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How to deal with “Imposter Syndrome”.

The imposter syndrome can be loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. That sounds really horrible, doesn’t it. The impostor syndrome strikes when we feel it was pure luck that we won this important deal and not as a direct result of our hard work. Or when we feel uneasy when someone is praising us – as though we did not deserve it. The underlying limiting belief is that we feel “I am not enough”. As a direct consequence a second limiting belief often chimes in: “I am not loveable”. Why would someone love a person that is not enough. But wait, what if we all had these types of thoughts from time to time? For instance, after we have screwed something up we were quickly to conclude: “I’ll never be able to do this right”.

study from 2012 shows that 12 to 19 month-old infants fall on average 17 times per hour. However we would never tell our baby: “you will never be able to walk, just keep on crawling”. Instead, we applaud ever tiny little progress they make enthusiastically. Maybe there is something we can learn from this simple example. 

In my experience the solution is a combination of things. First, realize that these kinds of doubts are normal to have. Just don’t let your entire life be dominated by them. So, if it happens, don’t panic and be kind to yourself, just like you would be with that infant on its way to becoming a walker. Maybe problems are gifts that help us move forward once we decide to face and eventually overcome them. So, if we feel depressed when we screw up, we could ask ourselves instead “what have I learned”? Although we may admire “perfect” things, when we are really honest with ourselves there aren’t many. 

We might just have a blind spot. Thriving for perfection that can never be achieved actually makes our lives so massively miserable. Comparing everything we do to a perfect outcome or to what others achieved is so painful. Let go of this inner perfectionist that is driving you mad. That does not mean however that you should set yourself low standards. Find out what is a challenge to you yet seems achievable and re-check/re-calibrate from time to time. Do that in a playful way and reward yourself for every small bit of progress. It is a great idea to keep a victory log recording all the insights and successes you have had.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some kind of routine that we could follow to snap out of impostor mode? The answer to this question brings us back to the definition of state, a combination of physiology, focus and language. We need to change to a much more powerful state and that can be achieved within seconds! Close your eyes and think about a time when you felt unstoppable, full of confidence, ready to take on any challenge, with no doubt you would succeed. Stand like you did back then – strong, shoulders up, breathe deeply. See and feel what you saw and felt back then. Remember what you were focused on? What were you saying to yourself? Enjoy the power of this high energy state and give it a name. I call it superman/woman for example. Make a fist and squeeze it. Double the intensity, triple it. Enjoy the feeling. Now you can recall that state by calling on your own superman/woman and squeezing your fist.

Try it out and post your experience here. Let us know how you deal with the impostor syndrome.

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