Do You Suffer From ‘Imposter Syndrome’?

9Nov2012-1One of the things that resonates with many of the women I talk to is Imposter Syndrome.

You know, that feeling of ”What if they find out I’m not as clever as they think I am?”

The interesting thing about this particular syndrome is that successful, highly intelligent, high achieving women (and men – although it doesn’t hold men back as much as it does women) suffer from it.

And it’s NOT about low self esteem. As Valerie Young says, in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: ”That you identify with this syndrome at all suggests that your self esteem is at least solid enough for you to set and achieve your goals. And achieve you have”.

I remember, when I went back to college in my thirties to do a Business Diploma, getting my first Marketing assignment back and assuming that the ‘D’ grade on it meant that I’d failed. This was despite the fact that I’d spent hours on it, put my heart & soul into it and knew, deep down, I’d done an excellent job!

9Nov2012-2When I spoke to the Tutor, he laughingly pointed out that the ‘D’ stood for ‘Distinction’ and that I’d achieved the highest mark in the class. But I soon convinced myself that he must have been extra-generous with the marks, or that he’d taken pity on me, because I was a mum returning to the world of study and work. In fact, I went on to achieve Distinctions in every subject and, at the end of the 2 years, to win the award for the most outstanding student. But even as I was accepting the award, I wondered when the Imposter Police would storm in and take me away!

Sound familiar?

One of the first things I do with everyone I work with is to help them to identify their UPFM (Unique Personal Fusion of Magnificence) and OWN IT. If we don’t own our UPFM, we’re disconnected from our strengths, skills, talents, gifts, experience, knowledge and achievements – which means that we have no conscious, gut-level evidence of our abilities to draw on when the self doubts come calling.

But there’s another crucial step –  that of working out where your Imposter feeling originated from, examining it and getting rid of it once and for all. The Imposter feeling is based on a belief, or set of beliefs, that you unconsciously hold, so what you have to do is get it/them out of your unconscious and into the open.

9Nov2012-3Most of the beliefs that we hold about ourselves are firmly in place by the age of 7. We get them from our family, as well as teachers and other significant adults in our life, and they have a profound impact on shaping our early self-expectations and, therefore, how confident, competent and even successful we feel today.

And that’s not necessarily to say that the messages we received were overtly discouraging. My own Mum, bless her, brought me up to not get ‘above my station’ – which, at its root, comes from a parental need to protect children from falling or failing. She also never praised any of my accomplishments, because she worried that praise would give me a ‘big head’ – it was common in parents of my generation to believe that modesty and not drawing attention to yourself were virtues. I was also taught that everyone else’s needs should come before my own, effectively to the detriment of my own wellbeing.

9Nov2012-4I decided to question these beliefs I’d inherited and be a Change Agent, when I intuitively knew that they were holding me back from achieving my potential. When I became a Life Coach, I delved deeper into my psyche to uncover any other beliefs that didn’t serve to support me in creating the life and success that I dreamed of – and I smashed them!

Here is a simple method of dealing with the belief(s) you hold that allow Imposter Syndrome to diminish you. It’s a series of questions that you need to ask yourself whenever the self-doubting thoughts make themselves heard in your mind:

1. What belief is this thought based on?

2. Where did the belief come from?

3. Is it really true? What evidence do I have to support this belief?

4. What evidence do I have that the opposite could be true?

5. What is the cost to me of believing this about myself?

6. Who could I be without this belief?

7. What do I choose to believe instead?

Any thought or belief that doesn’t reflect the greatness of who you are is NOT the truth about you. You have the power to leave the Imposter Syndrome behind you – simply by exploring and investigating your own thoughts and beliefs!

Why not do it TODAY, so that tomorrow you can start reaching for your stars and fulfilling your true potential?

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