How often do you feel as if you are faking it? Do you worry you will be “found out” as a fraud?
Imposter phenomenon has lit up print and social media for a couple of decades now, and as clients stream in and out of my office, I have noted that it’s a reoccurring experience, despite age, race, or gender.
Suzanne Imes interviewed women and documented her findings in a paper called “The Impostor Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women.” She theorized that women were uniquely predisposed to the impostor phenomenon, “since success for women is contraindicated by societal expectations and their own internalized self-evaluations.”
Lest you think it only affects women, Pauline Rose Clance, one of the researchers who came up with the term “impostor phenomenon,” said, “In private practice, it wasn’t as common for men to talk about it. But when [the survey that diagnoses the impostor phenomenon] was anonymous, men were expressing it to the same degree as women.”
What is the impostor phenomenon? Well, it is not a psychological diagnosis. There isn’t a set of criteria to determine if you indeed suffer from it. However, each person I encounter—including myself—tends to exhibit a set of clear-cut symptoms. Do you suffer from it as well?
- You tend to focus on the negatively-viewed “failures” instead of the positive accomplishments.
It is much easier to focus on our experiences that we view as “failures” than give a little grace, and focus on the positive. We are more comfortable to make excuses for why we may not be able to succeed than to evaluate our strengths and make it happen.
Battle the negative thinking, and focus on your strengths. This change in thoughts will catapult you to success!
- You think the task must be rather basic. No wonder they asked you to do it.
Ah—but wait for it—for YOU it is basic. It captures your skillset and strength; therefore, YOU easily accomplish the task.
Often, others will compliment my ability to build rapport quickly and create the feeling of ease in my office. I used to think to myself, “No kidding. It is so basic; it is a must.” It wasn’t until years later that I began to accept through self–evaluation that it is my strength; therefore, it comes with ease. Whether I am in or out of office, people feel comfortable and loved in my space. Even as I type, I feel a twinge of “you can’t say that out loud” (residual imposter phenomenon sneaking in). But the authenticity and greatness of you is found in your strengths; there lies your success.
- The thought that if it is not difficult it is not worth it.
Guess what? Difficulty does not define a task’s worth. The greatest business advice I can provide is to keep it simple. The greatest successes were not defined by over-thinking and complicated plans! Focus on the problem you desire to solve and create the easiest resolution. Success will follow, in addition to retraining your brain.
- You think that what you do will never be good enough.
First and foremost, remove “never” from your vocabulary. Thinking in terms of absolutes feeds the monster of imposter phenomenon. It will only desire more negative thinking to feel again. Instead, starve the monster, and repeat, “I am good enough. I am amazing.” See? It is not a matter of what others think that will truly eradicate imposter phenomenon. Instead, it is all in YOUR control. Pretty powerful, I know. Make it happen!
- You permit your mind to focus on the fear, rather than imagine the success.
How often does anxiety overcome you? How often do negative thoughts crush your desire to stay motivated? This creates the platform to lose motivation and ambition and stay in the state of imposter phenomenon. You have a choice.
Again, you have the power to shift from the place of anxiety to a place of peace. How? Take the time to imagine success. I want you to picture accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, or like myself, I will picture myself speaking to 1000s of children and adults about my passion. I picture it at least twice a day. Now it is your turn. Picture success. Let go of the idea and anxiety of failure.
- You feel so deeply that it clouds your ability to stay focused on the task.
Often clients speak to me about feeling overwhelmed with emotions. They will say it is too difficult to stop the head from thinking: a feeling of being paralyzed. When we allow our thoughts to wander, we can often over-think, over-analyze, and feel lost. When you are overthinking, how often are the thoughts positive? The thoughts are negative, increasing your anxiety and creating a flood of emotions. Therefore, STOP. Stay in the moment, continue with the positive self-talk, and make it happen. When you are struggling to feel positive that day, peruse motivational quotes, YouTube videos, or Facebook pages. Or, reach out to a friend to remind you OF YOU! Get out of your own way.
Kristie Knights is a licensed psychotherapist, collaborative practitioner in civil and divorce law, professional speaker, author, and vice president of the Global Sisterhood Non-Profit 501(c)(3).