In my work as a therapist, I deal with many people from all walks of life, some who would be perceived as being very successful in sport, business and life in general. Many of these people live with the anxiety that sooner or later, everyone will find out that they have been faking it and everything will come crashing down – this affects their business and relationships.
My beloved wife who is a very successful businesswoman was asked to do a TEDx talk a year ago, the first thing she said to me was “who would want to listen to me? What have I got to say?” I sat with her and told her, her own life story from my perspective and we got to work putting together the15 minutes presentation. In the end we left many things out that I would have included but there was not enough time. I have attached the link to her TEDx talk below for you to judge if she had something to say:
On many occasions, I ask my clients to imagine what their TED talk would be and to imagine someone who is going through what they have either survived or trying to achieve in the audience and what they would say to them. I do this to help them see the value their lives have and the inspiration others could take from their journey
“I still have a little [bit of] impostor syndrome, it never goes away, that you’re actually listening to me.
“It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously. What do I know?
I share that with you because we all have doubts about our abilities, about our power and what that power is.
“If I’m giving people hope then that is a responsibility, so I have to make sure that I am accountable”. Michell Obama
So, what is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor Syndrome is a feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or being a fraud despite evidence to the contrary. It strikes all people from time to time including smart, successful individuals. It often rears its head after an especially notable accomplishment,
The phrase ‘Imposter Syndrome’ was coined in 1978. Impostor Syndrome doesn’t discriminate: people of every demographic suffer from feeling like a fraud, though minorities and women are hardest-hit. Studies found 20 percent of individuals suffer from imposter syndrome and although they do not feel capable, they still perform well when working.
Children may have developed it based on questionable parenting skills. High achievers may have it, never thinking they’ve done enough. Perfectionists who never think their work is good enough.
There are many reasons why someone could be living with impostor syndrome and while it is very real and debilitating, someone might not even realise that they are living with it. If you’re thinking about starting something outside of your comfort zone, you may be even more susceptible to it.
As I have said, I see this with my clients regularly. Though impostor syndrome isn’t an official diagnosis, psychologist acknowledges that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome feeds on our deepest fears and hears our doubts that we tuck away from others. If we don’t know the signs, it can negatively impact your professional and personal life and can keep us from connecting with others and growing our strengths.
What do I do about it?
First start by acknowledging it, call out these disruptive thoughts and feelings when they emerge. Once you know what it feels like and can recognise the “impostor” within you, you’ll have an easier time overcoming it. Make a mental note or better yet, write your thoughts down as they occur. It can be anything from “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t deserve this man/woman” or “I got lucky with this” – having a bit of humility about yourself is OK, experiencing paralysing fear over it is NOT.
Change your thoughts and realise that what you’re feeling isn’t founded on anything real. Feelings of inadequacy and fear are all in your head and after all, who else but you made the successes you have had. Imagine how you’d feel if you could turn these thoughts into something positive. Don’t forget that when it comes to negative things, our brains act like velcro – everything sticks, even if we don’t want it to. Portative things are like Teflon, they slide off, we have to hold on to the positive a little longer to balance the way the mind works.
“Even though I had sold 70 million albums, there I was feeling like “I’m no good at this.” Jennifer Lopez
When I was younger I competed at an international level in martial arts. In my journey, I would compete in many tournaments, I would win all my fights and get to the final and my whole psyche would change and I would lose. I remember going back to my club after one of these occasions very angry with myself and determined to win my next tournament which happened to be the national championships.
I did not change my physical training but worked hard to focused on believing I was good enough to be a champion and yes, I won the tournament.
Me with my foot in the air
Take note of your achievements, while we may not be perfect, we certainly are great at many things. Make a list of strengths and take note of everything you are good at. You are not the only one who struggles with feelings of inadequacy. Find someone you can talk to, whether it be a coach, friend, or therapist. You don’t need to tackle this alone. You probably think you do since that feeling is another trait of impostor syndrome, but luckily you don’t!
With effort and mental reprogramming, you can learn to overcome your doubt and celebrate your accomplishments.
Take today as your opportunity to start accepting and embracing your capabilities.
“once you own your fears and embrace them, you are grounded in the strength of truth. You gain the knowledge that no matter what life throws your way, you can and will handle it”. Brene Brown
Physiotherapist & Life couch