Fear is a pervading presence in so many of the mindset difficulties we face. Take imposter syndrome, for example; fear lives at its core, manifesting in any number of ways: fear of not belonging, fear of not being smart enough, fear of not being worthy, fear of being discovered for the "fraud" we are. Certainly, fear is not the only factor when considering imposter syndrome, but it does play a significant role. Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? I sure have; and if the above diagram is any indication, pretty much all of us have too.
Imposter syndrome, in an over-arching and general sense, is essentially a mindset in which people doubt their abilities/capabilities/accomplishments, and carry a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". It's really about underplaying our success, and overplaying the fear that we're not good enough. And it's equal parts damaging, restrictive, and exhaustive.
As a "recovering" perfectionist, I've certainly had my run-ins with imposter syndrome. I would set impossibly high bars, and berate myself for never achieving them; of course, when I consistently move the bar higher no matter how high I climbed, there was never an actual possibility of me achieving them. Regardless of how competent or successful I was, I never felt good/smart/capable enough. I didn't so much feel like a "fraud" in any sense I can recall, though a crippling lack of self confidence -- which kept me from really ever putting myself out there -- likely held me back from experiencing it. Or, the fear of being discovered a "fraud" led to my lack of self-confidence, which held me back from putting myself out there, which in turn kept me from experiencing a "fraud"-like state. Oh goodness... existential crisis mid-blog post!
Regardless of my situation, pretty much all of us experience our own colour and flavour of imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. It's certainly not a fun mindset to find ourselves in (what syndrome is fun, after all?), and that's putting it mildly; it can lead to crippling states where we feel entirely alone, unsuccessful, and bereft of identity. The good news, though, is that -- like any mindset -- we possess the power to change this process, and live a life free from imposter syndrome! Yay! "But how?" you may ask. Well, here's a few steps to begin recognizing and besting this self-defeating behaviour:
Recognition and Awareness
If you follow me at all, you know my passion for the concept of awareness. It really is the skeleton key that unlocks the first door to so many mindset shifts. After all -- if we don't know something is a problem, how can we begin the change process? Right in-step with so many other mindset transformations, becoming aware and recognizing that you're in a state, or experience states, of imposter syndrome is the first step. Not very many of us likely want to keep that state going in our lives, so it's crucial for us to become aware of when it's happening to us. Once we recognize this behaviour within ourselves, and how it presents, then we can make the first steps toward change.
Find the Fear, and Know it's a Lie
We've chatted before about how our fear lies to us, and in imposter syndrome, it's doing exactly that. We're looking past our successes, abilities, and capabilities, all in an effort to hide the "fact" that we have no idea what we're actually doing. Fear has us doubt ourselves to our very core, and explain away our successes as "flukes", luck, or good timing. Anything to avoid the idea that we are, in fact, incredibly talented, hard-working, and awesome people. The fear comes in multiple layers, too, as it's not only a fear of being discovered, but a fear of how others will perceive and judge us, too. Most often, this fear is one we project out on others, manifesting a reality that simply isn't there. Even if there is judgement from other people, does that really matter? I know we want to be liked and welcomed into whatever group we find ourselves in, but what does it say about a group that seeks to actively exclude others? Perhaps it's a group that isn't really worth your time -- and certainly not worth your fear of judgement. Understanding that fear is trying to box us up and shove us in the proverbial corner is the next step in overcoming imposter syndrome. Fear and doubt will creep in repeatedly, and it's up to us to stay true to our intention, and recognize who we are versus how we think others will see us.
We're None of Us Perfect
When we hold ourselves to a standard of perfection, or this idealized way of how we believe others perceive us, we're setting ourselves up to fail. Because both are unrealistic and, frankly, fiction. No one is perfect, and the only way you truly know how a person feels about you is if they tell you directly (and that assumes they're telling the truth, of course). Creating these fictional projections and whims of perfection that we feel we need to live up to, lest we be considered "frauds" is a whole lot of mental work for us to get absolutely nowhere. We all possess phenomenal strengths, and it behooves us to recognize these within ourselves. You may not be perfect, but you're damned good at what you're good at -- always remember that!
Celebrate Your Success
We very quickly gloss over our successes when dancing with imposter syndrome. You've got so many "wins" on your board, there's too many to count. So stop sweeping them under the rug like they don't mean anything. I know what this is like -- my rug was bulging with accomplishments that I swept away, and underplayed as anything special. I've said it before and I'll say it again: celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, and move on to the next one. Just don't forget that you have successes, and will have many, many more.
I Know I'm Not the Only One
Fear of being discovered as a "fraud" implies that those discovering have all their ducks in a row. Well, guess what? They don't. Our handy little picture at the top lets us know that everyone experiences imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. No matter how talented or in awe you are of someone -- they've doubted themselves. The only difference is that they didn't let that fear and doubt stop them from living their intention. You possess the very same power in deciding who you want to be, and where you want to find yourself. Knowing that you are not alone in this mindset is empowering, because not only are you not by yourself on a figurative island, you've got examples all around you of people kicking imposter syndrome right in the tuchus. And you can too.