Feeling like a fraud? You're not alone!Mar 01, 2022
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Award-winning author Maya Angelou
One of my students works in the theatre as a light board operator. She knows theatre lighting and lighting boards like the back of her hand, heck, she’s been working in that field for the past… thirty years?
Yet, as new people joined the team, she began to doubt her abilities. These new people appeared so confident in their abilities… she started feeling unsure of herself and wondered if she was all that good at what she does.
People suffering from imposter syndrome attribute their success to luck rather than ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.
Feeling like an imposter ALWAYS comes from comparing ourselves to others (I wrote an awesome post about this here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/growconfidentcommunity/permalink/673075264018832/ )
And based on the above quote, it seems it can hit even the most successful of us…
Imposter syndrome happens to people who are perfectly good, even great at what they do, yet lack the self-confidence to acknowledge that.
Have you ever been there? I certainly have, and still do at times. As a yoga therapist and life coach, I sometimes get worried and scared when I realise how much I don’t know, self-doubt creeps in and my legs get shaky.
When we are not as sharp as we’d like, we feel like an imposter. We wonder whether we belong there at all! Sadly, imposter feelings trigger anxiety, and dampens our confidence.
But why does it happen at all?
A big one is society’s expectations. The values of our Western society are very much about hitting goals, achieving, being successful, looking amazing, being eloquent, intelligent, sharp, and so on. Whether you’re a wife, a husband, a grandmother, a lawyer, a waiter, a parent, a daughter... expectations are there. When you hold a job with responsibilities, expectations are high. When we hold a job with little responsibilities, expectations are high.
When we -inevitably- fall short we feel like a fraud. We feel like everyone else knows how to do it better, everyone else knows a ton more than we do.
The main thing to remember about imposter syndrome is this:
We feel like an imposter because we commit ourselves to unrealistic, unsustainable standards.
Because we hit the mark a lot of the time, we expect ourselves to be able to do it all the time. And it's unrealistic!
When we can’t sustain that pace, or when one day we have a blank during an interview, or had a blah day at work, we feel like an imposter. It’s easy to do.
Some people don’t suffer from imposter syndrome, or very rarely. How come?
Like anyone else, they have good days and bad days, successes and setbacks, yet they are still able to move more or less confidently through their lives unencumbered by imposter syndrome.
It’s not because they’re any more intelligent or competent or talented than you or me.
The only difference between them and us, is that they don't get triggered. Why?
Because they think different thoughts.
And that is EXCELLENT news, because it means we can ALL do something about it.
People without imposter syndrome (PWIS) tend to think differently about 4 things:
- Failure: PWIS know that there is no such thing as failure. There’s only trying and trying and trying again until you succeed. Therefore they don’t take criticism as proof that they are inept at what they do. Rather, they see it as an opportunity to learn and improve and get better… therefore increasing their confidence over time.
- Perfection: PWIS know that nothing is EVER going to be perfect the first time. Everything takes time, practice and dedication. So they are not afraid of not doing it “perfect”. In fact, they don’t view perfection as an unattainable goal, but rather as a guide to constantly improve. I know for myself that there’s always more to be done, I can always cook a better meal, I can always have a cleaner house, I can always work later and more… but at what cost?
- PWIS fully expect, and accept that sometimes they won’t be at the top of their shape. So when (Not if. When.) it does happen, they know it’s just a bad day and they don’t dwell on it.
- PWIS know that the fact that they feel less than confident doesn’t “prove” they’re an imposter. Instead, they remind themselves that fear is a normal response to stepping into the unknown. And stepping into the unknown is the ONLY way to grow, learn, and increase confidence.
Which leads me to:
Brave it til you make it.
Don't wait to be comfortable, because without doing the things that make you uncomfortable, you'll never get comfortable.
But you can -and should- take baby steps.
If you’re scared of speaking in public, speak in public until it becomes comfortable. But start with a small group of trusted, non-threatening friends. People who support you. Keep doing it until you're ready for a bigger group, or maybe a few strangers. But do whatever it is that triggers your imposter syndrome.
Your imposter syndrome is a call to action: it’s telling you that you need to practice that particular skill.
When I first started teaching yoga, I was terrified before every class. I eventually overcame this by doing 2 things:
1. Preparing a great class plan and rehearsing it until I knew it reasonably well.
2. Throwing myself in the deep end as many times as I could, first with friends and family, then small classes, then bigger classes... because I knew that would be the only way to learn. It took me 5 years to become comfortable teaching a class, and confident in my capabilities as a teacher, then yoga therapist and life coach.
The point is, don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there.
Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour at the same time as your thinking, and allow your confidence to build.
Separate feelings from fact.
We all feel stupid at times. Just because you feel stupid doesn’t mean you are.
Stop listening to your inner voice. I gave my inner voice a name (Negative Nancy) so I could notice better when she shows up and starts talking. And you know what I've noticed? Negative Nancy never gives me facts. She just makes me scared.
Why? To keep me safe. And safe means familiar.
The feelings triggered by your inner voice are only feelings, they are not facts.
Flip the script.
Become acutely aware of the monologue happening in your head when your imposter syndrome feelings are triggered. Instead of thinking “Oh My God they are all so brilliant in this room, they’re all going to figure out I’m a fraud” (un-resourceful thinking) flip the script and think “wow, they are all so brilliant, I’m going to learn a lot!” (resourceful thinking).
Oh and one last word:
Real Imposters never question themselves.
They think they know it all. So if you feel like an imposter, you are definitely not one.
Here are some other ways you can manage imposter syndrome:
- Seek social support: it’s beneficial to communicate on this but not to dwell on it. Your goal is to practice and find solutions (NOT ruminating on it) with like-minded people. Organise a little community of friends and practice non-imposter thinking together!
- Find the support of a coach: imposter syndrome is always tied to self-doubt and lack of confidence. If you want to eradicate it, you need to understand yourself better, identify the thought patterns and beliefs that trigger your imposter syndrome, and learn new ways of thinking and acting that promote self-confidence.
It’s my mission to help women become empowered and confident, and if you’d like to have a chat about how you can get there, book a call with me! I’d love to hear where you’re at!