Dropping Imposter Syndrome
Episode 002: February 1, 2018
You might be living with Imposter Syndrome if perfectionism, working way too much, undermining your own achievements, fear of failure, or discounting praise are among your go-to actions or feelings. Here's how to start kicking imposter syndrome to the curb and being more of you best, authentic self.
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Third time’s a charm, right?
I sure hope so.
With high hopes and what felt like a workable plan at the time, I launched this podcast a little over eight months ago.
Made it to four episodes. Then life intervened.
Or at least that was my excuse.
So I dusted it off and rebooted about two months ago. Made it to a whopping two episodes and . . . blamed it on that whole life intervening thing again.
Round three, and I’m done with that excuse.
Here’s why, or maybe I should say here’s how: I’ve finally accepted something I’m constantly writing about and talking to my clients about: life is always going to intervene - if we let it.
We live in a hyper fast, unpredictable world, where change is really and truly the only constant.
And my schedule, being too busy wasn’t the real reason I neglected the podcast - either time.
When I got totally, radically honest with myself - something else that I’m constantly encouraging clients to do - I finally admitted to myself that I was afraid.
I was afraid of being found out as a fraud.
Yup, I was suffering from a big ol’ case of imposter syndrome.
Even though researching and writing and recording episodes for this podcast is ridiculously fun for me - it’s aligned with my values, lets me leverage my strengths, and fuels my love of learning and teaching and, even feels a little like performing when I’m recording the episodes - even with all that stuff to celebrate, the doubts and questions kept creeping in.
Who am I to teach people about positive psychology? It’s not like I have a degree or even coaching certification in it. (Totally discount all the degrees and coaching certifications and smarts and integrity, that I do have.)
It takes too long to make it perfect, and even when I think it is perfect, when I go back and listen again, all I notice is how imperfect it is.
What if nobody listens? Wait, what if people do listen? They’re going to think I’m a fraud! I mean, I didn’t even pick a good topic. Who wants to listen to how to be happier in this crazy world, anyway?
Classic imposter syndrome was going on inside my head.
So what is imposter syndrome, anyway?
There term was coined by two clinical psychologists who studied high-achieving women, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes - who first published it in 1978 - which is about the time when my own imposter syndrome was starting to hit its stride.
It’s not a mental disorder, so you won’t find Imposter Syndrome in the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And while it was once thought of as an ingrained personality trait, there’s no significant clinical evidence to support this.
Instead, imposter syndrome is considered a reaction certain situations - so it could be called the imposter experience rather than imposter syndrome. Clance has written that it’s something that almost everyone - up to 70% of people - experience at some point.
Imposter experience or imposter syndrome can be accompanied by anxiety, stress, and depression.
So it can be connected with mental disorders, which makes this the perfect time for a disclaimer and a reminder that I’m a master certified coach, not a licensed health care professional, and this podcast isn’t intended for use in diagnosing or treating mental disorders.
Some signs of imposter syndrome are:
- perfectionism: This can’t just be excellent, it must be the most absolutely perfect, best ever.
- overworking: I have to keep at it or I’ll be revealed as the fraud that I feel like I am.
- undermining one’s own achievements: Sure, I have two masters degrees, but if this presentation isn’t perfect, I’m an abject failure.
- fear of failure: I’ll never get the kind of job I want.
- discounting praise: Oh, I just got lucky.
You may relate.
So what do you - or I should say, we - do about it?
I could let my imposter experience run wild and go on and on and on about how to deal with yours.
And I will - in future episodes, on my blog, and I’m even cooking up a course, something like “Escape the Imposter Experience,” but, of course, I don’t think that title’s perfect enough - yet, at least.
At any rate, here are a few ways you can begin to manage imposter syndrome and start to plan your own escape from the imposter experience.
(1) Know what imposter syndrome is and what it isn’t.
It’s not a mental illness, although it can lead to conditions that fall into the world of counseling or therapy.
It’s a reaction to certain situations that research indicates affects as many as 70% of us at some time or another.
(2) Notice with Self-Compassion
If you felt an aha when I talked about signs and symptoms because you noticed them in yourself - and that noticing was accurate - good for you, because you can’t change what you don’t notice.
If you’re beating yourself up for showing signs of imposter syndrome, drop that nonsense now and give yourself the kind of compassion you’d show to a scared, frustrated kid.
(3) Talk with others whom you trust.
Yes, this may include hiring a coach. But a friend or family member who’s able to really hear and support you - without judgement or trying to fix stuff for you - would work, too.
(4) Notice, list and savor the positives in your life.
Seriously, write down lists of past accomplishments, positive feedback, and success stories.
This isn’t fake, make-it-up, pollyanna stuff. And it’s not pretending away stuff you’re truly not good at, either.
I’ve been knitting a lot this winter - instead of producing podcast episodes, right - and trying out a lot of new techniques. Which, at first, I totally suck at, sometimes even after a lot of practice.
And unlike an awkward conversation or so-so presentation that happened and now is over. It’s something tangible, with imperfections that I can look at over and over agin.
But I really, really enjoy growing my skills, so I play a game of focusing on what I have accomplished and how much I’m learning along the way. But to do that, I have to notice the positives.
So, to recap, for now.
To begin to escape the imposter experience:
Remember that you’re not alone.
Be kind to yourself.
Find someone to listen to you who will check their judgement at the door.
Notice, savor and celebrate the true, honest-to-goodnes positives, because they’re always there if we look with enough intention.
And stick around, because I’m on fire to bring you perfectly imperfect episodes of the Positive Navigation podcast in the weeks to come.
I might not always get it right.
I might miss a week. Hopefully not a month or more.
What I have to say might not always resonate with you.
But I promise to show up with the intention of being excellent, not perfect so that I can ditch my imposter syndrome once and for all.