A new lens for navigating imposter syndrome

 

The headlines are filled with news of fraud and impersonation scamming people all around the globe. The estimates cost of people falling victim to fraud in 2021 as criminals stole around 7 billion USD through online frauds.  Pretty worrisome, right?!

But there is another type of fraud that costs many women in a currency that is invisible to the eye: COST IN POTENTIAL.

Women with ambition are brimming with potential, and have big dreams to go after what they want in life.  It is not the lack of ambition that holds them back, but that little voice in our heads that confirms we are indeed a fraud. Perhaps not a fraud stealing money from others, but a fraud who does not deserve to have the spotlight on them. A fraud who does not deserve to be in healthy relationships where she is celebrated for her ambition, and not made feel inferior. A fraud who can’t compare to others, no matter how much she tries. A fraud who feels shame and guilt as she tries to raise her children and build her career. The list goes on and on, as subconsciously they find excuses to live below their potential. I was one of those women who had a list of justifications and reasons why I was definitely a fraud.

 

Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.

 

For many years, I struggled with feeling like a fraud, and at times I still do. I felt like a fraud when I went from Secretary to Senior Executive, as subconsciously I did not feel worthy, and I tried to overcompensate with performance and pleasing. That’s what I learned to do early in life: do more, be more and give more, so I could feel less of a fraud in life. The reason I felt like a fraud is that I was awaiting others to tell me I was not. I became dependent on validation from the outside world that I was indeed worthy.

Little did I know back then, that is imprisonment when you are dependent on validation outside you. Think about it for a second. If I got approval from people I am trying to prove my worth to, then I will feel worthy of no longer being a fraud. Then I must be real.  That’s the inner voice of many women with ambition who live below their potential. 

Another scenario maybe is that you have learned to put people on pedestals and thus create an inferiority complex dynamics. The moment you place someone above you, the opposite dynamic is feeling beneath them. Inferiority.  So best is not to place anyone on a pedestal, even not yourself. You know what? Ditch the pedestal all together, so the pressure is off, and you can be the woman with ambition you were born to be. Unapologetically you without falling into the opposite dynamic of inferiority complex, superiority.

There is no secret sauce to overcome imposter syndrome. Perhaps imposter syndrome is part of being human, as healthy doses of reality check and self awareness are critical pillars for our growth in life. However, and a big fat bold, HOWEVER; you don’t need to suffer when it comes to imposter syndrome. You can navigate it from a place of worth and not wound.

 

 

Here are three ways to get you started!

The world revolves around the sun and not you. 

I remember for a long time waking up in the morning, dreading to go to work and face the usual office politics. I have a big imagination, and my brain often tricked me into making assumptions about others. Sometimes those assumptions were indeed correct. But many times, people were being insensitive, not necessarily psychopaths waiting to make my life miserable. Many women who suffer from imposter syndrome attach too much importance on the opinions from others and seek validation that they are indeed not a fraud. Their energy is focused outwards and becomes scattered, instead of focusing inwards and re energizing themselves with positive energy. What matters most is how you feel. The more positive emotions, the better your energy will feel and the more resilient you will become in owning who you are and build those emotional firewalls.

A rule of thumb, whenever you feel anxious and think everyone has you and your flaws in your mind, remember the world revolves around the sun and not around you.

 

Don’t allow fear to rent space for free in your mind.

Whenever I hear the word fearless, I cringe. It does not even make sense to be fearless.

What if a car is about to hit us?

What if we are about to burn our fingers?

What if a chiwawa will bite us? (Yes, not ashamed to admit that I also struggled with chiwawa syndrome, as don’t let size fool you!!)

There is a difference between true and false fear, and the only way to understand is to listen to fear for a limited period of time. When you feel fear, it is because your body is developing a stress response to keep you safe. Your brain perceives danger and signals to your body cells to ring the alarm. Listen and be present.

Is it real danger and your intuition is trying to warn you? Or is it a familiar belief that is keeping you below your potential because it feels unfamiliar to the mind? 

There is a distinction there and unless you listen and then send fear off, fear will squat on your couch for free in your mental house causing all kind of scenarios which are based on false premises.

 

Don’t take yourself so seriously 

Take what you do very seriously, but not so much yourself. Humour has always been a big part of my life, a big part in every area of my life. It has helped me relieve stress when I felt like a fraud and overwhelmed with feelings of insecurity and anxiety. It has helped others let go and take perspective that this is just a chapter in their life, not their whole life. Not only that, but it has helped me reduce my negative emotions and not dwell on failures or mistakes, but instead using them as feedback to grow and become more resilient.

Humour is your anti-dote of stress.

 

 

If you suffer from imposter syndrome, you are likely to add a lot of stress to yourself, which is unnecessary. The worst-case projection into the future, the flawed assumptions and the inner critic are responsible for a large chunk of your stress and anxiety. Face them with humour. It will feel counterintuitive to laugh and embrace humour when you have been conditioned to be feeling negative emotions in a categorized way. Learn the balance between positive and negative emotions, so you don’t stroll through life and fall prey to chronic stress. Take off the pressure and have fun with the process. Let go of attachment to the result and be OK with not knowing all the steps on your journey as long as you keep a laser focused on your destination.

I promise you, you will get there not only faster, but you will have fun along the way!

As Einstein said: when you wake up every morning, ask yourself this question: am I waking up in a hostile or friendly universe? Your immediate reality may allude to hostile, but your vision will help you choose differently.

Make sure you follow my podcast on Building Emotional Firewalls for women with ambition available at Spotify, and soon in more of your favourite podcast places!

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