The brain has many tools to seemingly self-sabotage and hold us back. Overwhelm. Resistance. Procrastination. Imposter Syndrome. But specifically what is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a pattern of continually doubting and questioning your abilities, knowledge, achievements despite evidence that disproves these thoughts.
It’s not a one-off doubt. And it doesn’t have to be in all areas of your life. You can be confident managing your health but doubt your abilities at work. Or you could be great at work but have imposter syndrome in your family life.
Almost everyone has feelings of being a fraud, an imposter, in some area of their life. We are neurologically wired to desire a community or tribe to ensure our survival, we naturally want to please and impress the people around us so they appreciate our value and our place in the tribe.
Two Common Signs of Imposter Syndrome
There are a number of widely accepted signs that you have imposter syndrome.
It can be difficult to pinpoint whether your procrastination is being caused by imposter syndrome or a lack of skill.
Chalking It Up To Luck
If something goes well in your business or life do you think “wow how lucky was that!”?
Think about if a post on social media goes well, was it just the algorithm working in your favour today? If you put all the focus on the aspects outside your control and lay the success at their door then imposter syndrome is impacting your assessment of your inputs and efforts.
Focussing on the externalities puts the control and influence outside you. It can show up both when things are going well, something was popular because of the algorithm. Or a post or offer didn’t do as well as you’d expected, that’s just bad luck, people aren’t spending because they are saving for Christmas. It totally downplays the impact you have, yes it can be painful to accept your offer just wasn’t right, but without responsibilities how are you going to make changes to it working?
Instead, you could review your actions, efforts and inputs rather than the result. Did you put thought into the offer, did you cover the benefits and not just the features, did you publish at a time your audience is likely to see it? You can’t control the result, but you can control the inputs.
Thinking Everyone Knows
This is the classic when you are afraid of being discovered as a fraud comes up. You think that everyone else knows exactly what you do and don’t know and they are judging you based on that. And they will take action based on that information.
I remember when I worked in corporate and my two bosses would go into a meeting room, I would ALWAYS be paranoid they were talking about my performance and I’d be called in and reprimanded at any moment. I might have been slacking off for the morning, or avoiding an important action. And I assumed they knew. Honestly, not once when I had those thoughts was I ever called in and reprimanded. My day to day productivity fluctuations were not my bosses’ main focus.
I see this in the online business space when clients are terrified of saying ‘I dunno’ if someone asks a question they can’t answer. First, we think we ‘should’ know. We assume people expect us to have ALL the answers. Then we think people will judge if we don’t know. And that judgement will impact their decisions, forever. We also tend to underestimate what we actually know. This stops business owners from posting content, or even offering services if they aren’t 100% certain, stifling your creativity and avoiding topics you are passionate about.
The Problem with Imposter Syndrome
If everyone has imposter syndrome in some area of their life at some point in time then shouldn’t we just learn to live with it? Yes and no.
It’s documented that imposter syndrome increases the likelihood of burn-out. If you are constantly questioning yourself you are basically in a daily inner conflict. And that conflict is based on half-truths and assumptions. We ignore the fact that it took twenty-five reels to get one that was popular, even though it wasn’t the one we like best. It also impacts your productivity, continually going back and forth over a decision is not good time management.
But I don’t think it’s helpful to think we can ‘solve’ imposter syndrome. The thinking that a few painful actions and uncovering our deepest fear will mean that we never deal with the symptoms again, is unrealistic and unattainable. We don’t need a cure.
We need to create awareness and management strategies. Imposter syndrome, resistance, overwhelm and procrastination. However it shows up for you, are all opportunities to access what is going on just below your conscious awareness. When you learn what is causing the doubt, you can address the root cause, not just ignore it and rely on willpower to get you through.
If you’re constantly doubting and asking ‘who am I to…” then get in touch for a free discovery session. We’ll look at something you just can’t seem to get done and work out what is causing the block and how you can make it work.
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