A Date with Imposter Syndrome
Did you know 70% of us experience imposter syndrome at least once in our lives?
Imposter Syndrome is the inability to enjoy your own success. It’s attempting to reach that goal and looking around thinking, “I don’t belong here, someone is going to call me out.”
Imposter syndrome plagues even the most accomplished, successful people because it has nothing to do with qualifications or experience. Imposter syndrome attacks your confidence and changes your thought processes, and it can impact your productivity and even your relationships, big time.
What Imposter Syndrome Looks Like
Imposter Syndrome can manifest itself in so many different ways. For me, I didn’t think I had any huge issues. But there were two things I struggled with:
I’ve always struggled to say the words ‘I am an online magazine editor’ when people ask me what I do. I mumble something about brand work, social media and writing and the internet – forget about an elevator pitch! I hear myself stumble over my words, and I feel hot and sick. I then deflect any line of questioning on to the person asking the question.
The second thing: When friends ask me about my relationship, I brush over it. Because the reality is if I tell them how awesome things are going out-loud, I then become convinced something will soon go wrong; since my marriage ended abruptly four years ago, I often joke that I am a repellent of inter-relationship security and stability.
Why Women Feel It Most
When the Imposter phenomenon was first discovered, psychologists thought it was only present in women. I’m not even a little surprised by this. Women face a unique degree of pressure to do all the things, to be everything, – a career-woman, a doting partner, the perfect mother, a homemaker… a supportive friend. Our self-worth can easily get all wrapped up in what we’ve achieved, or what we claim as our titles. I wanted to find out where it manifested.
Where to Start?
I put a call-out on social media for a qualified coach with therapeutic training to collaborate with on this article.
Now, this is 2021. There’s a fashion out there right now to ‘coach’. I knew, like mine, many issues behind Imposter Syndrome run deep. So, I wanted the real deal.
I met @themindsetarchitect, also known as Betty Hemingway and explained what I was looking to achieve from the article.
‘Well, you can just google all that’ she said. She wasn’t wrong.
Upon research, there’s plenty of top tips on keeping Imposter at bay by ‘keeping a compliments list’ and ‘reframing your mindset’. Instead, she offered me a personal session to tackle my very own issues with imposter syndrome and write about my findings.
‘Oh sh*t’. I thought.
The Third Chair
I arrived at the session, late and flustered, after a disastrous and emotional start to a Monday (I’d lost my mobile and my purse, all before 09:30 am.) – to not two, but three chairs. I asked if someone else was joining us? Betty told me one was for me, one was for her, and the other, for my imposter. I rolled my eyes. For fu…
Just go along with it, Emma.
Apparently, the purpose was to explore my imposter, – from a different viewpoint. One where the Coach uses an empty chair to position a “part of (my) self” (the imposter), separate from me. Betty told me it allows us to explore without already thinking we ‘know’.
“To suspend your perceived ideas to explore how this part of you literally “shows up”.” She explained.
I got over myself and started to apply myself to the process because what else was there to do?
I was told we were exploring my Imposter as a sub-personality.
The theory is that we all have various sub-personalities, and those personalities have functions that actually serve us in some way. The problem is, those sub-personalities can ‘take over’ when a familiar event happens, or a particular emotion is triggered. The sub-personality then fills our consciousness and we are cut off from the rest of our personality. We then get stuck in a pattern every time that emotion or situation is triggered.
That sub-personality then over-powers us. It affects how we perceive our reality, how we react to situations, how we feel about ourselves and even the decisions we make.
I was asked questions about ‘Imposter Emma’, exploring who she was, what she wore, how she sat and what her fears were. We began to unravel how she saw the world, how she served me, what her goals were for me, and, her gift. I definitely saw Imposter Emma from a fresh perspective.
What I Learnt
What did I learn about Imposter Emma? She’s scared. I mean really scared. Scared we won’t overcome the damage left behind from our disaster marriage. Scared of how that will affect our five-year-old son; worried about how our parenting style and decisions are shaping the man he’s growing in to. Anxious that we’re not productive enough with our time. Terrified that the business we’re working so hard to build will fail. Note the use of the royal ‘we’ there. We’re still the same.
I also had the realisation that Imposter Emma exists because she wants to protect me from making a fool out of myself and feeling a familiar type of pain. She grounds me and as it turns out, works tirelessly to protect me from completely f**king up.
This enabled me to consider what was a reality, and what was just a fear. I realised that HER concerns completely mirrored MY Goals of:
A healthy, stable and trusting relationship.
A successful editorial.
And the desperate desire to raise an emotionally balanced child who is kind and considerate.
Her fear is me failing at those goals.
The fear of failing at those things is so real, my Imposter would rather stop me than allow me to fail. I just didn’t know until I sat at a table with it.
Sorry to those who have scanned and scrolled here. I’ve got bad news: There isn’t one.
Because if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, the chances are there’s a part of you that wants to be heard, that just isn’t getting the airtime.
I realise now that I base my beliefs about the present on the outcomes of the past. But I know that despite the fear of history repeating itself, I can still make considered choices and decisions.
I know I am strong and determined, but I need to give myself time to sense check my decisions in both life and business as opposed to acting on impulse.
Since I understand why my Imposter is there, I’ve felt a shift. A sense of balance that I hadn’t experienced before. Understanding that she’s a part of me and isn’t something I can just shake off with some breathing and mindfulness techniques, I can see myself differently.
I’ve noticed I react less to triggers, and my relationship with myself has improved. I’ve also gained confidence in myself. I know this because when that anxiety creeps in these days, I now have the tools to rationalise what is a reality, and what is just a fear of failure.
Imposter Syndrome is born from different places for everyone, so we asked @themindsetarchitect what we could all ask ourselves to help connect our own dots and overcome imposter syndrome.
Betty explains here
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