The Client-centred Blog

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like an imposter in your role, that you are out of your depth, will get ‘found out’, or do not deserve your success?

If so, you are far from alone as this is extremely common amongst high achievers.

According to research in the ‘International journal of behavioural science’ up to 70% of people experience this.

So, what is it?

It is a name or label given to thoughts of inadequacy and questioning your right and credibility to do what you are doing. It creates feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, anxiety, lack of self-worth, and even depression.

When can it occur?

It could occur at any time but there ways that it shows up that many people can easily recognise. Three examples are:

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 it can often seem like the future is better than the present, hence an intense desire to get there. Instead of enjoying each moment and the successes they have had, they are often beset by self-doubt and fear of loss.

Perfectionism

I once coached someone who was highly successful in his field but was going through a career change. 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.

The need to be the expert

It is a wonderful thing to keep learning and yet the idea that you need to know everything will also lead you into a trap. If we keep comparing where we are to where we think we should be it sucks the joy from life.

So, is it possible to significantly reduce or even eliminate the thoughts that create these feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, and being an imposter?

Years ago, I came across the teachings of Ram Dass. One the things he talks about is how when we are born, we immediately go into what he calls ‘somebody training’.

“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.”

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. But we think this is who we are and if we do not conform to them terrible things will happen.

Yet those terrible things are just as illusory as our self-image. 

I realised that you can be comfortable with who you are right now.

Just be who you are.

Does this mean that you give up wanting to improve? This is not my experience. I can enjoy learning, becoming more skillful, and getting better. But none of that means anything about me, it is just a choice I am making.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” Carl Rogers P.S. You can listen to Ram Dass in this short video talking about the antidote to fear. Click here to view.

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