Coach's Corner

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome: A conversation about resetting your self-doubt.

Imposter Syndrome/Perceived Fraudulence – the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.

We’ve all been there. The feeling that you’re just not good enough to be in your role or not as good as others perceive you to be. The doubts keep creeping up on you, and eventually, you fall into a never-ending cycle of insecurity. That’s when the fear that others see it too sets in. Is it real, or are these feelings of inadequacy validated? You might be surprised to read the answer.

Imposter Syndrome (also referred to as Perceived Fraudulence) is a limiting belief that you should not be in a position you feel is powerful, influential, valuable, or rewarding. It’s a common issue that affects many people throughout all aspects of life. Whether through initial parenthood, via recent promotions, or in moments where your abilities are called into action, perceived fraudulence is a doubt that can overtake your mind and cause you to travel through a downward spiral of negative introspection. This phenomenon is so powerful that even considering the reality of prior positive achievement isn’t enough to undo its ongoing damage. Luckily, just like all limiting beliefs, the action of disempowering imposter syndrome starts with the awareness to reframe it into what it is.

Coach, are you really telling me that in order to get rid of imposter syndrome, all I have to do is think about it differently?

Let’s not jump to conclusions (that’s precisely what you’re doing when you convince yourself you have imposter syndrome). Yes, reframing is part of creating a better perspective for yourself when battling a limiting belief, but we need to dive a little deeper here. Let’s start with the acknowledgment. Just because you feel you are experiencing imposter syndrome (and labeled it as such) automatically means you’re doubting the doubt.

“I’m doubting the doubt?” How does that make any sense?!

Well, think about it this way: you are taking a fear that you’re not good enough, trying to find a way for it to be accurate, and then explaining it as “a syndrome.” Self-diagnosing seems great in a technologically forward world where you can ask bots for seemingly real answers, but let’s call it for what it is: running away from the problem and convincing yourself of an easy solution. If you’re referring to something as a syndrome, which by definition is an undefined cause producing a number of symptoms, you might want to examine what the source might be as opposed to what the symptoms are.

In this case, the symptoms are:

  • Self-doubt,
  • Anxiety for what might come,
  • The idea that you shouldn’t be where you are.

It sounds like an extensive list of limiting beliefs feeding off one another.

Okay so you’re saying that just by me thinking I can sum it all up as “imposter syndrome,” means I know it’s something else?

More accurately, it means you know it’s deeper than just that summed-up statement. You might want to consider why you’re taking such an easily ill-defined concept and labeling it on yourself. What’s going on in the “now” that’s making you feel you need that label in the first place?

You said, “in the now,” so I guess talking about my upbringing and past is out of the question?

This is coaching. We’re in the now. We need to overcome this perceived fraudulence. Why are you doubting yourself?

Answering that question will get you to speak about the actual limiting beliefs that are going on freely. As you do, you’ll instantly see that the reality you’re creating in your mind is different than what’s happening.

Okay got it. Now, how do I keep myself from falling into the “imposter” trap again?

First, catch yourself every time you make a comparison. As you sift through your perceived fraudulence, do you note how others in similar fields or positions are doing? Do you use this as a metric to see how you’re doing? How is that fair for you? You don’t know every detail of the other person/people you are comparing yourself to. Imposter syndrome often leads to the idea that something or someone measured next to you is more outstanding. That mindset won’t help to speak the truth of the scenario – you should never compare yourself to peers – focus on more measurable ways to improve based on building your skillset and knowledge, not on looking at others.

Next, as Carol Dweck explains in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” it’s about being in a “growth” mindset instead of a “fixed” mindset. The more you focus on self-labeling, the more you convince yourself of the label’s reality. That’s not going to help you. Instead, use the information you are noticing as a way to improve. For example, seeing that you are scared or not good enough means you know there are things you want to improve on. Learning to improve on those topics will be forward action that guides you into growing and out of the label trap. Embrace growth.

Finally, understand the fear. This is the most challenging solution step because fear implies overcoming an unknown. Think about that thoroughly, though. If you know more about that unknown, does that make it easier to deal with? Yes. Lean into the fear, not away from it. The process of stepping into the fear to overcome it makes you that much more able to handle it. Once you look behind that curtain and learn information to help you be more decisive, you instantly diminish the problem you were facing. This same concept applies to all Oz-like stories, all forms of client relationships, or even growing up. Understanding that fear is primarily fictitious information in your mind empowers you to find what you need to overcome it.

Okay, so I need to take some time and work through my mindset and my fears. Is it only fear that could be causing issues?

Fear is a piece of the puzzle. It could be a lack of organization, not knowing how to prioritize, needing more information about what you’re working on, lack of communication leading to confusion, and so on. The fear signals that something is needed when it comes to perceived fraudulence. That’s why leaning into it is so important. It shouldn’t control you. You should control it.

That was a lot of deep stuff, Coach. I don’t know what to do with it all.

Think through your perceived fraudulence and understand that it’s your brain saying, “I need more knowledge, more information, and more positivity.” Your brain is proverbially dehydrated. Give it the water it needs to thrive. Staying stuck inside your self-diagnosis only starves it more. If anything, it’s pretty awesome that your brain is talking to you – it’s just a matter of understanding it. Similar to how your brain signals hunger, it also signals informational improvement. Listen to the cues and communicate them out loud.

Wait, why do you always tell me to say things out loud? People will judge me if I do that!

Speaking aloud will help you organize your thoughts and see reality even more. Communicating them to a professional who can help you understand your desires, openly address any limiting beliefs, and accurately verbalize your fears will help you stay in the now. That means it will also pull you away from the depression of the remembered past and the anxiety of the unknown future. Those conversations are meant to be had with certain people at certain times, so it’s not about blurting them out loud when they hit your mind. Teaching yourself to notice when your brain is “talking to you” and being able to act on it accordingly will give you a lot of benefits, including the eradication of perceived fraudulence.

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