Hello, I am an impostor
My name is Gemma and I am an impostor. There. I said it. My impostor tells me I shouldn’t admit this out loud and that if I say it then I will look even more like a fraud.
But by now I’ve learnt that what my impostor tells me is rarely based on the truth. Through my own impostor journey, and by talking to others who live with Impostor Syndrome daily, it is apparent that few are immune from those impostor-like symptoms. However, there are ways to quieten that voice inside, and here are three practices to help you do just that.
Sharing IS caring
We go about the world witnessing everyone else winning at life, succeeding, getting promoted and generally being brilliant. We fail to imagine those people could possibly feel as we do and be burdened with the same thoughts of ‘not being good enough’. This perception serves only to magnify our own fraud-like feelings. We don’t see what is underneath their calm, confident exterior because they don’t talk about it. And when met with this silence, we feel less able to share our own true feelings. And so it spirals.
The more I talk about Impostor Syndrome and those feelings of ‘I’m going to get found out’, the more I am motivated to encourage others to share their stories. We do not judge each other (as my own imposter tells me we do) but instead support and raise each other up. We come together over shared experiences, thoughts and feelings and feel deep compassion for one another.
Sharing your impostor-experiences with those around you is where you begin to take back the power our impostor has. Opening up the conversation breaks down the taboo. It gives you the knowledge and reassurance (and in turn builds confidence) that you are not alone. It also enables you to see that even the most successful people experience the same thoughts as you.
To say those words ‘I am an impostor’ is a hard step to take and you may notice your imposter (as mine did earlier) telling you not to admit it to others - but doing so will create a sense of freedom within you and give those around you permission to do the same.
Get to know your impostor
The impostor within us feels uncomfortable and we’d all rather it went away. As with anything that feels awkward, we tend to distract ourselves from the discomfort and ignore it exists. It doesn’t go away and instead reappears with more vigor, threatening any glimmer of confidence.
But what if you knew that by looking closer, you could quieten your impostor and learn to live with it in peaceful harmony?
When you get to know your impostor, you create an awareness around this inner part of you. Much like getting to know a new friend, you can work out who they are, what makes them tick, what makes them feel safe and what is likely to trigger them.
Reflect on some of these questions to help get to know your impostor:
- What does Impostor Syndrome feel like in my body and in my mind?
- What changes when my impostor shows up?
- When did I first notice my impostor appear?
- What does my impostor say to me?
- How do I describe myself when my impostor is not around?
- In what moments / occasions / situations does my impostor feel at most peace?
- What beliefs does my impostor hold about me?
- What would help your impostor to feel more comfortable?
Building this awareness will help you see when your impostor appears, notice patterns and triggers. It also means you can prepare in advance with tools and techniques to help manage it.
Ask for the evidence
As well as getting to know your impostor intimately, start to challenge it by asking ‘Where is the evidence of that?’.
Over the years my own impostor has shown up at the most inappropriate moments to knock me down and hold me back. At school, it would pop up and tell me not to ask that question because I would look stupid for doing so. At university, I studied endlessly fearing I was not intelligent enough to achieve a degree. At work, it questioned me everytime I applied for a new role asking ‘Are you sure you are qualified to do that?’.
A few years back, I was offered a promotion in a company I had worked in for 5 years. My initial thought was ‘They must be joking’. When it transpired that they weren’t, in fact, pulling my leg, my second thought was ‘Well, I must be their only option. All the good ones must be too busy!’.
It never occurred to me that I had worked extremely hard, that I had the skills and emotional intelligence that was required, that I had experience and years of industry knowledge which made me RIGHT for the job.
My impostor didn’t look at the facts. And I didn’t know I had the power to challenge it. In fact, I had never heard of ‘Impostor Syndrome’ back then so I simply thought ‘this is just who I am’.
Simply asking ‘Where is the evidence?’ helps build awareness to question and challenge your imposter. When it fails to present the evidence, show it the real truth; look at your past experience, recall your successes, shout about your achievements, remind it of your promotions, your abilities, your skills, your personal and professional capabilities.
THOSE are the facts.
For many of us, our impostor appears every day. Like anything uncomfortable, we push it away, ignore it or distract ourselves from it. In doing so, we increase the power it has over us.
You may never remove your impostor completely but with intention, practice and self-compassion you can begin to quieten its restrictive hold over you.
Share your story. Get to know your impostor. Ask,’Where is the evidence?’.
Don’t let it hold you back.
By Gemma Brown
Gemma Brown is a personal and business coach (ACC) who helps individuals and organisations embrace their identities - uncovering their values, needs and true purpose - enabling them to confidently move forward. Gemma works with clients (1-2-1 and through workshops and group facilitation) to discover their strengths, build confidence, and support them in the process of achieving their career and personal goals.
Gemma has over 10 years experience of leading teams and empowering individuals to realise their full potential. Her belief is that being ‘our true selves’ increases motivation, performance and fulfilment.