Do you sometimes feel like a fraud or fake? No matter how much you do or progress, no matter how many people say you’re amazing or how hard you try you fear you will be unmasked as a phony.
You’re not alone. Many of us, especially people who grow up in families that emphasized achievement, suffer from Imposter Syndrome, a pervasive feeling of insecurity and self-doubt.
While it’s not classified as a mental disorder, Imposter Syndrome is often accompanied by anxiety, stress or depression. It’s typically associated with perfectionism and thoughts like: “I feel like a fake,” “I must not fail,” I’m just lucky” or “It’s nothing”.
What’s ironic is that Imposter Syndrome doesn’t strike losers. Rather it impacts smart, successful people – often after they’ve just reached their Everest. Sheryl Sandberg, David Bowie, Tina Fey and Serena Williams all admit that they’ve felt like frauds.
While people of every demographic experience Imposter Syndrome, women are hit harder because we are underrepresented in the market place and in the media. To make matters worse, we’re taught to stay small and moderate our abilities resulting in self-sabotage and low self-worth.
What’s tragic is that when you internalize the message, “I am a fake” that’s how you show up in the world. And the consequences are huge. To protect yourself from being unmasked you self-sabotage and rob yourself and the world of your gifts and greatness. Instead of growing and glowing you suffer mentally and emotionally and don’t experience the abundance and wealth that you so desire.
I’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome for most of my life. For years I accumulated degrees and certificates hoping ratcheting up the accomplishments would help me feel better. Even a PhD didn’t help. Imposter Syndrome continues to haunt me, especially when I break out of my boxes, but I don’t let it to stop me. For example, the first time I taught Reiki to a sold out class I worried that the attunements wouldn’t work and people would demand their money back. The wiser part of me reminded myself: I love Reiki, Reiki is powerful, and Reiki will show up faithfully. The class was amazing, the attunements worked, people connected with Reiki and furthered their healing journey. The fake mask fell away as I immersed myself in the teachings and shared my love for the practice.
I see Imposter Syndrome all the time in my friends and clients. It shows up like a black cloud trying to stop them from stepping outside their comfort zone to make their next chapter their best chapter. Just as they are about to leap, these smart, successful, full-hearted women undervalue their talents and become paralyzed by fear and insecurity. I’m a Midlife Whisperer calming clients down, holding their vision and helping them do what scares them.
Fortunately there’s plenty you can do to get over feeling like a phony so you can move forward with self-confidence. Here are my top 7 tips.
1. Shine light
The absolute worst thing you can do when you experience Imposter Syndrome is to hide and keep quiet. Silence magnifies it in your mind. So when you feel Imposter Syndrome (or any type of shame) shine light on it. Share how you feel with a trusted friend, coach family member or mentor. If you journal write about all the ways you undermine or betray yourself. How do you block your own empowerment and success?
2. Be mindful
You’re programmed to think about you all the time. A part of your brain, called the default mode network (DMN for short), is hardwired to create a sense of self and to scan the past and future for threats to the self including the threat of being revealed as a phony. Research shows that you can deactivate the DMN by being mindful both by mediating and in daily life.
Show up, be present, and swap perfection for being your best, authentic self.
3. Focus on others
My personal favorite way to break out of the Imposter Syndrome box is to help others. Be kind and of service. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll forget your worries, increase joy and wellbeing and have a positive impact on the world.
4. Keep compliments
When someone compliments you write it down in a small notebook or computer file. Next time you start to doubt yourself or feel like a fake take out the list and look at all the amazing things people have said about you.
5. Practice self-compassion
According to self-compassion pioneer Kristin Neff there are three elements to self- compassion: Be kind to yourself rather than judgmental, known that everyone makes mistakes and fails and notice when you are suffering and do something to alleviate the pain. What’s cool about self-compassion is that, unlike self-esteem which is about as stable as the weather, self-compassion is a rock that you can build your life on. Grow and water it and it will get stronger and help you to feel fantastic about yourself!
6. I am enough
Look yourself in the mirror every single day, in fact multiple times throughout the day, and tell yourself “I AM ENOUGH.” This one thing will radically transform your life. Turn up the volume and turn down the anxiety by addressing yourself in the third person, i.e. Sue you are enough! You got this!
7. Be YOU
The essence of self-confidence is confiding in or trusting yourself. When you show up as your true self you can’t be an imposter. So be your authentic self. No one can say you’re doing it wrong.
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I adored this post. Thank you for it. What wonderful advice. 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Lydia and I’m so glad you liked it.
Really needed this today
Glad it supported you, Monica.
I’m the Queen of Imposter Syndrome!
Thank you for the tips!
Just knowing that someone I admire (Dr Ellen, that is you!), also has bouts of “imposter syndrome” is a relief.
Until a few years ago, I hadn’t even *heard* of Imposter Syndrome, so knowing other smart, intelligent, successful people also have battled/are battling this condidtion, and having tips to navigate thru it, is an amazing release of stress and frustration.
Lots of love & hugs!
Be easy with yourself, Chris. Your work rocks and you are the real deal. Thanks for sharing. xo, Dr. Ellen