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The Imposter

Most days I feel like a fraud. I feel like I’m going to be ‘found out’ at any moment. I’m not good enough in my job and eventually my boss will find out and sack me. I’m not a ‘real’ author, and my publisher will find out and pull me out of print. I’m not a worthy partner and the love of my life will eventually see sense and leave out the back door with his wee gingham sack over his shoulder.

I know logically that none of this is true. But something is always nagging at me whispering in my ear that I’m not ‘enough’. I will attribute any successes in my life to other’s input, or simply luck, rather than my own talent or hard work.

I suspect I’m not alone in my insecure plight here. Almost all of us at some point in our lives have suffered from ‘imposter syndrome’.

This feeling of waiting to be ‘outed’ is perhaps most common in our careers; where we may feel inadequate, waiting not-so-patiently to have our role bettered by a new kid on the block, or when we are placed in an unfamiliar situation or new role. It can be overwhelming and disheartening. Here comes the science bit. On a chemical level, this fear of being ‘found out’ can be associated with higher than normal levels of the stress hormone Cortisol being produced. Stress increases and our dopamine levels (happy hormones) deplete. When our self-confidence ebbs we also risk reducing drive and appetite; all this combined, manifests in our emotions with fear, shame and uncertainty at the top of an already pretty grim list.

So how can we minimise these feelings? Here are 2 (therapist approved) suggestions that can be helpful when imposter syndrome strikes.

1.       Practising Positive Affirmations. Sounds a little silly in theory and maybe even in practice at first, but here we can employ statements to say out loud (or in our heads) to prevent a shortcut straight to negative thought patterns. Select a phrase applicable and true to yourself (e.g.: “I make good decisions” “I have a great rack”) and whenever negative self-talk, or consistent doubts pop into your head you can begin to create a mantra of sorts to over-write that instinctual negative pathway to the brain.

2.       Focus on Positives. Taking time out to focus on your own past successes can be an effective way to remind yourself what you are truly capable of. Our brain views unfamiliar situations as a threat and reacts accordingly with a ‘fight or flight’ response. When this response is activated our brain is not as able to think clearly, regulate our emotions and rationalise problems as we might in a calm comfortable situation. Visualising your own past successes helps to combat this reaction, because simply knowing that something is possible, makes it all seem less frightening to our delicate brain.

Imposter syndrome is a habit we are capable of breaking. Honestly you can, I’m not just saying that. 😉  Self-awareness, focused attention and practiced methods of thinking can aid us when these intimidating thoughts creep in. But really when this is an issue we should always begin by looking into the reasons as to why we doubt our abilities quite so strongly. When we feel we are not good enough for our job, lover, the world; we need to take stock of all we have achieved and are achieving.

For the record, I wrote all of this by myself like a big, clever girl, and my rack looked great while doing it. (*Repeats 15 times into the mirror*)

Kathleen NichollsComment