In writing my book on Imposter Syndrome, I’ve been having some very insightful conversations with people. I’ve been struck by the mistruths and limiting beliefs out there, so I wanted to dispel them right here in this blog post.
Myth #1: Imposter Syndrome is a positive trait that keeps you performing at a high level, to high standards.
I have nothing against high achievers or hard workers – I was and still am one, and know many who are – that’s not the issue. The problem is when you’re not consciously choosing to perform in that way, and instead, the behaviour is a symptom of not feeling good or worthy enough. When the root cause drives you to push yourself, to work long hours, to strive for perfection and experience negative thoughts and feelings which detrimentally impact your life, then no, it’s not a positive thing to work hard or aim high.
Today, I and numerous coaching clients, actively choose to work from a place of joy and passion which is underpinned with a solid sense of self-esteem. Sometimes from the outside-in that might look like working hard, longer hours or delivery of a high-quality output, but the feeling inside is VERY different.
Myth #2: Imposter Syndrome is incurable.
It’s true that repeatedly saying a few positive affirmations won’t overcome your deep-rooted subconscious beliefs about yourself or the hard-wired neural connections that drive your feelings and behaviours. It’s also true that there’s no quick fix to Imposter Syndrome, but with specialist coaching support, personal commitment, the right environment and the right techniques for you, you can overcome it if you really want to.
Myth #3: Imposter Syndrome only affects high-achieving women.
The original research by Clance & Innes (1978) was conducted on a sample of high-achieving women which is where the myth comes from, but countless research since has shown that no one is immune to it. In fact, anything up to 85% of the population have felt like an imposter, according to Bravata et al, 2020, and men and women are affected at similar rates, although they behave and deal with it differently.
Myth #4: If you ignore or deny it, Imposter Syndrome will just go away over time.
Suppressing your emotions and feelings is actually a quick ticket to burnout, depression and bigger mental health issues. Our emotions are there to be felt, processed and acknowledged – they teach us much about what we need to change in life and a lot about what is right or good for us, if we care to tune in and listen to them. Imposter Syndrome kicks up a whole spectrum of emotions and unhelpful behaviour.
Sticking your head in the sand, denying the signs and symptoms only serves to keep you stuck in the same place, so ignore them at your detriment. You might like to read this blog I wrote about how negative emotions can help you:
Myth #5: Having Imposter Syndrome means you’re not good enough for the job or your potential for success is limited.
Not at all! These aren’t truths they are beliefs. Imposter Syndrome can hold you back and is known to affect your performance if left undealt with. But with the right support, personal beliefs can be reprogrammed to unlock your potential and positively influence your performance, relationships and health going forward.
Myth #6: Imposter Syndrome prevents you from becoming arrogant, so that’s a good thing.
It depends on your version of what good looks and behaves like. I’m all for feeling empowered, quietly confident and believing in myself. One of my core values is respect – having it for myself and others alike. So, personally speaking, ditching my inner Imposter hasn’t changed my values, but it has changed how I express them. I’d go as far to say it’s enabled me to live them out more fully because I’m not holding myself back.
It all comes back to a choice over who you believe yourself to be and how you wish to live in alignment with your values and fullest expression of yourself. That’s not self-importance, that’s self esteem which is VERY different!
Myth #7: If you work on your self-confidence you beat Imposter Syndrome.
If you work on your self-confidence, yes it’s going to help you feel better, but Imposter Syndrome goes deeper, to a subconscious level and ties into your personal beliefs about yourself. Personal confidence lies at a layer above that. Many people outwardly can come across as confident and highly accomplished, but yet suffer with Imposter Syndrome because they don’t feel good enough, often not knowing why.
So, beating Imposter Syndrome is about looking at the unconscious beliefs you hold about yourself, and the thought and behaviour patterns you have, to tackle the root cause, not just the symptoms.
Further ways you can overcome Imposter Syndrome:
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