Those that know me well, would know of my dislike of “labels”. Mainly because labels are often used as a way of categorising or putting someone in a box. A box that inevitably has restrictions or constraints on them. That excludes them in some way. “You’re too old, fat, thin etc”. A box that means people take on those restrictions whether they apply or not.
Imposter syndrome is one label that many choose for themselves because it makes sense of what they are feeling. Many of the clients I work with, talk of feeling like an imposter, like they are going to get caught out in some way which will result in losing their job or the like. Yet most of the time, these same people are in fact thriving in their job and struggle to believe it is real.
In my mind, as said above “imposter syndrome is just a lack of recognition of who you see in the mirror”. That there is some sort of disconnect with their intuition or inner knowing of who you really are. Ultimately, it is a pattern, or neural pathway that you keep running when you get nervous about making a mistake.
The reason I believe people are so willing to take on this ‘label’ is that it gives them recognition that they are not the only one feeling this way. The problem in accepting this label though, is that you may in fact give yourself permission to maintain this level of fear, rather than taking steps to connect with who you are, thus prolonging the life of the “imposter syndrome”.
So, how can you beat it? Here’s 3 steps to knocking it on the head in the moment and building a stronger connection with who you really are:
Create a hero or legend file
I first heard of this from Peter Cook where he talks about capturing all the nice things people say about you. I like to take this a step further and suggest you build a list of all your accomplishments with the heading at the top “I DID THIS”. Build this as you go and keep it handy so in those “Imposter” moments you can bring it out and say to yourself “I did this” with a big emphasis on “I”. Over time it will build recognition of what you are capable of.
Reset your idea of what an expert is
Feeling like you’re not good enough or that you need to have more experience is a common trait for those experiencing imposter syndrome. The idea that you must be an “expert” before you are good enough. However, when I ask people experiencing this feeling, what an expert is, they can easily describe someone else that fits that category. Often someone with years of experience, recognised in the industry, received numerous accolades as an expert. That unless they fit into these categories, they are inferior in some way.
So what if instead, you considered an expert as someone who is well read or well researched and has expertise into bringing these concepts to life for others or has on the job experience dealing with something. What if, instead of needing to be seen as an expert, you could consider that your experience has value, or merit to someone else that may be in the same boat. That you have insight rather than degrees and it is ok to have ‘your opinion’ rather than be acknowledged as “the opinion” on the matter. How different would that feel?
Reconnect with who you are being
If we are disconnected with ourself, we can often be focussed on what we are doing and how this will be seen by others. Sometimes it’s as simple as shifting our focus from what we are doing to who we are being that helps build a stronger connection with ourselves. Rather than seeing our actions as something external to ourselves, we recognise who we are. This problem is amplified by the common getting to know you question of “what do you do?” where we define ourselves by what we do instead of who am I. We forget to see ourselves as a real person.
To help start you on your way, take a piece of paper and split into two columns. At the top of the first column one write ‘what i did/do’ and list some activities, some accomplishments. Then at the top of the other column write ‘who am I being?”. For each doing activity, consider who was I being when I did that. For example, delivering a keynote speech might be on the doing side and being might be “an inspiring, vulnerable, open person sharing my story with others”. The who I am being allows you to recognise all the valuable traits you bring to the table.
The reality is that all of us experience imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. Most of the time we can push it off as fear of being out of our comfort zone. However, if it is more than that for you, then I strongly encourage you to check in with yourself whether you have a bit of a disconnect going on and use the above to get back in touch with who you really are, you might surprise yourself 😉