Impostor syndrome: when it shows up…OWN IT!
Why would we give any energy to negative, self-defeating thoughts? Because we are hard wired that way. As humans our brains are coded in such a way to help protect us. Think of it this way, when you touch a hot stove your instinct is to immediately pull away. That’s the hardwired code in our brains telling us be careful. Our feelings are far more complex and one way it protects us is by telling us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough or pretty/handsome enough. What if your brain was giving out warning signs and flares of danger when there isn’t a fire?
You might say, “that’s crazy, why would my brain give out a warning sign, if there wasn’t even a fire?” The answer? Because this is a way your brain is protecting you. This type of thinking has been programmed in our brains since birth. It is up to each one of us to continue the pattern or break free from it. We have control over what we think, feel, and believe about ourselves – always remember that! Some, more than others, find it easier to banish these thoughts and quickly recover from any self-doubt that might want to creep into our thoughts – again think protection mode.
How do they quickly recover? It has to do with the people they surround themselves with and the experiences they have had. For example, two people who have gone for the same job and one wins the interview whereas the other gets pipped at the post and has a hard time finding a job. The one that is still looking for a job has had their confidence knocked so much by not acing any of the interviews. Whereas the one who has received the job feels good for a while until their own safety mechanisms start to kick in and they start to doubt themselves as to why they were chosen for the position? However, these thoughts don’t just pop into a person’s head. They must have help from external forces in the form of new colleagues. If the new environment is not very welcoming, or they hear their manager say in their presence while talking to another colleague they had wished they hired the other person, of course that’s going to play mind games with your self-confidence. Especially if your new manager is not very helpful or distant.
That’s exactly what happened to me in the past. In my career I’ve worked with some people who have been real doozies. This manager was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They knew exactly what they were doing and how to play games with staff. I’m sure you’ve come across a few like that yourself. Which is why it is so important to surround yourself with friends, family and colleagues who support you and are not quick to chip away at your self-confidence by making little digs or derogatory comments about you. Life is way too short to be giving any one the time or energy to pull you down. You might be thinking ‘that’s easier said than done with my life’. Here are some suggestions to start to build your invisible positive forcefield around you:
Own it – be open to acknowledging your feelings when they crop up. Be an investigator and ask your feelings questions like:
Why did you just show up?
What are you trying to tell me?
I’m listening, what would you like to share?
Then, write everything down that comes to mind, and I mean everything! Once you’ve done that, go back and highlight key words, see if you can start to see patterns or themes with your thoughts. It may take several tries to really get to the root of your feelings and understanding what they are trying to tell you, or how they want to protect you. Remember thoughts latch on to the bad experiences in our lives more easily than the good times because our brain is trying to protect us. Understanding what your feelings are trying to tell you and what you can do to help fix the situation is a great way to start breaking those patterns.
Listen to your feelings – feel the fear and do it anyway. You know that saying about not being able to see a forest for all the trees? Well, sometimes we get caught up in our daily lives going from one meeting or task to another without taking time out along the way. When you’re busy doing things on autopilot- you don’t realize how much your brain is trying to process information until there’s no more room left in the ‘inbox’. That’s what happens when feelings tell us something needs our attention, but we are too distracted because life gets ahead of us so easily every day! If this describes you, take some time alone during lunchtime each week just for yourself to write your thoughts down, maybe even meditate, if your environment allows.
Gratitude – from your ability to see, hear and feel things as they are right now in this moment, how amazing it is that we have eyesight or hearing at all! What would happen if today was going along smoothly and then suddenly you lost your sight or your hearing? That’s why gratitude needs to be practised every day because without seeing our blessings clearly by using our superpowers of perception we miss out on opportunities that come into our lives every day. We need them so much more than we realize when we are not being open with our own hearts. It also helps us put things back into perspective so whatever might seem big during challenging times isn’t as big a deal, and we can see the bigger picture.
Surround yourself with the right people – this is so important because it’s going to be hard being your own cheerleader when you have been knocked down repeatedly by others who are not supportive of your dreams or goals. Sometimes, all you need is someone that believes in you just enough to give them permission to share their innermost thoughts with you, without fear of reprisal from yourself or judgement from them, about how they think things should go for you. Instead, they’re just an ear willing to listen quietly without interrupting too much while still offering thoughtful advice which would take away some emotional energy off your shoulders. Being able to share your thoughts with a supportive ally will help make sense of those overwhelming feelings.
Be protective of your self-confidence. Treat your self-esteem and confidence like a precious stone. If you find that your self-confidence has taken a beating, then starting today you can turn this around. Think Wonder Woman or Superman where they twirl around and magically turn into the superhero that they are. You can do this too. Start to vision an invisible forcefield of self-confidence and self-esteem rising from the ground to envelope all around you. This forcefield is too hard for any negative or derogatory thoughts or comments to penetrate. You can use this as your mantra when you start to feel those nasty little thoughts creeping in by saying “I am strong and my self-confidence cannot be penetrated by anything bad, only the good will enter”.
Over time these feelings should start to reduce, but, if they don’t try some positive affirmations like – I AM A GOOD PERSON AND PEOPLE LIKE ME! Or maybe something more specific like ‘people love me’. Find ones that suit your situation best. The key here is repetition – practice makes permanent. Here’s a few points on how to remember them through the day: Write down multiple times wherever you are your chosen mantra. It really helps to write this down. Studies have shown the physical act of writing down your thoughts has several benefits which include:
- Helps clear the mind
- Recover memories
- Ideas start to flow
- Puts your life into perspective
- Improves your verbal and written skills
- Great mental exercise
Change your surroundings. When you are in that negative headspace it can sometimes be very difficult to just snap out of it by changing your thoughts or thinking about something completely different. Especially if you are in a meeting and cannot escape the glaring eyes of others just waiting for your reply or give an answer. Try to change your surroundings, even if it’s just to go to the bathroom for a few minutes with your eyes closed repeating those positive affirmations as many times as you can remember them – this is where repetition comes in again!
If excusing yourself from the meeting is not possible, then the quickest way to put a pin in what has triggered you is to say to the other person ‘I’m going to need some time to think about this. I will have to get back to you’. If the other person is still trying to push your buttons by pressing you for an answer, repeat what you said with an addition of ‘I can’t give you a date when I can give you an answer until I look at the information’. You have now bought yourself some time to have a think about your response without being triggered by your feelings so you can craft a response without burning any bridges.
Impostor syndrome: When it shows up OWN IT! These 6 tips on how to squash impostor syndrome by Owning it through Listening to your feelings; Being grateful for what you have; Surrounding yourself with the right people; Be protective of your self-confidence; and ultimately Change your surroundings will set you up for success.
What are some ways that you have experienced Impostor Syndrome? How did you own it? If you found value from this blog post please share your story in the comments below, or send me a message I’d love to hear about your experience. You can reach me at: mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org