both men and women face daunting self-doubt, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy - coined, impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome occurs when an individual struggles or fails to internalize their skills, expertise or achievements and often discounts these as luck. As children, it is common to be rewarded for successes and "punished" or excluded for failure. Thus, it makes sense, that from a young age, many of us internalize the premise that in order to be accepted, loved or to be deemed lovable, we need to achieve first. This becomes the vicious, self-perpetuating cycle of negative self talk and manifests in various aspects of life as impostor syndrome.
The good news? If you're fearing whether you might be a fraud, the likelihood is that you are not! In the same way that mothers sometimes question whether they are bad mothers (I can relate), it seems to make sense that truly "bad mothers" typically lack the self awareness or caring to question their proficiency at motherhood. After all, a true impostor is not apprehensive about whether they are one or not.
After mulling ideas on what topic would most authentically open the world of blogging for me, the one thing I knew for sure, is that it had to be authentic. It had to be something personal, relatable and vulnerable. I am proud to say, as someone who has certainly suffered dramatic bouts of imposter syndrome myself, I consider myself an expert in the condition.
Recently I sat down with an executive coaching client, who is the lead legal counsel of a Fortune 500 Company and she opened up about her feelings of self doubt and insecurity in the workplace. As an aside, she mentioned her aversion to playing trivia games with a couple she and her partner had known for years; out of fear of being found out for not being as smart as they thought she was. (Huh?) It's funny, but in that moment, I realized that it is not the "not knowing" that is problematic, but rather the ascribed meaning and projection of how we expect others to perceive us.
As someone who is arguably very well read, I often find myself cringing at the question, "Do you know such and such an author, or have you read..."
Why? Because my perception is that if I don't; I should, and the person asking probably thinks I should.
Having been in private practice as a skilled hypnotherapist and integrative life coach for almost 10 years now; knowingly having changed hundreds, if not thousands of peoples' lives; it is this very phenomenon of impostor syndrome that has held me back from blogging and even attempting to get started on a bucket list item that I believe is near and dear to me; writing my first book. So here I am, taking the first step, writing my first blog and practicing what I so often hypnotize and coach others to internalize - you are more than enough and being uniquely YOU is valuable to the world.
It would be insincere and even impractical of me to suggest that this condition can be eliminated overnight, however, since it's been holding you back from cool new opportunities, experiences, connections and enjoying your life and accomplishments fully; it makes it that much easier to see the benefit of implementing these 6 simple steps to upend this detrimental mindset habit.
1. Is it True?
Observe your inner voice and when you have the gist of it, pause and ask yourself, "Is it True?" If you need to ask this question, more often than not, the answer will be, no. Reset and validate what is true. Practice this, because practice makes progress and unravels the inner-critic to be found out for the fraud it is.
2. Dissociate Yourself and Practice Self-Love
Imagine hearing someone you love (think sister, daughter, father, mother, best friend etc.) saying the words in your mind out loud to you, about themselves. Notice the compassion and empathy you feel towards them and your inclination to correct their self deprecation/doubt and reframe it with caring truth and positive reinforcement. Now imagine floating over into their body and being on the receiving end of all this love, compassion and truth. Ground yourself and practice self-love.
3. Watch Your Words and Find Solace in Silence
"I feel," "this is probably a stupid idea," and "I'm not sure, but..." are all examples of verbal confidence blockers. Certain words, phrases and gestures become negatively habituated as a result of "playing impostor." The easiest way to reframe this, is to observe, slow down the internal voice and find comfort in silence. Silence generates space for creativity, peace and feelings of being more comfortable in one's own skin. Take your time to choose internal, as well as external words wisely. In certain settings, jotting down a keyword, affirmation or reminder can also serve as an additional visual stimulus to entrain your brain to the positive. (Ensure the stimulus IS POSITIVE and not a negation.)
4. Own your "Not Knowing"
Empower yourself, by reframing, "I Don’t Know," as an opportunity to expand your knowledge base and learn something new, interesting and different. All too often when confronted with a question we don't have the answer to, the impostor jumps into action confirming what a fraud we are. Pause, take a soothing breath and realize the quiet, subtle power in confidently stating that you don't know. Tone and confidence is key, it's ok not to know without apology. You could offer to find the answer, or if in a position of authority, reframe the question by validating it as a great question, "I don't know, what do you/others think?"
5. Apply the Van Gogh Principle
Van Gogh was quoted as follows, "If you happen to hear a voice inside you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice might be silenced." There are few things which quiet the inner critic more effectively than taking direct antithetical action. Ask for that raise, write that blog, make that phone call, ask with intention and authority and you might even surprise yourself and in turn strengthen that confidence muscle.
6. Celebrate Successes
Take time to validate successes, however small and acknowledge that with each success you are becoming a better version of yourself.
Impostor Syndrome Who?