Taking the Power Away from Imposter Syndrome
Let’s start off with the meaning of Imposter. The word, by definition, means someone who pretends to be someone else. No wonder we feel negatively about the terminology ‘Imposter Syndrome’ that seems to have such a grip on so many of us. The infamous Imposter Syndrome! Just the name is enough to have you shaking in your boots, let alone being labelled as suffering from it!
Honestly, I think much of it’s power is in the name. The word Imposter has so much weight and negativity attached to it already, and then you add in Syndrome. A sure-fire recipe for self-loathing!
Ways it can Show Up
The ways this can show up in your life range from starting out at a new job and feeling insecure about your experience to being 10yrs into being the boss but feeling like a fraud at a big time networking event. There are no set guidelines of age, sex or experience for this one. We are all susceptible to feeling like we either ‘just got lucky’ or ‘any day now the jig’s gonna be up’. What we need to understand, though, is just because we ‘feel’ that way does not make it true.
We have been comparing ourselves, and underestimating ourselves for so long, it has turned into a force to be reckoned with. Now we question our value at every turn. We go ahead and add one more label to our lives, even when the true meaning of imposter has no place in this picture. But, we can change it. We can take back the power and start to value our own abilities again.
Getting into the Emotions of this Nasty ‘Syndrome’
It can be described as a feeling in your gut. A voice in your head. Understand, it is NOT a problem with you and it CAN be overcome. It is all about the image you have built of yourself in your mind. It is about the belief that you don’t deserve to be where you are, that you are not qualified or good enough, and that at any minute someone is going to expose you as a fraud.
Like so many of our hang-ups in life, this is mostly imaginary! There is no ‘Board of Imposter Management’ that is going to break down your door and point a finger at you whilst giving you the death stare. This exists in your mind and, ultimately, comes down to the need for more self-love and self-respect. It’s time to stop creating stories in your mind that are not serving you!
What you need to do is to realize that you are enough as you are, and at whatever stage you are currently at on your journey. Getting out from under that black cloud may seem almost impossible at times, but it starts with taking the power away from the meaning that has been assigned to this phenomenon.
Take the Power away from the Words
Let’s lessen the power that the name has. The meaning of the word imposter actually has no relevance to the truth of the matter in this case. We have given it power, like we do with so many of our words. We can take the power away! Being an imposter is a serious thing, much more serious than this phenomenon we link it to!
Perspective, that is all that is required in putting these ideas to rest. What if we went ahead and chose another word for it? How about using ‘Life Stage Up-leveling’ or ‘Comparisonitis’? They might sound silly, but that’s the point! Put a positive spin on the same thing. We are all in stages of up-leveling, aren’t we? Most of these stages make us uncomfortable, but all of them are a process of growth. If we can shift our focus to the benefits and away from the so-called shortfalls, we will not only feel better about ourselves but also be more open to discussing our feelings with others.
Understanding what ‘Stage’ You are In
Holding yourself up in comparison to anyone else is a problem for so many reasons. Imposter syndrome is a case of trying to fit yourself into someone else’s shoes. Basically, you are trying to reach a level, set out by someone else, that you are just not able to reach. But, not because you are not good enough.
Here’s the problem with this idea. First of all, in most cases these standards that you are holding yourself up against are set by people who’s story you have very little knowledge about. What I mean by that is you have to compare apples with apples. There is no point expecting yourself to achieve something (for example) at the same level as someone else, after 6mnths of working towards it, only to realize it took them 2yrs!
The meaning of imposter syndrome has little weight if you see yourself as being ‘just a few steps behind’ rather than totally incapable and out of your league. Whether you are comparing yourself to a peer or someone you look up to, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you start to value your own contribution! What stage you are at is not as important as where you intend to go, and that will come down to how you see yourself.
Self-Awareness and Self-Worth
Once we realize that Imposter Syndrome is actually just an issue of self-awareness and self-worth we can help change our perspective towards the positive. We can focus on helping ourselves, instead of putting ourselves down.
When you understand that we are all at different stages on our own journey you can look at it from a gentler perspective. You can celebrate your wins and acknowledge how far you’ve come, thereby encouraging yourself instead of being your own worst enemy. Remember, this harmful pattern is ultimately self imposed. You have the power to change it, to ‘kick it to the curb’ so to speak.
