Imposter syndrome is that nagging doubt that most of us experience when we wonder about how much value we are bringing to any situation.
“Imposter Syndrome” is what people used to refer to as “the inner critic”. It’s the voice of your thoughts trying to lead you towards being a better person, a more skilled, more honest, more everything person. Imposter syndrome is the part of us that says “Goddess? Ha! You’re just a regular person!”.
But just like parents doing their best to help a child grow and improve by pointing out their mistakes and faults, it undermines our confidence. With enough self-doubt, we become fearful and hesitant to take risks.
You might have imposter syndrome if you
- Have to “fake” feeling confident
- Know that you don’t have all the answers
- Are a human being with a critical eye.
Seriously, most of us have imposter syndrome on a pretty frequent basis. And if you don’t feel you do, maybe you aren’t learning and growing as much as you could be.
3 Simple Tips for Disrupting Imposter Syndrome
Keep a gratitude journal
When I first started keeping a gratititude journal, I did it wrong. I made lists “I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my dog. I’m grateful for my car.” And I’d write and re-write the same things day after day. That didn’t really inspire gratitude at all. It just became another meaningless chore.
Seriously it took YEARS for me to get this right.
When you write in a gratitude journal, you aren’t listing everything that you’re grateful for, that would be a huge huge list. What you are trying to do is to inspire feeling. You are not just saying “I’m grateful for my family” but remembering when you all went on a hike together, shared a good meal or a good laugh.
Also, when you write in a gratitude journal, it’s nearly meaningless to list “things”, especially since we want to inspire feelings. It’s a lot more evocative to list specific events that inspire you. One from my journal today? Picking bright yellow tomatoes from the garden and popping them in my mouth. See how that’s a better expression of gratitude than “I’m grateful for tomatoes?”
The truth is that we are grateful for expereinces, not concepts.
So, how does a gratitude journal help with imposter syndrome?
The basis of imposter syndrome is feeling like a fraud. Feeling as if you don’t deserve what you get, and what you don’t get, you didn’t deserve. When you keep a gratitude journal, you are more focused on what you did get. And you realize that your experiences aren’t about what you (or anyone for that matter) “deserves”.
Keeping a gratitude journal can also be an important part of any spiritual practice. It’s an opportunity for conscious entrepreneurs like us to be grateful for our lives and our experiences.
Start a gratitude journal – or restart an old one. For 29 days- in the morning before you start your day, write 10 things -SPECIFIC THINGS OR EVENTS- that make you feel happy, appreciated, loved, not alone. Then when the day is over, write just 3 things that happened that day that inspired good feelings. When you have trouble some grouchy mornings, look over your evening gratitudes to inspire you.
Notice when it comes up
When someone gives you a compliment and you dismiss it, saying “it’s no big deal”, realize that your inner critic is undercutting a very nice compliment. You’re not disrupting your imposter syndrome, it’s actually hijacking a really sweet moment of connection.
The easiest place to see your inner critic is when people express appreciation for you. In Spanish, the correct response to a compliment is “De nada” – literally ‘it’s nothing’. My ex-husband is from Bhutan, a country where it’s not as common to thank people like it is in the United States. He would be offended by my excessive ‘thank you’s’ for the same reason.
If you want more techniques on how to recognize your inner critic just google “self-talk”, there’s a lot of info out there.
People often talk about “losing momentum” but what they often mean is that their self doubt has thrown a wet blanket on their shining genius and it feels too hard to go on. Take a few moments each day to recognize the goddess that you are and how the light of the world shines through you.
When you notice yourself being self-critical, name that crotchety little part of your brain. Mine is named “Archibald”. Create a character for that never-satisfied critic that is always bugging you, trying to get you to do better by undercutting your every success with stories of how you could have done so much better. Think of this character as a grandpa or aunt who loves you but just doesn’t know how to express it well. Don’t take them or their words seriously, just chuckle when you hear them criticise you.
Put Your Skeletons on The Lawn
What do you think that you are hiding from the world? Do you think that you’re such a skilled actress that you can fool everyone and everything around you?
I once went to a training for a method called “Hakomi Therapy” with a bunch of people that I had never met before. We did a fascinating excercise where about 5 of us sat in five circles silently. We would all take turns just observing one of the five people in the group for about 3 minutes. After that three minutes, everyone except the ‘observed person’ would talk about what they thought was going on with the person that they observed.
It was crazy accurate. Like “I feel like you are just finishing up your divorce and are really relieved” kind of accurate. I had something going on at the time, and every single stranger in that circle could glean basically what was going on with me.
The truth is we like to comfort ourselves by thinking that we are seperate from others, that we live in a vacuum under our own control. But that isn’t true and it’s never been true. If you aren’t living with authenticity, people know.
Write down the things about yourself that you think you are being SO successful at hiding from the world. Literally write down your “secrets”.
Then realize that these crises or ‘faults’ or ‘problems’ are not secret at all. Realize that even strangers could make an informed guess and get uncomfortably close.
Once you realize that, relax and let your guard down. If you need to, get help. See a good friend or a therapist and talk about your skeletons.
Don’t try to “hold it together”- everyone can see your underwear!
Don’t Try to “Get Rid Of” Your Imposter Syndrome
First of all, it’s not going to work. The critic is part of our intelligence that evaluates our everyday actions- people used to call it a ‘conscience’ back in the day.
The truth is that “Imposter Syndrome” is not trying to undermine your confidence or weaken your resolve or undercut your aspirations. It’s doing it’s job of helping you learn from your experiences.
So put old ‘Archbald’ or ‘Aunt Minnie’ on a comfy chair up in your brainspace somewhere and give them a cup of tea. They might nag you a bit but they are doing it because they care.
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