It was in the late 1970s that Imposter Syndrome as a term was first used to describe the fraudulent feelings that so many people experience. The feelings that at any moment someone is going to ask you what the hell you are doing here? Get out!
When it comes to running a successful business distracting thoughts like this – whether they are fleeting or cause sever anxiety – are not helpful. While there is a lot of research on Imposter Syndrome there are also a lot of myths, which, when it comes to overcoming and breaking free from this phenomenon are, also, not particularly helpful.
Read on for some myth busting followed by my top tools for breaking free from Imposter Syndrome and stepping forward into your success!
1. It’s a one-size-fits-all
Someone experiencing Imposter Syndrome will identify with feeling like they don’t belong, that they are going to be exposed as a fraud and that their success (if they acknowledge any at all) is down to luck, despite evidence to the contrary. These imposter feelings don’t just magic out of nowhere and they develop from limiting beliefs – normally about the self - that are held deep down within the unconscious mind. The negative behaviours that manifest as a result of these limiting beliefs will be different depending on the person experiencing them. So, there is absolutely no one-size-fits-all response to Imposter Syndrome – there is not a “right way” to experience it! Common negative behaviours associated with Imposter Syndrome include, but are not limited to:
- A crippling fear of public speaking
- Perfectionism and an inability to delegate
- Overworking and self-sacrifice
- Always completing another course or qualification
- Avoidance of new challenges
- Setting excessively high goals
2. It’s a mental health condition
The word ‘syndrome’ is the cause of the confusion here, so if we were to get technical, we should really refer to Imposter Syndrome as Imposter Phenomenon. While continuous negative thoughts and feelings will impact a person’s mental wellbeing the phenomenon itself is not a mental health condition. The phenomenon comes and goes and affects different people in different situations. For example, someone who may demonstrate a high level of confidence performing for their local amdram group may experience crippling fear if asked to talk for 60 seconds about their business. It also isn’t something that only occurs in a work environment. It can also manifest in relationships – am I a good enough parent/ partner/ friend?
3. It mainly affects women
It was initially thought to be the case that Imposter Syndrome affected women more than men (Clance and Imes, 1978) but more recent research indicates that it affects both men and women equally. As explained in the two points above, how it shows up could be different.
4. It only affects successful people
You can be affected by Imposter Syndrome regardless of your job, social status or level of success. It is often experienced by high achieving people, but not all, and it is not a defining factor of success.
5. It’s part of your identity
I regularly hear people referring to their Imposter Syndrome. This is understandable in reflection of the points above noting different behaviours showing up for different people. It is important to note, however, that we are not defined by our behaviours. Using phrases such as ‘My Imposter Syndrome means that I can’t…’ has two major problems because the language we use is vitally important to our unconscious mind and in forming beliefs. Firstly, by defining it as yours implies it is part of your personality and identity. When something feels this way it can be very difficult to move forward away from it, a bit like when someone who always has had long hair decides to get it cut! Secondly, this phrasing separates you from taking responsibility for your behaviours, if the Imposter Syndrome means you can’t do something, the blame and responsibility is on the Imposter Syndrome rather than on you.
6. It stops you from getting too cocky
Imposter Syndrome is often caused by low level limiting beliefs regarding self-esteem and self-worth, removing these beliefs does not turn you into a boastful arrogant monster. There is absolutely a way to be confident without being cocky. I would actually argue that someone who has suffered with imposter feelings and thoughts would not become arrogant as this would mean removing their compassion for others completely.
7. You’re stuck with it
As with everything involving your mindset you have the power to manifest change. You do not have to feel this way and these negative thoughts, of being a fraud, do not need to take over your life and stand in the way of the success you truly deserve. Read on for my 7 tools for breaking free from Imposter Syndrome…
7 tools for breaking free from Imposter Syndrome and creating your success
1. Practice receiving positive feedback and compliments with thanks and without excuses (this can be a tough habit to break, hence the need for practice). Try simply saying ‘Thank you’ rather than ‘Thank you, but…’
2. Journal on your imposter thoughts to uncover your lowest level limiting belief, then use the opposite of that as an affirmation practice daily. Affirmations work best when written (and said) as ‘I am’ statements. For example ‘I am deserving’, ‘I am enough’. Repeating these statements, a minimum of 5 times, out loud to yourself will gradually make a huge difference to your mindset. Journaling will also help you with the next suggestion.
3. Become consciously aware of when and how Imposter Syndrome shows up for you and challenge yourself to gently step outside of your comfort zone. For example, if the idea of speaking live on social media in front of potentially hundreds of strangers fills you with dread, maybe practice recording yourself on camera or join a small supportive community where you could practice (learn more about The Bubble here)
4. Practice daily mindfulness to harness positive, supportive energy during times when imposter thoughts often take over. A 5-minute daily mindfulness practice can make all the difference when faced with challenging situations.
5. Change your language to distance yourself from the negative thoughts and feelings and take responsibility. Rather than ‘My Imposter Syndrome means I can’t…’ try ‘When I experience Imposter Syndrome I find it difficult to…’
6. Talk about how you are feeling with a trusted friend or family member to help you see the situation more objectively. Also the chances are, they’ll have experienced it too.
7. Work with a coach (like me!) to release the negative emotions and remove the limiting beliefs that are causing this phenomenon in your mindset and negatively impacting your life and business. Create Your Future Coaching™ (aka TimeLine Therapy™) is a long lasting and effective method that I use with my clients to smash through limiting beliefs, guiding them to turn dreams into reality. Want to lean more? Book a free 20-minute clarity call here, or read my blog post on What Is TimeLine Therapy™
Are you ready to say good bye to Imposter Syndrome and create the success you deserve?