Have you ever felt like everyone was about to discover you had no idea what you were doing? In any given moment, you were about to be discovered as a fraud, an impostor and everyone would find out you really aren't that good?
Albert Einstein described himself as an "involuntary swindler" and believed his work didn't deserve the amount of attention it received. Acclaimed American poet, storyteller, activist, and autobiographer, Maya Angelou, describes the feeling that she would be found out
“I have written 11 books but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” — Maya Angelou
Unfortunately, this is so common, people always feeling like they are one step away from being caught out. Often there are patterns of Perfectionism (if it's not perfect, then it isn't good), Fear of Failure (avoiding stepping outside of whats comfortable for fear of not succeeding) and Undermining Achievements / Discounting Praise (disregarding the positives / successes and holding onto the negatives).
These beliefs begin to influence our behaviours and as we gather more and more evidence to support the belief that we are a fraud, the more self-fulfilling it becomes (at least in our own mind). Take a moment to think back to when you believed in Santa Claus, you ignored all of the contradictory evidence, didn't you? You were able to be easily swayed by an evidence or argument instead that supported your belief. But maybe as you started to question, you became more sceptical and questioned the evidence more until finally, you stopped believing he was real.
It's the same when you hold the belief that you're an impostor! You will discount all of the things that you did well, ignoring that evidence that supports you've done well and instead gathering all of the "proof" that you're not enough.
As you may already know, our beliefs, values and programs filter the way we see the world and literally and intrinsically change the way we perceive and experience the world around us. They craft the meanings that we hold about our experiences and therefore, the emotions and feelings that we have about situations too.
The interesting thing, according to research we all have that negative self talk (and sometimes it's useful). The difference is in how we process it, the value we place on it, whether we listen or not.
Sometimes, looking at something from a different perspective can help us to see things different, to begin to interpret the world differently, change the meanings we place on situations. In NLP, we talk about the "model of the world" or the "map" from which people are operating and the map is not the territory.
I recently went Kayaking in the Royal National Park in Sydney and as I stood on the beach at Bundeena, I could see the Coastline of Cronulla - if I was to drive, it would take about 45 mins and yet, if I looked at the map and followed directions, that map wouldn't capture the terrain, the territory, the beauty of the sunrise, the hiking trails within the park - the map would be impoverish.
And our map of the world is just like that, we receive 2 million bits of information every second and yet we distort, delete and generalise that down to just 5-9 bits that we consciously process - and those bits are determined by our filters. There is so much more happening in any moment than what we can ever be consciously aware of.
And yet, we attract more of what we focus on! So when we are focused on the negative chunks of information, the evidence that we are frauds (in our own perception), the more we will find.... and again... that circle continues. By updating our map and filling in some of those distortions, deletions and generalisations, by seeing things from a different perspective - we can begin to shift our thoughts and feelings.
But, if everyone has the negative voice and 70% of people suffer from the impostor syndrome, what can we do about it?
1. Say thank you! Each and every time you receive a compliment, acknowledge it and say, thanks! I wonder how you feel when you compliment someone and they say, "Yeah, but... "; it's frustrating isn't it? So instead, try accepting the compliment with a simple thanks
2. Journal your own wins, successes, achievements and recognise that you do deserve them
3. Reframe!!! When you find yourself giving meaning to things and that meaning doesn't serve you. Ask yourself, what else can it mean? For example, if someone gives you a "look" and you've decided that means they don't like you.... ask yourself, what else could that look mean? Maybe it means they are constipated, maybe they are running through their own insecurities, maybe they are thinking about the fight they had with their partner... it could mean anything! Find one that fits and works to serve you.
4. If all of that fails, get a coach! (Preferably one that's NLP trained) And work on your old beliefs, values, patterns and programs - clear out what's no longer serving you.
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Watch TEDX - Thinking your way out of impostor syndrome
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