Before jumping into how to handle it, let me first answer the question – what IS imposter syndrome?
Imposter Syndrome is a personal development term used to describe the psychological phenomenon of feeling invaluable, not enough, or most specifically as if you will be “found out” for not being good enough or deserving of what you have. It’s important to note that most of us will feel this way at some point in our lives or even experience it as a way of life, which is why it’s important to normalize the struggle to reduce the shame that surrounds it.
Why do we experience imposter syndrome?
Wellllllllll… there are a lot of nuances to what causes it in each person specifically but typically it forms through a combination of beliefs that we formed during a socialization process.
Kids are told repeatedly by parents, teachers, and other adults of influence that if they want to succeed in life, get educated (a belief is formed that success is earned and deserved by those who get educated.) Kid drops out of high school, paves his own way to success, has lots of interesting experiences, lands positions that are held in high esteem in his industry or even starts his own company.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME: Kid becomes an adult who thinks thoughts like, “I’m only this successful because I got lucky.” “I am undeserving of my success and terrified that I can lose it at any time.” “I am afraid of coming across as uneducated because it could devalue all that I deliver.” “I’m not even sure that I’m deserving of my life partner, I could lose this relationship at any time.”
Kid grows up low-income and is told that rich people are snobs that don’t care about others, they only care about getting richer. Goes to school and sees that the students from high-income families are more popular, she feels not of value. (A limiting & very conflicting belief is formed that rich people are bad people, but also celebrated and valued.)
IMPOSTER SYNDROME: Kid becomes an adult in higher socioeconomic standing than her family. She feels afraid of not being accepted by her peers if they find out about her past and/or her family. Around her family, she feels guilty and ashamed of what she has and tries to downplay her success. At work, she can never seem to accomplish enough to actually feel worthy. In her personal life, she struggles to feel like she has genuine connections with others.
Society puts pressure on all of us to be youthful and attractive, but not TOO attractive because that is vain. Be intelligent, well-spoken, and educated but be careful not to become unrelatable or lack a sense of humor. Be caring but not a doormat. Most of us are trying to be noticed and undetected at the same time. All of this madness gets internalized and our inner shit talker has a field day! Oh, and by the way, imposter syndrome tends to get worse as you achieve more success, which means we either continue to play small or feel low-key tortured all the way up. And there are no amount of accomplishments to convince your inner shit talker that you’re worthy, they will always have an arguement.
Enough Already!! How do I GET RID of my imposter syndrome???
The short answer is awareness & changing your beliefs. The managed expectation is that you will probably never completely be rid of feeling like an imposter at times, but by building your awareness and working on your beliefs these times will simply be manageable imposter moments. Now, let’s be very clear on one thing, awareness on its own is not enough to create change. You have to do the work on changing your beliefs and the first step to is acknowledging that you are not your thoughts. When your inner shit talker starts blasting thoughts in your head & in your own voice, you don’t have to believe those thoughts.
Real Example From a Client:
- THOUGHT: I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not sure I’m even cut out to be a business owner.
- DESIRED BELIEF: I am well equipped to do this job & be a business owner.
- CURRENT BELIEFS: I have 20+ years of experience. For the past 4 years, I’ve lead my company to consistently bring in $1.5m/year. I am always working to improve my leadership skills & industry knowledge.
- Repeat these as daily affirmations for as long as it takes to develop the desired belief.
Outlining this may be simple but the work is not easy. Heck! Trying to put this into a short blog post wasn’t easy. I highly recommend working with a coach on imposter syndrome or any other limiting belief system that may be holding you back or blocking you from joy. Finding a coach that you can connect with is imperative and most coaches offer an initial phone call for free to ensure that both coach and client are a good fit.