What am I doing here? Who am I to think I can tell anyone how to do anything?
Have you ever had this conversation, or one like it, with yourself? This is known as Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is a term coined in the 1970s by two psychologists. They were looking for an explanation for why women often do not take credit for their success but rather attribute their achievements to luck, even when the evidence quite clearly indicates otherwise.
Imposter Syndrome comes from beliefs of inadequacy that we develop at a very early age that we are…not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, and just plain not enough. And we apply these beliefs to any new or challenging situation we face as we move through our lives.
Who does Imposter Syndrome affect?
According to Dr. Valerie Young, who has studied subjects suffering from Imposter Syndrome, there are five types of people who tend to have this experience:
- The Perfectionist - anything less than perfect is a deemed a failure
- The Expert - if they don’t know all there is to know about their subject, they are a failure
- The Soloist - if they don’t do it all themselves, it doesn’t count
- The Superwoman/Superman - everything in their lives must be running perfectly all the time
- The Natural Genius - if they don’t get everything right the first time, they don’t know enough and are therefore an imposter.
It’s estimated that at least 70% of the population has experienced Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lives.
If you one of the lucky people who haven’t had this experience, you may not be able to imagine the anxiety that occurs when you’re always looking over your shoulder, expecting someone to find out about you, expecting that other shoe to drop. And the more accomplished you become in your field, the more you feel like a fraud, regardless of all evidence to the contrary.
Every year, I try to choose a word that will help me to define what the coming year will look like for me to help with my personal development. My word for 2021 is vulnerability.
There is nothing on this planet that scares me more than being vulnerable. In fact just admitting that to you feels very vulnerable to me, so you can imagine that telling you that I often suffer with Imposter Syndrome, makes me want to run and hide.
But here’s the thing…I’m not an imposter. I have experienced a lot of success in my life.
I’m an overcomer
- I overcame a very challenging childhood and I am a thriving adult child of an alcoholic
- I put myself through college which took me 11 years, and I graduated with honors
- At the age of 40 I earned my MBA and again I graduated with honors. That same year I got married, bought a new house and adopted two children
- At 41, I became a CPA
- After 28 years of loyal service, I retired from a prestigious company with a very nice pension.That's nearly unheard of these days
- I overcame not one but two health crises that changed the trajectory of my life in ways I would have never imagined. This is where I shine. I don’t say this to brag…because you should know, I’m no different from anyone else.
- I entered into an area of study that was so far out of my comfort zone, I couldn’t even see it. I decided to become a health coach so that I could help the people learn to do what I did, because I saved my own life by changing my life and by trusting my intuition.
There is solid evidence that I make a difference in people’s lives. I have clients who have avoided lifetime medication or have been able to reduce the amount of medication they need to stay healthy by working with me.
I am a member of Toastmasters. Toastmasters has made me a much better speaker to bring my message forward to the world. I take every opportunity I can to do just that and people listen to me. But I still get nervous when I speak to groups. However, I don’t let that stop me. I take a deep breath and soldier on. And you can too.
What can you do?
There are some ways to move past imposter Syndrome and own your value in the world.
- consider that what you do is bigger than you - focus on the message and not the messenger
- help someone else - the best way to know you are not the only person to fall prey to Imposter Syndrome is to help someone else overcome their own feelings of inadequacy
- take note of your accomplishments - identifying what you have done well will help to boost your confidence
- never compare yourself to others - no one is like you or does what you do the way you do it
- push through and do it anyway - the more you do and realize the sky isn’t falling, the more confidence you'll develop.
If you feel the overwhelming crush of Imposter Syndrome, I urge you to do this. Try to look beyond yourself and know that you have something valuable to share with the world that is uniquely yours and to withhold that gift is selfish. Don’t be selfish with your gifts.
In the words of Marianne Williamson, we may ask ourselves “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
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