We hear the phrase “Imposter Syndrome” a lot but, what does it mean? For our purposes here we’re defining it as the feeling that you’re a fraud, incompetent, and that when someone finds out you’ll feel embarrassed or humiliated.
No wonder Imposter Syndrome is such a big deal, right? Who wouldn’t want to avoid being embarrassed or humiliated? No one!
Yet notice that Imposter Syndrome is a feeling. It’s a fear but that doesn’t mean the things you’re thinking about yourself are true or that the dreaded embarrassment or humiliation will come to pass. In fact, the people who suffer the most from Imposter Syndrome are often the best prepared for their roles in life.
The fact that it’s a feeling doesn’t mean it isn’t real so, please use that to beat yourself up. We’re taking note that Imposter Syndrome is a feeling because we want to untangle it – in order to untangle it we need to first know what it is and where it’s located.
Feelings live in our nervous systems and in Imposter Syndrome they are tied together with a few key thoughts.
Here are the usual thought – feeling pairs:
- Thought: I don’t know what I’m doing – Feelings: intimidated or nervous
- Thought: I have to get this just right before I can let anyone see it – Feelings: uptight, self-conscious
- Thought: Maybe now is not the right time. I should wait until I feel better about it. – Feelings: worried, cautious
- Thought: What if other people think I don’t know what I’m doing? – Feeling: insecure, worried
What thought-feeling pair or pairs do you resonate with?
Use these examples as templates and to alter the thought-feeling pairs to reflect your personal experience more accurately. It’s useful to know what thoughts and feelings make up your struggle with Imposter Syndrome so you can identify it and untangle it when the fear and worry begin to grip you.
Now that you know what thoughts and feelings you’re working with here are the techniques to use
Challenge the thought
Write your thought out on paper and ask yourself if it’s really true? Get objective here. Is it true that you don’t know what you’re doing? Or maybe you’re new to a part of what you’re doing but not the whole project.
Write out the opposite of your thought – how do you know what you’re doing? And answer that question until you run out of responses.
An example of this technique:
- Imposter Syndrome thought: I have to get this handout on the gardening zones in the U.S. exactly right before I post it. Otherwise, I’ll seem like I don’t know what I’m talking about and other master gardeners will criticize me.
- Imposter Syndrome feelings: intimidated, cautious, worried
Challenge the thought:
- How am I an expert on the gardening zones? I am a Master Gardener, and the zones is basic level information that I know backwards and forwards. I teach it to people all the time in my work one on one and in my landscaping consulting business.
Reframe Your Perspective
Researcher Brene Brown teaches a great reframing technique called “the story I’m telling myself is…”.
Try describing your situation to yourself with that phrase at the beginning of the sentence. It would go something like this…
The story I’m telling myself is that I can’t send a draft of my eBook to my editor until it’s perfect. That she’ll think I’m not a very good writer and fire me on the spot. Then, I’ll have to find another editor and I will have wasted my money.
When we use the “the story I’m telling myself is…” technique you can see how it allows us to feel a little less attached to our thoughts and also to play out the scenario to an end that’s most likely not true. An editor is there is help us with our book, not to fire us for being a bad writer, right? See how the mind can keep us stuck? Using this technique uncovers what the story is behind our fears and can actually allow us to move forward with a lighter heart.
Know that true Imposters don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome
Take comfort in the fact that when people are truly phony and unqualified, they don’t worry about it, they KNOW IT. When you worry about being an imposter that’s evidence that you actually know what you’re doing. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect at it so give yourself room to learn and grow. Even Einstein said that he felt his work was getting too much attention at one point. So, you’re in good company!
Remember that there’s never a perfect time
If you’re having the thought that you need to wait on pursuing a dream because “now is not the right time”, remember that perfect timing doesn’t exist. If we wait our whole lives for perfect timing we might never get married, have kids, buy a house, go on vacation, apply for our dream job, etc.
You have to ask yourself if you’re hiding behind this thought. If so, think about another area of your life where you have been more willing to move forward and not wait for the timing to be exactly right. What made you more willing to take a risk in that other area of your life? Borrow some of that and use it where you have Imposter Syndrome.
For example, I chose to start having kids when other people in my life thought I should have waited for a “better time”. If I feel like “the timing is not right” about something else I go back and “borrow” that courage and bring it forward to today. Then, I reconsider my decision and ask, is the timing still off?
Use an example from your life or borrow mine, either one works. Just test it out to see if timing is actually the issue or if Imposter Syndrome is just keeping you stuck.
Now you know what to do with the feelings and thoughts that make up Imposter Syndrome. Use these techniques to untangle yourself from its grip and stand your ground. You can do this.
If you’re having trouble untangling or taking the wind out of the sails of your Imposter Syndrome, this is part of what I help my private clients with in the Inspired Success program. We look at the thoughts that are holding you back, the feelings that are keeping you stuck and playing small, and set you free to be the abundant Intuitive Entrepreneur you are!
Entrepreneur | Life Coach
Laurie Carlson is a life coach for Empaths and Highly Sensitive women who are tired of living in overwhelm and exhaustion - they are ready to have a vivacious life from their strengths. Laurie brings her over 30 years of experience as a Psychiatric Nurse, Social Worker, and corporate training Project Manager to her work as a coach. She has a Bachelor's degree in Counseling and Social Work, a Master's degree in Organizational Development and Leadership, and is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.
Laurie is an Emotional and Intuitive Empath and Highly Sensitive Person herself so she has a keen awareness of what the Sensitive life is like. She's been coaching for seven years and the sole focus of her practice is helping Empaths and HSPs find a path to fulfilled living. Laurie is also a mom to four Highly Sensitive almost grown kids which is the adventure of a lifetime. When she's not working, she likes to try any recipe that has lemon as the main ingredient, reads historical fiction and self-help books, and is learning all she can about her Danish ancestors' tradition of hygge (or 'coziness').
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