Some tools to manage imposter syndrome
Imposter syndrome is often defined as ""the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved". It is a syndrome that describes where an individual feels and thinks that they aren't worthy of the things that they have in their life. Imposter syndrome is most often described in relation to professional achievements. People that I work with will often tell me that professionally imposter syndrome brings up some of the following feelings and thoughts:
that they aren't "good enough" for their job;
that everyone else around them is better than them at the job;
that they are a "fraud" or just slipped through the net to get the job;
that they only achieved what they did by being lucky and not due to any natural talent; and
that soon they will be "found out" and lose their job.
However, imposter syndrome can also affect an individual's personal life too. Many of the people that I work with feel bad about their body and their appearance and so often feel that they are not deserving of relationships or friendships that they have in their life too. This form of imposter syndrome may show up with some of the following thoughts and feelings:
that their partner or their friends are going to leave them or abandon them;
that their partner or friends think negative thoughts about them or don't "really like" them;
that their partner or friends have only settled by having them around;
that their partner or friends don't know the "real them" or else they would leave; and
that they aren't "good enough" for their partner or friends.
Imposter syndrome can have a very negative effect on someone's mental health and day-to-day life. It can make them doubt their relationships both professional and personal and really doubt themselves too. An individual struggling with imposter syndrome will also often not allow themselves to live up to their full potential or really enjoy life because they are making choices from a place of fear or insecurity. For example, perhaps they won't apply for that new job or promotion or go on that date because they believe that they just aren't "good enough" to do so.
So if you are starting to identify that you may have imposter syndrome in one or more areas of your life, what can you do about it? Here are a few tools that you can start to use to manage imposter syndrome:
REMIND YOURSELF OF THE FACTS
We often assume that everything that we think is a fact. However the thoughts that we think are just interpretations of situations and circumstances. These interpretations can sometimes become very distorted, very detached from reality and also very unhelpful. When your mind is thinking things like "I am not good enough for my partner or my job" - remind yourself that the facts are that either your employer or your partner CHOSE you. Irrespective of how you feel, the facts don't match up to the thoughts you are thinking.
WRITE DOWN YOUR THOUGHTS AND CHALLENGE THEM
It can be difficult to challenge your thoughts in your own head. One thing that can help you to challenge your thoughts is to write them down. Writing down thoughts re-activates a part of your brain called the pre-frontal cortex, which allows you to think about things more rationally and practically (rather than more emotionally). When you write down your thoughts you therefore give yourself the ability to unpack these thoughts and to challenge them too. There are some unhelpful thinking patterns that we are all prone to engaging in and two of these are "worst-case-scenario thinking" and also "selective abstraction". The first of these involves thinking that the worst possible thing is going to happen and this may be the thinking style showing up when you are worrying "I am going to get sacked from my job" or "my partner is going to leave me". Selective abstraction involves just focusing on the negative things that have happened and deleting or ignoring any positive things, so for example, you may be obsessing over one bit of constructive criticism that your boss or friend gave you but completely ignoring any compliments or positive feedback that you have received from them. Unpacking your thoughts and challenging any unhelpful thinking patterns can be a helpful way to start to think about yourself and your skills and abilities more positively.
IMAGINE YOU WERE TALKING TO A FRIEND
It can be really difficult to talk to yourself kindly and compassionately. It may be much easier however for you to talk to your close friends and loved ones kindly and compassionately. So when you are noticing your imposter syndrome surfacing, it can help to ask yourself how you would coach a loved one or friend through that situation. Would you tell them that they weren't good enough to be with their partner or would you tell them that they were "amazing, kind, wonderful, beautiful, inspirational etc". Perhaps even asking yourself what a close friend of yours may say to you about a situation can be helpful too.
CREATE AN ACHIEVEMENTS FILE OR POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES LIST
It is very natural for your brain to focus on the negative. We as humans tend to have a natural negativity bias, which means that we are programmed to look out for more negative things than positive things. This may mean that you are doing the same when it comes to yourself and your capabilities. Perhaps you are just focusing on things that you think of as "flaws" and completely ignoring any of your positive qualities. It can help therefore to create a list of your positive qualities, skills, personality traits, physical traits and put this somewhere really visible. If your imposter syndrome relates to your professional life, it can also help to create a folder with all of the positive feedback you've had from clients, successful projects you have worked on and qualifications you have achieved, to remind yourself of just how far you have come.
If you have noticed that you are doubting yourself, your worth and your abilities, please do not hesitate to get some professional help. It is possible to feel much better about yourself and to get to a place where you are able to celebrate your achievements, skills and positive attributes. If you would like to have some one-on-one sessions to manage imposter syndrome and to improve how you feel about yourself and your body, please do reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When you know you're ENOUGH!
When you stop focusing on all things that you're not.
When you stop fussing over perceived flaws.
When you remove all imposed and unbelievable expectations on yourself.
When you start celebrating yourself more.
When you focus on all that you are.
When you start believing that your perceived flaws are just that - perception...”
― Malebo Sephodi