Do you ever feel like a fraud? Wondering if people will find out that you’ve been faking it this whole time? Have you had the thought…I’m not qualified to actually do this job or the position I have?
This is Imposter Syndrome. Imposter Syndrome is when you believe you are not as competent as others perceive you to be and have feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. You may find yourself unsure of yourself, being self-critical, paranoid, guilty, anxious, ashamed, or overworking in an attempt to make up this deficit.
In all my coaching work, I’ve found Imposter Syndrome to be one of the most commonly experienced ways to suffer. I’ve worked with amazing leaders who still feel like they are an imposter, even if it is their 5th time being a CEO and they have been a huge success every single time. This is not something you can work harder and earn your way out of. Instead, it’s something you accept as part of being a human being.
The work done around Imposter Syndrome is mostly inner work. It is achieved on a psychological level, a self-healing level.
Imposter Syndrome can show up in all areas of your life. We all have moments of feeling inadequate. This is you being human.
If you have experienced these feelings, there are a couple of techniques you can work with so you can leverage it and skyrocket yourself to the kind of life you are wanting to live.
There are multiple theories surrounding Imposter Syndrome. One theory is the idea that these are stories our inner critic tells us. We all have this inner critic. It’s the one in you who sits, watches, and looks for what could be done better.
Sometimes we let the voice of the critic get villainous which can lead us to feel wrong and incompetent.
When you hear this inner critic it’s important to pause and listen. Ask yourself:
What is this story trying to tell me?
What is the story I am telling myself?
Would I be willing to experience that the opposite of that story is at least as true as my story itself?
For example, your inner critic is telling you that you do not deserve your new job. What would the opposite of this story be?
You do deserve your new job.
Everyone deserves this job.
It is not a hard job.
The job doesn’t deserve you.
There is no such thing as deserving a job.
I deserve three levels ahead of this job.
I deserved this job 5 years ago.
As you can see, there are many different opposites to each story you tell yourself and you could argue each one is at least as true as the one you are telling yourself.
Affirmations can be really helpful and work. It can be helpful to say “I deserve it, I deserve it” in response to your inner critic’s voice. Give it a try and see if this helps.
I personally use this technique to work with Imposter Syndrome. Put on your detective hat and hunt for ways you are an imposter. Presumably, you care if you are an imposter because you would like to be authentic and truthful. Imposter Syndrome can help lead you to a path of greater authenticity and honesty.
Assume you are an imposter. Assume it’s true.
Next question yourself. How is it true you have been pretending? How have you been trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes, manipulate and deceive?
When you begin to dig these questions and look at how you might be pretending you may find some feelings or insecurities you didn’t realize were there. It may be very subtle and unintentional but this can consume some of your energy and take you out of presence.
Your answer may end up something like this: I’ve been acting like I know what I’m doing and in fact, it’s not true, and I’m somewhat insecure. This additional awareness can help you play with curiosity.
Tap into the tool of curiosity to create an identity other than an imposter.
You can create a different identity by:
- Accept that you are not an imposter
- Admit you do not know everything
- Lean into how you are a learner
Squash the imposter in you by being proactive and approach things you do not know with genuine curiosity, willingness to learn, and ask questions.
Curiosity is a tool always available to you as a conscious leader. Questioning your stories and playing around with how the opposite is true can open up creativity that wasn’t accessible to you before.
This article is based on the podcast episode “You are not a fraud — How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome” Episode #53.