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HOW TO END IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Welcome back to the blog. Today we are going to take on a topic called Imposter Syndrome. It can be a big one for some of you so let’s all exhale whatever feels it brings up and be open to seeing it a new way.
Does this sound familiar?
In an article on Harvest Business Review, they said “Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.” Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes developed the concept, originally termed “imposter phenomenon,” in their 1978 founding study, which focused on high-achieving women. They posited that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” My Google BFF, said “Impostor syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.”
Does any of this feel familiar to you?
What is imposter syndrome?
I have heard so many people talking about this concept across numerous platforms lately. It almost feels like a trendy buzz phrase we are all using. Many women have said they feel like an imposter in their own story and fear being “found out”. There is this voice inside of each of us that whispers doubt. Heaven knows the world is quick to point out things we lack. And if we struggle with perfectionist tendencies, it is easy to feel like we don’t have – or even deserve – a seat at the table. This means our gifts go unused and the magic we are meant to bring to the world never comes to life. How can we ever expect to live into our best self and chase down those big dreams we hold inside if we believe these lies?
I know I have mentioned the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert before but I can’t recommend it enough. She talks about how ideas come to you because you can give birth to them. You hold everything you need to offer them to the world. The idea keeps knocking hoping you will take hold of it and give it life. But if it keeps knocking and you keep ignoring it, it will go to find another person willing to step up to the plate. I think some would label the unwillingness to step up to plate as imposter syndrome. But I would like to offer some alternative ideas for you.
Could it be an identity crisis?
What if the truth is that imposter syndrome is a personal identity crisis? See, I believe that it is a bit impossible to be an imposter in your own story. Think about it. You are your story. You are the main character. What you bring to the world was carried there by you. So how can it NOT be real?
In my work as a coach specializing in identity and purpose coaching, I have come to recognize this as a pervasive problem among women. It is wrong for us to be stuck in this loop of lack because it leads us to hustle harder for our worth or hide so no one can see us. As we begin to understand our true identity and get to know the woman we are designed to be, we learn to see this with a different lens. This allows us to address the emotions and make a plan to dispel them.
Before I go on, I need you to hear me say this next bit. Not for one second would I want to be dismissive of your feelings. The feelings of Imposter syndrome are very real. They can seem like big scary monsters coming after us. The emotions can be quite intense It is the label placed upon them I want us to reexamine. As I have said before feelings are teachers so let’s take time to learn from the ones surrounding this concept.
Being "found out"
In my experience, this is more of an identity crisis than it is about being an imposter. Again, if you are living your own life, how can you be an imposter? But if you doubt who you are on a soul-deep level it is a slippery slope to feeling like you are faking it through life. I believe it is possible that what we are feeling is “I-don’t-believe-in-myself” syndrome or “I’ve-never-done-this-before-and-I’m-about-to-pee-in-my-pants-scared” syndrome.
I would also like to offer up the idea that this fear of being “found out” is rooted in shame. It is rooted in the lie of not-enoughness women have been fed for centuries. And the false belief that there aren’t enough seats at the table is rooted in a scarcity mindset designed to keep us small. Seriously, if you are feeling like there are already people doing what you want to do so there is no space for you, then change your thinking. Instead, let it affirm that the work you want to do is needed and you will offer it in a way that is unique to you. An example to prove this is doctors. There are so many doctors in the world, but medical schools are still training more doctors and more doctors are still needed because each brings their special approach to healing. And the people that have the same idea of how healing should happen will be drawn to the doctor who matches them. There is a seat at the table for every single one of us. Period. End of story.
don't fake it til you make it
I am sure most of you know who Martha Stewart is. Several years ago I was watching her daytime talk show. She had on an actress – I think it was Jennifer Garner. They were cooking together and the actress was unsure of how to do something so she said, “fake it til you make it.” An indignant look crossed the ever-intimidating Martha’s face and she replied, “We don’t fake it here at Martha Stewart.” She was crystal clear – if not a wee bit scary – on who she was and how she moved through life and she didn’t tolerate anything less than that. I would be willing to bet a set of pots and pans that good ‘ole Martha has never experienced the phenomenon called Imposter Syndrome.
I think this idea of being “fake” hearkens back to middle school when young girls are trying to assert their individuality while simultaneously dressing in matching outfits with their three BFFs. Back then it was really about finding ourselves, what we wanted and liked and thought apart from what we were told we should want and like and think. There was a bit of rebellion in our younger selves, and depending on the individual circumstances, some had space to be like Martha while others slipped on the backpack full of shoulds and are still trudging through life feeling like a fake.
Who were you meant to be?
I don’t think “fake” is the way to define it. It’s simpler. I believe we feel imposter syndrome when we aren’t aware of who we are and what we want out of life. Imposter Syndrome is a natural byproduct of us being out of alignment and integrity with our own souls. We are each equipped with unique gifts and talents, and those gifts and talents are meant to serve the world and make it a better place. If we are doing that day in and day out, how could we possibly be a fraud?
