When we embark on something new it’s normal to feel self doubt and fear. We’ve all felt that feeling. Sometimes that self-doubt can manifest itself into something else. Feeling like you’re not good enough, that your achievements are not valid and that any minute you are going to get found out and ‘called-out’ because you’re a fraud! This is what imposter syndrome looks like.
Effects of imposter syndrome could include; dismissing your strengths, capabilities and achievements as pure luck (rather than down to hard work), not speaking your truth because you fear everyone else knows more, feeling like you need to constantly prove yourself. You might feel like a failure when you ask others for their support.
And the kicker with imposter syndrome is that it can hit at any point, not just when something is totally new. This can side-line people and make that doubt even deeper.
I help clients with understanding and overcoming their imposter syndrome. That doesn’t mean I am immune to it. In fact, the most successful of people often face this feeling the most.
I am no stranger to this feeling. I remember a time not long after I had gained my qualification as a life coach and launched my business. I was on a video call with some of my peer coaches. I was excited about chatting and reflecting, sharing our passions, commitments and experiences together. I got on the call and as others started to talk the feeling hit me like a thick heavy fog.
That little voice was saying, “What are you doing here!” “Everyone else is smarter, better, more qualified to do this.” “What have you got to bring to the table?!” Full-blown imposter syndrome had kicked in! Even though these were my peers and just qualified with me, even though I had clients I was working with and had a group programme I was running, those thoughts of doubt came flooding in. I started thinking that I was not good enough to be there and any minute someone would ask me a question and would discover I was a fraud.
But guess what, none of that happened! Because what I was thinking was not actually true. The reality was that we probably all felt nervous. We probably all felt a bit of doubt and comparison, that’s what we all do! When I started talking to others and listening to what others were saying I realised that we all felt the same. That started to break down the self-doubt and the fears and replace it with gratitude and excitement and my confidence came back in.
So why do we get it? Imposter syndrome is actually part of our internal safety mechanism. It is part of our brain keeping us from doing something that might harm us. But our brain does not know the difference between what is really a threat and something that’s a bit scary because it’s out of our comfort zone. That’s where our conscious mind needs to step in. That’s where we need to take control and notice where our brain is trying to keep us safe. And we get to choose whether to listen to it, or tell it to be quiet!
It’s only through my ongoing personal development journey that I have been able to tune into this. Before I had the tools and knowledge I thought I was just not good enough. Here are some steps and actions that have helped me to notice imposter syndrome coming in, and give it the boot when I need to.
1. Let it go! Let go of the pressure and expectations you put on yourself. Just show up, that is enough to start. Especially when you are starting something new, be kind to yourself and let go of the need to be perfect.
2. Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the antithesis to fear. When you focus on what you feel grateful for, it not only focuses on the positive aspects of your life and circumstances, but it also actively pushes out doubt, fear and negative thoughts. Write a daily gratitude list and include your achievements, either in a journal, your phone, a piece of paper. It not only helps to reframe your thoughts towards gratitude but it’s also something to come back to and remind yourself of all the things you have achieved.
3. Get to know your strengths, celebrate and be proud of them. We all have them! These are what make you as amazing as you are. Think about a time when you have pushed yourself out of your comfort zone and achieved something. If you’re struggling to think about your strengths, ask the people around you.
4. Challenge your negative inner critic. If you’re feeling like you can’t do something or you’re not good enough, ask yourself if that is actually true. Is there evidence to say you can’t do something or evidence to support you are not good enough. The chances are there is no solid evidence, it is a feeling. That feeling of doubt or fear might feel uncomfortable but remember it’s just a feeling, it does not have to stop you going for what you want. And it certainly does not mean you can’t do something.
5. Read and learn about the success stories of others. You’ll soon realise that nobody is immune to doubt, fear or this feeling of imposter syndrome. It does not make you weak or in need of fixing. Often being aware of it, labelling it and understanding it is the first step to overcoming it.
6. Talk. The best thing I did was talk. I talked to my peers, my friends, my family. Talking to my peers helped me realise that we all have doubts, but that we are all good enough to be there!
So how do I feel now? Now that I understand it, Will I ever feel it again? Absolutely! There’s no doubt I will experience it again, and again. Because I am ambitious and bold and brave, which means I will keep stepping out of my comfort zone and my brain will keep trying to keep me safe. But that doubt and fear is normal, and it’s ok. And I will keep noticing it, validating it, and letting it go.
By Danielle Thornton-Walker, leading Self Love and Empowerment Coach https://www.daniellelouisecoaching.com/
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