Imagine you’re the head of a $250 million company. This sounds fantastic, right? Except you’re challenged with your level of success. You walk out of a exclusive CEO event because your anxiety is too overwhelming. Without that support, you wouldn’t be able to return to a room filled with other leaders — most of whom aren’t running businesses worth nearly as much as yours.
Here’s one example of impostor Syndrome. It’s also a true story shared by a dear friend of mine. The company that she managed is now worth more than $1Billion. But she’s still working on overcoming the impostor syndrome she felt at that event.
Research published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine has shown that impostor syndrome affects as many as 82% of medical professionals. But we can learn to appreciate that inner voice that says we don’t know what we’re doing without being defined by it.
How to live with impostor syndrome
Impostor syndrome attempts to convince us that we’re not capable of meeting the next moments — despite our training or experience that proves otherwise. A lot of it is triggered by something that was said or heard negative about us from our boss, parent, teacher, bully or frenemy. Our minds hold onto the words that we perceive to be judgment levied against us, and we repeat those words over and over, particularly when we’re in challenging situations.
The impostor syndrome is a common problem. However, most people hear the impostor syndrome more than rational voices. I’ve had to work hard to live with my own impostor syndrome. And what I’ve come to realize is that there are upsides to that voice because it tells me exactly what I care about most.
It is important to be able to understand and accept your impostor disorder before you can find its true meaning. There are three methods to turn your impostor syndrome into a powerful weapon.
1. Find out the source of your impostor syndrome.
Zero in on the voice of your impostor syndrome to determine who’s speaking. Often, the impostor syndrome you hear isn’t your voice but rather that of someone older and more critical.
The motivation of the voice is next. Is it trying to distract you? You can understand the motivation of your impostor syndrome and then you can question it. When you feel your impostor syndrome kicking in, recognize it for what it is — the voice of your fear — rather than allowing it to step into the driver’s seat, where it can run you off the road.
One of my favorite executive coaches, Bert Parlee, once described framing impostor syndrome voices as a “board of directors,” but to remember that you make the final call as chairperson. In other words, you get to listen to the voices around the table and then decide whose voice will influence your decision and whose concerns you’ll set aside.
Although it is difficult to ignore the voices of your inner voice, they can hold you back from grabbing your attention. Plus, it can be easy to confuse your impostor syndrome with “gut instinct.” However, the more you get to know your inner voices, the less power they have over you.
“The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head that I call my obnoxious roommate. It would be a great idea to create a tape recorder to attach to our brains and record all the things we say. It would be a wake-up call to realize the importance of stopping negative self-talk. It means pushing back against our obnoxious roommate with a dose of wisdom.” – Arianna huffington
2. Find out what situations can trigger impostor syndrome.
There are situations in life that can make you feel like an impostor. For some, it’s public speaking. For others, it’s meeting with a certain supervisor or client. For others, it’s a new opportunity. As you start to analyze the triggers of your impostor syndrome, you’ll uncover patterns that will help you predict when it might arise so you aren’t caught off guard when it does.
You can avoid the emotional blow from your often cynical board by anticipating the impostor syndrome’s arrival. That doesn’t mean you need to afford them too much of your time, though. Knowing your triggers can help you keep the impostor syndrome at bay.
Is it not more important to understand how to deal with impostor symptoms than to resist them? I’ve seen the resistance to impostor syndrome blow up partnerships, cause significant corporate revenue loss, and even destroy marriages — often without people ever realizing that impostor syndrome was the culprit of their downfall. So use discernment moving forward. It is up to you to decide what and who drives your decisions. When you have that awareness of your impostor syndrome, you’re less at the mercy of your own self-sabotage.
3. You can reframe your story.
A huge reason impostor syndrome is so effective in bringing people down is that we don’t intuitively balance negative voices with positive, rational ones. We might understand where the voice comes from and argue with it, but we want to take the next step of adding positive “voices” to our board of directors. These voices are a reminder of our achievements, talents and superpowers.
Take some time to reflect on the most distressing experiences you have had in your youth. They could include abuse at home, the death of a loved one or missing an opportunity.
Then, take a look at each incident and identify the things that made you feel safer. You will be able to regain some control of the situation by doing something innovative. If you were abused by your parent, for example, you may have been taught to be invisible in order to avoid being a potential target. These were your early innovative solutions that became your superpowers. Take a look at how you responded to every situation. Then, think about what superpowers you used to get back to safety. Write as many details as possible about your creativity.
Finally, make a list of how each superpower is still used today. If you developed the power of invisibility, for example, you might have found it’s powerful to remain unnoticed in certain situations. Everyone’s faced adversity and leaned into some form of creativity to survive. By taking the time to connect the dots between your painful moments and resulting superpowers, you’ll be able to share the origin story of the work you do today in the world and why you were destined to do it. The voice of impostor syndrome will stop trying to silence you once you know the source of your gifts.
This exercise can free you up and make you more useful to others. If you take the time to reroute your impostor syndrome voice, you’ll become better able to manage challenging situations. As a result, people will experience you as responsible, trustful, and graceful — and that will only help your professional relationships flourish.
Please canLearn to live with impostor syndrome and conquer it. You can overcome it no matter how many times you have been repelled by it. Like so many monsters and bullies, when you confront impostor syndrome face to face, it starts to lose its force — and you start to gain yours.
Addicted 2 Success published 3 Ways to Overcome Impostors Syndrome as a first article.