For women who have had to hustle for their worth feeling like an imposter is a natural go-to emotion. In a world, hell-bent on telling us who we should be is there any wonder we could experience this feeling? This is why I would like us to change how we perceive this.
Stop living small
Experience has taught me that women want to stop questioning their worth and value. They want to stop running from the voices chanting “not enough” and asking them who do they think they are. And they want to start putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of their dreams. They want to bring to life the dreams they hold within their souls.
In Brene Brown’s book Dare to Lead, she says, “When we armor and contort ourselves into smallness, things break and we suffocate.” Can we just all stand in the truth that this world has been doing its level best to make women small and as a result parts of us have become broken and some of us feel like all the oxygen has left the room? It is no wonder we have an identity crisis on our hands here. Bless, but how could we not?!?!
So how do we change this?
Three steps to freedom
We change it by using the method I always suggest: by becoming aware and then getting into alignment, so we live in integrity. For this situation we are going to:
- Be aware when these feelings arise
- Examine them to determine the root cause
- Speak truth to the lies
If you will follow these three steps, you will begin to find freedom from what’s holding you back so you can share your gifts with the world. You won’t have to doubt yourself, stay frozen in place or focus on what you lack. Awareness brings clarity so instead of defaulting to limiting beliefs or scarcity mindsets, become deliberate in shining a light on them. Ask yourself if you may be having these emotions because you are flying into new territory. We live in a society quick to assign a label. Don’t take on one that isn’t the actual truth. Remember, feelings are teachers, but they aren’t always facts so we need to test them.
I challenge you to question the root of the emotion you are feeling. Sometimes we feel these emotions when others are involved and aren’t rooted in us feeling like frauds. For example, you are in high school and had to write a paper. You did the work, you are a good writer and you feel like you have a solid A paper. As you hand it to the teacher she tells the class that everyone will be presenting their papers aloud in class. The stress sweat happens, you feel like you might be sick, and you question every word you wrote. Is this really a situation where you feel like an imposter or are you just afraid to share what you wrote with peers who you have found to be quite judgy in the past? We have to test the feelings to know what is truth and what may be a broken pathology.
end the death spiral of doubt
If you feel yourself falling into a death spiral of doubt or fear, stop and ask yourself if the real emotion you are experiencing is vulnerability. Perhaps you are being asked to do something or be somewhere that hasn’t always been a safe place. Could you be telling yourself that you are afraid when it is really about lacking trust in a certain situation or people group?
Another tool to end the death spiral is to stop immediately and tell yourself at least five things you know to be true. For example, if you feel like you can’t tackle a new project at work because you lack some information, and this lying feeling tries to take over, freeze in your tracks. Stop the mind loop, and second-guessing. If you can, find a mirror and look at yourself while reciting five things you know to be true of yourself. If we go back to the example of the student having to read the paper aloud that could look like this: I am a great writer who always gets solid grades on my papers. I have done the work to create a successful project. I am smart. I am capable of presenting this paper with confidence. I am a good student. If we will be brave enough to shine the light of truth, the lying thoughts inside our brain will shrink over time and with practice.
gathering the proof
If this is an area where you struggle you will have to continue practicing ways that work for you to get past it. It won’t be a one-and-done journey. Some situations can make this far more intense than others. If you have faced ridicule from a certain group it is natural to have some emotions bubble up if you are having to be vulnerable in front of them.
I know I shared my idea for an evidence board in a previous post. Let me tell you using one is a visual anchor showing the proof that you are no fraud. In case you missed that post, let me explain a bit. An evidence board is a place to capture evidence of who you are and the amazing, brave things you are doing in the world. You can use a framed board, a journal, or some post-it notes on a wall or door. When you have success in any area that aligns with what you value, write it down. Let these add up. Ideally, it would hold your wins and help you celebrate small victories. Throughout the year you will gather tangible examples showing you are anything but an imposter.
Get clear on who you are
Lovie, I can promise you with every fiber of my being that I want each of us women to stop hiding, to stop doubting your seat at the table. I want us to be so full of confidence and clarity around our identity that there is no room to feel like an imposter. I want us to keep using our gifts and sharing the awesomeness that each of us has within us. I want us all to live the fullness of who it is we were created to be because that is when we all win. As individuals. As women. As the world at large.
Clarity comes from action and action brings momentum. Momentum delivers movement and that’s when things start to change. We find the flow and it no longer feels like we are swimming upstream or like we are a fraud. So together over the next few days let’s be aware of when these emotions press us. Let’s ask the questions needed to see if the feelings are fact or fiction. Then we can act accordingly and speak the truth to any lies we are believing. It’s time to take out some trash. And don’t forget to keep evidence of what an incredible job you are doing in life. The truth is you don’t get lucky in the areas you have success. You get aligned, use your gifts, and greatness flows from that space.
If any of this has resonated with you today, I would love to hear your thoughts. I get not everyone may believe in my theory that imposter syndrome is a false label for an identity crisis. I want to hear your insight either way so DM me on social media or comment below. I can’t wait to chat with you all soon!
Until next time, remember, I am in it WITH you, always,
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