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Impostor syndrome: Wearing the mask of incongruency


Am I?

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is characterized as persistent self-doubt, inadequacy and not ever feeling good enough. There is an underlying, nagging belief that whatever you have achieved is mostly down to pot-luck, other people, good timing and external resources. You feel like a fraud, who at any moment, could be discovered for what you’re not. An anxiety comes over you that people will find out that you aren’t who they think you are, and expose you as average or worse, a failure. Others may hold a strong image of you, and sometimes you feel uncomfortable in this space of expectation.

Imposter Syndrome is a known phenomenon, first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Studies suggest that around 70% of people experience Imposter Syndrome at some point in their life.

Imposter Syndrome is common among perfectionists who set their bar very high. Standards they may hold themselves to are often unreasonable. Thus, when they miss target feelings of shame and failure often consume them and contribute to negative self-judgement and low self-esteem. People who experience imposter syndrome typically focus on their mistakes rather than their successes.

Some people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome will limit themselves by being less ambitious with their goals in an effort to protect themselves and avoid looming rejection. Setting lower goals, and having low morale keeps them from fulfilling their true potential.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

1) Journal

Journaling allows you to clarify any thoughts, feelings and perspectives that come up while you experience imposter syndrome. Awareness is always the first step because if you are not aware, there is nothing you can change. By reflecting upon your experience, you give yourself the opportunity to create valuable self-awareness, detect any mental or behavioral patterns, and problem solve. When we put our thoughts down on paper it is easier to witness our experience from a neutral observer perspective and it opens the door to become aware of any blocks and subsequently any potential solutions.

Whenever you start to experience feelings of inadequacy or persistent negative thoughts of self judgement, write them down to acknowledge them. Let the words flow out and dive deep- explaining why you feel this way. What are your beliefs? Where do they come from? Unconsciously we take on beliefs from our parents and peers in childhood. Did you form a belief when you were younger which is no longer true yet leads you around circles of self-sabotage? Where is the evidence for this belief... is it really true, or just your perspective?

Power lies in naming your feelings as you experience them. When the feelings come to the surface, notice what is happening in your body, can you feel any sensations? What internal dialogue do you have going on? Write down any negative self-talk.  The more you do this the more you are able to spot reoccurring patterns in your life. Remember not all thoughts are true, it’s not reality but your perception of it.

2) Meditation

Meditation is a tool that allows you to enter a different level of consciousness. By being still, breathing and focusing your awareness in the present moment you allow yourself to silence your inner critic which lives in the manic everyday mind. When you enter this space, you become the observer of your thoughts. You can disassociate with them and see them from a neutral perspective. Just allowing the thoughts to be without emotionally reacting to them or attaching any meaning to them connects you to your inner power.

 Meditation is beneficial for imposter syndrome because it trains your brain to become this observer. When you are the observer you gain more power and control over how you interpret situations and feel about experiences. This is the realm in which you can access your intuition and inner wisdom. It is a place of deep relaxation and can help you untangle from any self-limiting beliefs that do not serve you.

Meditation should be practiced daily over a period of time to experience the deep healing benefits and personal transformation this tool gifts you. Just like any positive action that we want to implement in our lives, meditation should be practiced repeatedly so it becomes an unconscious habit that betters your life experience.

3) Quit trying to be Perfect!

To be a perfectionist is limit yourself to an endless game of self judgement. To place your value on the work you produce is condemning yourself to tie your identity with each performance you give.

 Perfect is not a destination, it is not a state – because it’s not even a real thing. You can’t attain perfection because it does not exist, so to chase it and build your life around being the perfect version of yourself will leave you disheartened and short-changed. We aren’t all good, we aren’t all bad, we are humans with dynamic emotions, thoughts, behaviors and experiences that live in a universe that is ruled by the law of polarity. There will always be positive and negative. You can’t just be perfect. 

FAIL is an anacronym for First Attempt In Learning. This is a powerful concept to understand because it gives you the ability to reframe your experiences- to disconnect the measure of your self-worth from the results that you get at any time. Thomas Edison, one of the world's greatest innovators bestowed the gift of his invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1878. At school teachers ridiculed him saying he was” too stupid to learn anything.”  If Edison had taken these words as truth, the world we be a very different place today. In fact, Edison lived in the art of flow, the art of creativity. He did not allow self-limiting beliefs hold him back. He was no different from any other but he had the power to disassociate, that his value as a human being was not dependent on his work. It is rumored that it took Edison 10,000 attempts before he created the incandescent light bulb.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
Thomas A. Edison

Edison wasn’t concerned about success in himself but success in his products. He placed his focus on creation rather than ego. He enjoyed the process and his success stemmed from his state of mind. If you feel deep down that you have no reached your destination, remember the power and joy lies in the process, not the product. It was the perseverance, courage and ability to fail and fail again, taking action without condemning yourself to harsh judgement for missed expectations that allowed great people to become success stories.

 Ask yourself: are you holding back for fear of failing? What if you re-frame your perception of “failing”. Fail is such a loaded word with a collective bias of defeat.  Yet if you can see fail as an action step. A step which is part of the process, not something to be scared of but something to be proud of – for it does not reflect yourself worth, yet it does prove your character to be driven, and strong regardless of the result.

4) Take Ownership

Where are you placing your power? 

People who experience Imposter Syndrome often attribute their successes externally: other people or access to efficient resources. They rarely take the credit as an internal success, but rather it was a success because “I was at the right place at the right time, and knew the right people.”

When you filter all of your experiences through this limited lens, you give away your power.

Own it!

 You are the culmination of every decision you have ever made. Decisions create options which take you down a certain path. This decision making is internal and ultimately you are the creator of your life- for where you find yourself now is a reflection of your internal self.  Where attention goes, energy flows. Literally what you focus on expands so take caution on where you focus your energy.

 You can overcome Imposter Syndrome by repeating daily affirmations to step into an empowered state of being. Look into the mirror and repeat “I believe in myself and my abilities.”

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