Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome: Can I really do this?

Many of my clients are starting their businesses, becoming entrepreneurs for the first time either after years at home with their kids, or having the desire to change careers and start a business around something they are passionate about.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks they typically face is Imposter Syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

When faced with steep learning curves and significant challenges that entrepreneurs deal with every day, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, that voice crops up repeatedly saying, “Who are you to do what you are doing?”, “Why should people want to work with you?”, “You don’t have something special to offer,” or “Why do you think you are qualified to offer that service when there are so many other people doing it better than you? People like you aren’t successful”.

It’s awful. Not many people don’t suffer from Imposter Syndrome when they are pushing themselves to accomplish new, more significant things. I bet if you are reading this, you can relate.

This can stop you from achieving attainable goals because your confidence is so low you end up setting goals that are much lower than your capabilities. Ultimately giving in to Imposter Syndrome sets you up for failure.

And no one wants that!

I can’t boost you up

Now I’m not going to boost you up and try to tell you that you are good enough, you can do this, etc., etc., because will you believe it?  No; these are just empty words.

Imposter Syndrome, just like the voice of the Inner Critic is there to keep you safe.  Some would say they are the same. So Imposter Syndrome kicks in when we are doing something more challenging than we have done before; when we are reaching beyond our safe zone. When you feel like you must learn more, prepare more, or do more before you take a big step into something challenging, there it goes; Imposter Syndrome holding you back.

Why do I have Imposter Syndrome?

So, where does Imposter Syndrome come from, and why do we all suffer from it?  Our minds want to keep us safe and away from danger, and we developed this skill an incredibly long time ago when we were facing death daily.  Our choices of what to eat or drink could put us in mortal danger if they were the wrong decisions.  Venturing into unknown lands could put us in danger from predators, so our minds developed to make us cautious in the face of challenges or something with which we are unfamiliar.

Fast forward a good few hundred thousand years, and our minds have not changed very much, even if our world has. It tends to overreact when faced with today’s relatively safe world.

In the business world, we have to push ourselves every day to do new, challenging things, and this is where our mind kicks in to try and protect us from the perceived danger – failure or embarrassment.  And there is no escaping it; every time you get comfortable with something, it’s time to push yourself to do the next challenge; to enable you to grow yourself and your business.

Your brain starts talking to you loudly, putting self-doubt in your mind to try to keep you small and therefore lovely and safe.

What can you do about Imposter Syndrome?

So what do you do about it?  Because this is an innate safety mechanism, you are not going to be able to drown it out with affirmations that you are brave, fearless and strong, and that you are not going to fail. It just won’t believe you.

You are just going to have to prove it wrong.

How?  By doing what it is telling you not to do, jump in with both feet and your mind will realize that, oh OK, that wasn’t so bad or scary.  Each time you stretch out of your comfort zone, you will grow and show your mind that you CAN do it, and the world isn’t going to fall apart around you.

As I mentioned, this thought process was developed a long time ago to keep you safe from harm, imagine that!  These thought patterns are imprinted in the part of your brain, the limbic system responsible for primitive responses – fight, flight, nourishment, fear, and reproduction, the very things that keep the human race alive.

But there is another part of your brain that is essentially ‘you’.

The more conscious part of your mind also has thoughts that are a little more up to date, which are logical, deliberate, reasonable, and calm. The voice of reason tells you that, yes, what you are doing is scary but not life-threatening. You have a choice whether to listen to the old thought patterns or just to acknowledge them and believe something more accurate and current to your situation.

How do you change your thoughts?

So how do you change these thoughts so you can grow with confidence and be brave in the face of perceived danger?

Firstly, recognize when the thoughts arise that are holding you back—starting to notice when the Imposter Syndrome thoughts begin to surface. Remember that these thoughts are outdated, and you know that there are stronger more true thoughts.

You know you can do this.

Once you have noticed when and in what situations Imposter Syndrome arises for you, acknowledge this part of your mind, and treat it with the kindness and compassion you would treat a friend or loved one with.

Be kind to this voice that is trying to keep you safe.  Perhaps think of it as a kindly aunt who loves you but shows her love in a less than productive way, ultimately keeping you small and confined.

Have a dialogue with her “I know you are trying to keep me safe, but I have got this.  I can show you I can do it and it is safe, I won’t fail, trust me”.

It takes practice!

As with any new skill, this is going to take practice. While you are on the journey to mastery, show yourself compassion and love.

You’ve got this, don’t let Imposter Syndrome hold you back!

1 Comment

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