You can choose to empower it, or totally disregard it. The real imposter here is Imposter Syndrome itself, because it is masquerading as truth when in fact it is all lies. You are only an imposter if you doubt your own abilities. Take away the meaning of imposter syndrome and you take away it’s power.
People are Looking for Authenticity
The biggest lesson you can learn with regards to this phenomenon is that nobody wants a carbon copy of ANYONE. If you’re striving to be like all those shining examples of ‘perfect people’, stop wasting your time! First of all, you are enough just as you are. Secondly, you will get less likes and respect for trying to be like someone else. People see right through that and they don’t like it! And, thirdly, there ARE NO PERFECT PEOPLE! Besides, perfect would get boring really, really quickly.
What people do like, though, is authenticity. Why? Because it is rare as hell! And, because it is inspiring! It’s what all of us want and we are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Being authentic is magnetic. Being authentic is being free and freedom is what we all want above all else. So when you feel like a fraud, ask yourself this question: would you rather meet someone else’s expectations and be miserable or be free to be you! Really, it comes down to accepting yourself as you are. How silly does the meaning of imposter sound when you look at the simple truth that you can NEVER be pretending to be yourself!
Where Imposter Syndrome Meets Self Talk
I’ve covered the importance of Self Talk in a previous blog because I believe establishing our self worth starts with our own self talk. Have a read of the blog here: Self Talk: A Thank You Letter to Myself. Imposter Syndrome ultimately comes from that same, self-deprecating voice in our heads that needs to be reined in immediately.
The good news is that when you know it’s not a physical threat but actually a series of negative thoughts that can be changed, you’re on your way to burning it to the ground! You’ve discovered your ability to take your power back. Positive self-talk will solve so many of your emotional struggles, you won’t believe it! Your self-worth, your confidence, your authenticity. Always be kind to yourself, it will have ripple effects through your whole life.
Honesty is the Best Policy
We have to learn to break the silence. The more we communicate our feelings, the better we feel and the more we trust each other. This world has become so concerned with keeping up appearances that people are too scared to talk to each other. I would love to see this change! We are all, every one of us, going through highs and low’s. The more we share our experiences with each other, the more we realize we are not alone.
Don’t wait for someone else to take the first step. Be the change! If you feel insecure, be brave enough to open up about it, even just a little. You will be surprised at how people respond to your honesty. Plus, the next time that they feel that way themselves they will know they have a safe space to open up to you about it. And, the healing begins!
We are All Perfectly Imperfect
Always remember that we are all perfectly imperfect. What I mean by that is, give yourself and everyone around you a break. If we accept this about ourselves, and each other, we can let go of the idea of reaching an imaginary idea of perfection.
You will find that the more you give yourself space to just be, without expectation, the more likely you are to thrive. Being hard on yourself all the time will never bring out the best in you.
Quotes about Imposter Syndrome
I’ve picked out some quotes that give you a different perspective on the meaning and impact of Imposter Syndrome. The most important thing to remember is that we all suffer from this at some point and to some degree. Even the most successful people, that we look up to in life have felt insecure about their abilities before. Know that if they can overcome them, so can you.
‘I still have a little Imposter Syndrome… 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 in our abilities, about our power and what that power is.’ Michelle Obama
‘It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.’ Denis Waitley
‘The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.’ Albert Einstein
‘You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t even know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’ Meryl Streep
‘It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud.’ Emma Watson
Never assume successful people don’t suffer from this too. If these inspiring minds have gone through these same insecurities and gone on to achieve all that they have, let it be an inspiration to never underestimate yourself, or give up on yourself.
This short Ted Talk video is a great way to understand Imposter Syndrome. I love the way the narrator, Elizabeth Cox, described it: an unwarranted sense of insecurity. Spot on! The key here is ‘unwarranted’. In other words the insecurity has no merit. It is imagined, or unfounded. When we realize this we can view the entire phenomenon from a different perspective.
Interested in reading more about Imposter Syndrome? The Book Depository has a wide range of books on the subject (click the link below)
Check out this 5 Star course for getting over Imposter Syndrome, on Udemy
Thanks for reading! I hope that from reading this you have realized that the meaning of imposter syndrome is only as heavy as we make it out to be! If you enjoyed the blog please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thought.
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