Imposter syndrome – feeling like you don’t belong in this room of brilliant people. Like it’s just a matter of time before they figure you out and realize they’ve made a mistake. That it’s all just been a ruse, and you’re a fraud. That you never deserved to be here, to win this, to get this, to have this. And soon, everyone will know. It is basically the act of attributing your successes to every reason under the sun other than your own great effort. Some of the most iconic, talented and intelligent people have experienced this – and it affects women especially (which really speaks to a much deeper rooted issue in regards to our societal standards).
It’s not worth it. And it’s disappointing. Because it needlessly prevents us from stepping into our greatness. It stops us doing the great work of our life. It perpetuates anxiety and low self worth.
In this blog post, I offer us a few suggestions on how to slowly dismantle and quieten the voice in our head that tells us we are not intelligent enough, not talented enough, not qualified enough, not worthy enough, and just not damn good enough for this magnificent life of ours.
Acknowledge your contribution
Take the a very real minute to acknowledge your effort and contribution that resulted in every single success you encounter – regardless of the magnitude of the accomplishment. Whether you just graduated with honours in the top percentile of your class, or you managed to save an extra $50 dollars this month, name and define your role in making this happen. It’s wild to me how eager we are to internalize our failures and believe that it was purely and exclusively due to our lack of ability that resulted in them – however when it comes to our accomplishments, we struggle to say “I did that.”
And, yes, maybe it wasn’t only you. There are often many factors at play to make something a success. But do yourself a service, know and honour what part you played.
Do not omit this step. It is a critical part in protecting your joy.
One of the reasons why we fail to internalize our successes, is because we seldom give ourselves a chance to. Especially if we have an anxious mind. As I mentioned in this post, the anxious mind diminishes our accomplishments and the anxious mind will never let you celebrate them. When I have completed a task, a monumental, intimidating one at that – a task that I know my heart of hearts, is worth something, my anxious mind will heartlessly and quickly skip past it. It will push me onto the next daunting task, and plummet me back into operating from fear, stress and anxiety.
It occurred to me that this is an absurd way to live. Because though I am in fact, executing and completing these big, scary, life-defining, character-building, comfort-zone pushing tasks – I am never claiming my reward for them. I am never really letting myself reap the benefits. My list of accomplishments, though they seem impressive to the outside, (and are impressive), never feel impressive because I never let myself feel impressed!
In fact, one could argue that by jumping from step to step on the great staircase (or treadmill) of life, it actually starts eroding your self confidence. You’re constantly putting yourself into uncomfortable and growth situations, which certainly take a toll on us, but never allowing ourselves to be nourished by it.
It’s important to nourish yourself by celebrating your wins. By giving it time to sink in. Don’t just rush into the next urgent thing to do. Instead, focus on creating a culture of celebration in your family, in your social circles, in your life. Make a reservation at a great restaurant with friends to celebrate meeting a deadline at work, take a full, guilt-free day off, watch an episode of a show you love, share the news with someone who adores you, do something you enjoy but that you rarely have time for usually, treat yourself to a massage, write and reflect on it. And whilst you are engaging in one of these acts of celebration – be sure to make the connection, that this is connected to what you have accomplished, and not just a random frivolity (nothing wrong with that though!).
Get used to accepting compliments
I believe that when someone shares a good word about you or your work, it is probably coming from a sincere and honest place. Get out of the habit of automatically shunning compliments or redirecting them elsewhere.
Take a moment to let what they have said, sink in. Feel it. Smile. Gratitude. Recognition. “Thank you so much. That is so kind of you to say that. Yes, I have worked really hard over the past few months to create a healthy lifestyle and I finally feel great in my own body. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’m really happy I made this happen.”
AFTER you have accepted the compliment, then would be a good time to shine the light on other people who have played a part.
“Person Y was such a great help during the whole process. He/she always motivated me to work out when I didn’t feel like it. I feel really grateful for their support.”
Learn how to deal with failure
The problem us “imposters” have is that we reject success and embrace failure. We are quick to let a failure define us, but love to attribute our accomplishments to luck/circumstance.
Our growth work lies in how we approach success and how we approach failure. This is a big topic near my heart, and I have a much more in depth post coming up on some of the lessons I’ve learned on failure – which I will share with you soon.
For now, know that – failing at something, or not knowing how to do something, does not mean you do not belong somewhere. It just means we need to learn how to think about and deal with failure.
Think in terms of value
Sometimes our imposter syndrome really kicks in when we are overly concerned with how “we” are being perceived in a given situation. What do they think of me? Do they think I’m a fraud? Have they figured me out? Are they going to tell me they think there’s been a mistake and they’ve made the wrong decision?
It’s all – me, me, me, me.
We become terribly self conscious.
In moments like that, it helps to take the spotlight off yourself, and instead focus purely on the value you are bringing to any given situation. What can I bring to this situation? How can I help? What can I improve and make better? What skills could I confidently perform right now?
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
This quote has always struck a chord with me. I’ve cringed at the thought that someone might perceive me as arrogant, and so I often made an extra effort to “humble” myself by making self-deprecating jokes to lighten the mood. In my experience, this has not done me any good. Over time, it slowly chipped away at my own confidence, and I’m sure – other peoples confidence in me too. People will believe what you tell them. What are you telling other people about yourself?
Humility is still very important to me. But now I know that it is not about putting myself down, it just means keeping “me” out of the focus. It isn’t about me. It’s about the people I can serve. The impact I can create. The lives I can touch.
Try keeping a smile file; a document where you collect all the positive feedback, and compliments you may receive. Use this to remind you of your good work. And keep a win list – a running list of all your successes, accomplishments and generally everything that is going well for you and because of you.
What’s luck got to do with it?
When we feel undeserving of something that has happened to us in our life, we call ourselves “lucky.”
I don’t like to use the word “deserving” because it brings up connotations that I’m not particularly sure I agree with. Instead, I use “alignment”.
Because, here’s the thing, every single thing that happens to us in our life, comes to us, because we are energetically aligned with that thing.
If you won the jackpot lottery – energetically speaking, you are in alignment with abundance. This could be due to past karmic contract, or various other things – but you are in alignment.
The toxic relationship? The trauma bond? Both of your energies aligned and brought you together
The amazing, supportive friends you don’t feel like you deserve? Guess what – you do! You’re in alignment with that kind of friendship.
How do you know if you are in alignment? Because you have it. You have attracted it, conscious or unconsciously. And as soon as you are no longer in alignment with it, it will slip away. There is no good or bad, just alignment.
So when something magically “lucky” falls into your lap – remind yourself that, you are worthy. You have attracted this.
It’s so tempting to say “I just got lucky, I was just in the right place at the right time.”
But, you should know that there is a tremendous amount of internal energy that must be generated in order to get you into the right place at the right time in the first place. That energy comes from you, and the forces within you.
Here’s to us stepping into that power.