How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Mariel Witmond
Mariel Witmond

13 December, 2020

How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

As we grow up, we start to learn that certain behaviors are rewarded and our minds begin to associate achievement with lovability. When parents send their children mixed messages of praise and criticism, this can often result in high achiever tendencies. Cultural conditioning and life experiences add to this, moulding our thoughts, painting our perceived realities and creating our limiting beliefs, which in turn either hold us back from making choices and seeing opportunities that would propel us forward, or create poor habits such as perfectionism, people pleasing, and a perpetual “need to be busy” mindset.

When we come from a place of authenticity, with a sense of belonging that starts with ourselves, and a connection to our why, confidence comes naturally. But many of us are very disconnected from these and place value on the wrong things. Limiting beliefs are easier to believe, boundaries are scary to implement, and fear quite naturally starts to take control. What ends up happening is that people become high achievers that are unable to internalise their success or have big dreams but question who they are to achieve them.

Studies suggest that 70% of people struggle with imposter syndrome, and most suffer in silence not wanting to be caught out for the presumed frauds they believe they are.

Dr. Valerie Young created 5 personality types to describe imposter syndrome in high achievers, which can be useful in identifying behaviours that limit our full potential. You may find you fit into one, several or all of these:

  • Perfectionists tend to have unrealistic expectations and feel that any trace of not getting things 100% right or not being the best, puts into question our capabilities and competence, sending us into a spiral of self doubt and often self loathing.
  • Experts feel that they need to be fully qualified and know as much as possible before they put themselves out there, often signing up for countless courses and trainings to further their learning, not wanting to appear dumb in front of someone who might be more qualified than them.
  • The Natural Genius feels that if they have to actually work towards something, then it means they just aren’t good enough. The more effort they need to put into something, the more this validates them as a fraud.
  • Soloists feel the need to do everything on their own and should they have to seek help then they are not worthy.
  • Supermen/women work harder than those around them in order to prove that they’ve got what it takes. They must succeed at everything to prove their worth, often resulting in exhaustion and a busy=success outlook.

The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to learn how to stop thinking like one. Here are 5 things that can help:

  1. Remember that everyone had to start somewhere, and that’s usually at the beginning! We all have doubts and insecurities as we start something new, and there will always be more we can learn. We all need to go through the trials and tribulations that make up our journey, but that’s also where all the juicy bits happen. Don’t try to skip the journey. Don’t lose sight of the now. Don’t lose sight of how your life has been preparing you for this moment or how far you have already come, for a future destination whose finish line keeps getting drawn further and further away as we get closer to our original goal.
  2. Separate fact from fabrication. Our brains are really good at misconstruing information. When you start to feel like an imposter, challenge those beliefs. Remember that everything starts with awareness, so notice when those thoughts start to arise and get curious. What are you scared of? Are your thoughts 100% true? Can you find ways to contradict them? Reach out to friends you trust and share how you feel, they will surely remind you of what you fail to see!
  3. Focus on the positive. For some reason, even though 100 people tell us something good, that one negative comment tends to be the one we focus on. Create a jar full of the positive things you’ve done, your accomplishments, things people have said about what you do – and when you have doubts, pull from that jar.
  4. Visualise what you want to achieve and where you want to be. Never underestimate the power of visualization. If you can see it, you’ll believe it and achieve it.
  5. Face it till you make it, don’t fake it. Whatever life throws your way, face it. Don’t back down, don’t give up. Life is teaching us what we need to succeed, we just need to keep showing up. Work hard and keep trying. You’ve got this!

As with everything, this takes practice and awareness. Notice the times you start to experience imposter syndrome. Notice how it feels and become aware of your behaviour so you get better at catching yourself as it happens. Then put into practice the above. Our limits are self imposed and are part of what creates our individuation. Obstacles are opportunities turned upside down and success is failure turned inside out. Your perception dictates your reality… it all boils down to mindset.

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