I realised this week that I had been held hostage for over 30 years. By myself.
Do you doubt your accomplishments? Are you persistently living in fear of being exposed as being a fake, or a fraud, or not knowing what the hell you are talking about? Are you dismissing the accolades and compliments from others, because in your mind you are certain that they would change their tune “if they just knew…”?
You may be suffering from Imposter Syndrome.
And it started with only one event many moons ago. You were in a situation where you were assigned a specific task to complete (you may even have assigned this task to yourself). And you suddenly found yourself feeling anxious and doubting that you will be able to achieve this task. And when you completed it people praised you for a job well done, and you felt guilty because you just did not feel good about how you did it. Then you were given another task, and the same feeling that you had, appeared the second time. And in no time a new pattern formed — feeling guilty about being good enough.
The thing is, those of us who suffer from this experience do not realise that we set ourselves up for failure from the start. Because this feeling of guilt that we started off with usually mutate into a fear of being successful. We created unrealistic expectations through assumptions, comparing ourselves to the wrong people and their achievements, and, most important, by denying our true selves.
Our own assumptions are our worst enemies. I assumed that I am not allowed to be better at something than someone else — so, in mutated form: I cannot, ever, be good at something. Never mind being the best! This was worsened by parental guidance that being average is just so much better than standing out in a crowd — so, being good and recognised at a prizegiving is wrong and should, therefore, be avoided at all cost.
I wanted to die when I was referred to as talented, smart, innovative, a good leader, accountable and responsible, the list can go on…. Just because it was wrong to be the person that I was created as. As if we were created with no talent or good attribute…
All this baggage came with me when I joined the corporate world. I started early on with the habit to identify the achievers and performers in the group that I joined and then hanged out with them to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. I just made the small mistake to compare myself to them where they are, and not where I was. The result of this was that I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to perform at their levels instead of my own and that I denied myself the joys of enjoying my own journey as much as I should have.
I have also realised this imposter thing is impacting my financial life and the opportunity to receive what I am worth. It evolved itself to be the voice that said that I cannot have what I need or desire because I am not allowed to be in a better situation than someone else. And I believed this voice so much that I would give to others to the detriment of myself. It is still today a topic for an internal conversation if I need to prepare a quotation for a client or telling someone the price of my book.
I believe that the most effective way of dealing with imposter syndrome is to identify the exact moment — the experience — when you started attaching the wrong emotions to your experiences and then reframing it to what it actually was. To get rid of all the wrong assumptions, perceptions, and conclusions. Professional coaching is the ideal solution to overcome Imposter Syndrome. Coaching does not require you relive traumatic experiences; it sets you up for a less hurtful future. I know because I tried it.