Impostor syndrome is defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Impostors’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraud. This self-doubt overrides feelings of accomplishment despite success or external proof of their competence.
Any of us can battle with these feelings of inadequacy from high-achievers to those with low self-esteem. Current research supports this and, in fact, researchers have linked impostor syndrome with perfectionism. Why try if you will fail anyway, right?
Many of my clients (including me) voice these beliefs of unworthiness or inadequacy particularly when stepping into a new responsibility, role or venture. These feelings can become our beliefs and thus make us unable to accept and internalize our accomplishments. Eventually, this erodes our confidence, limits our view of what we are capable of and can even cause us to purposely (and unconsciously) fail, just to prove these limiting beliefs true. There are no upsides of thinking about yourself in this inaccurate, demeaning way.
Common thoughts associated with imposter syndrome include:
- “I am not good enough.”
- “I feel like a fake.”
- “That was just luck. Anyone could do that.”
- “I don’t deserve to be here.”
- “It’s only a matter of time before they find me out.”
These thoughts are holding you back from reaching your potential. But, there are ways to thwart these limiting beliefs about yourself. Here’s how to mitigate the negative effects of impostor syndrome:
Notice and Name. Awareness is the first step to change. Notice what are you thinking. What is the limiting belief you have about yourself? Get quiet with yourself. Notice all the thoughts ricochetting around in your head. Slow down your thinking by writing those random thoughts down. Then, highlight the thought(s) that are causing you to feel like an impostor.
Test your Thought. Once you have noticed and named the debilitating thought, it is time to get real. In other words, is that thought actually true? To test it, turn that thought around to the opposite. When has that been true for you? For example, if your thought, after receiving a compliment about what an inspiring leader you are, is something like, “I don’t deserve that! How can I be inspiring?” think back on your history. When have you been an encouragement to someone? When have you cheered someone on when they needed it most? I would bet that you will think of times where the opposite of that thought was true. That deflating thought is not true.
Reframe Failure as Feedback. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human, glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. Reframe from berating yourself. That does no good. Learn what you can and move on.
Stop the “Compare and Despair” Game. When you compare yourself to others, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “my skills suck compared to that person.” Why bother? Emerson said, “Envy is ignorance…” and he was right. You aren’t here to live the life of another person. You’re here to experience your own “wild and wonderful” life. Stop comparing yourself to others. It only causes despair. Learn to respect your own experience. You’re not a fraud, you’re just uniquely, you.
CALL TO ACTION: What is holding you back from living up to your potential? Let’s identify those blocks and outline a game plan to break through them. Schedule a Free 30-min Consult or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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