Do you ever feel like an imposter in your role, that you will get ‘found out’, or do not deserve your success?
If so, you are far from alone as this is extremely common amongst business people.
For instance, according to research in the ‘International journal of behavioural science’ up to 70% of people experience imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
It is a name or label given to thoughts of inadequacy and questioning your right and credibility to do what you are doing. This leads to feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, anxiety, lack of self-worth, and even depression.
What triggers imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome can occur at any time but there are ways that it shows up that many people can easily recognise. Five common examples are:
1. I need to be hard on myself to succeed
Business people, as I know from my own experience, are notoriously hard on themselves. The drive to succeed, whilst good for getting things done, also has a shadow side of self-criticism.
Because entrepreneurs are visionary the future can seem more compelling than the present, hence an intense desire to get there. So, instead of enjoying each moment they are often beset by self-doubt and fear of loss.
2. The perfectionism trap
I once coached a client through a career change and he had been highly successful in his previous field. He was experiencing a great deal of stress and the origin of this was his thought that he should be excellent at his new job right off the bat.
This idea that things need to be perfect often comes from having unrealistically high expectations (and perfectionism is often a form of procrastination). If you want to accelerate your progress in a healthy way you might find ’10 career boosting books for financial planners’ helpful.
3. The need to be the expert
It is a wonderful thing to know a lot. Yet it is a rabbit hole to think you should know everything and if you don’t it somehow means you are not good enough. If we keep comparing where we are to where we think we should be it sucks the joy from life.
4. Feeling in over your head
I was once attending a three-day training programme with the coach Michael Neill. At one point Michael asked us if we wanted to know what his preparation was for the three days. I was staggered when he pulled a small piece of paper out of his pocket and said, “This is it!”.
The insight I got was that being ‘in over your head’ is how many successful people operate. They may even feel scared but they also know that when you hang in there what you need in the moment will come to you.
If you are not feeling in over your head from time to time you are probably playing life way to safe.
5. Mind reading
Mind reading is where we worry about what other people think of us and what we are doing. For instance, we might be afraid of making a mistake, looking bad, or being negatively judged.
Yet can we ever know what is in other people’s minds?
How to deal with imposter syndrome
So, is it possible to significantly reduce or eliminate the thoughts that create feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and being an imposter?
Yes, and it just takes understanding of where our experience is coming from.
Years ago, I came across the teachings of Ram Dass. He observed that when we are born, we immediately go into what he called ‘somebody training’. He said:
“You walk down the street and you’re somebody; you dress like somebody; your face looks like somebody. Everybody is reinforcing their structure of the universe over and over again and you meet [each other] like two huge things meeting. We enter into these conspiracies. You say, I’ll make believe you are who you think you are if you make believe I am who I think I am.”
In other words, we innocently create these ideas of who we are and how we should fit into the world. We then expend a huge amount of energy trying to live up to these images.
But what are we actually trying to live up to?
It is just a bunch of thoughts in our own minds. Once you begin to see this, you can move through these thoughts with far greater ease and become increasingly comfortable with who you are.
Ultimately, isn’t this what we all want?
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