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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
How have you been holding yourself back from achieving your goals?
When I first heard this question several years ago it didn't click - I'M the one who wants to reach my goals so how could I be preventing this from happening?
The truth is that no matter how hard we think we are working toward our goals, we often hold ourselves back from achieving them on a subconscious level. It takes some introspective work and a lot of mental energy to overcome habitual thought patterns, so many of us are unwilling to “go there” and experience the initial discomfort of truly tapping into our mindset.
Self Sabotage Sucks!
Have you ever found yourself on the brink of achieving something amazing - maybe something you’ve always dreamt of - but retreated or self-sabotaged the achievement? Have you had a difficult time accepting praise? Have you put off starting a new project because you didn’t feel like you were “fully’ ready yet?
If any of these sound true Impostor Syndrome could be the cause and overcoming the ways it shows up for you could be the solution when it seems like you are doing everything else right.
5 Types of Impostor Syndrome
Here are the 5 different manifestations of Impostor Syndrome, as summarized in The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, that we should get familiar with because awareness is the very first step to overcoming anything we’d like to change -
The Perfectionist - This is you if you’ve ever set such impossibly high standards for your work that you decided to not take any action, because you wouldn’t be able to attain that perfect vision. This type of thinking either stops us in our tracks or cripples our progress or satisfaction with our work if we are fortunate enough to even begin!
The Superwoman / Superman - This is you if you feel like a true impostor in comparison to others in your life who are either '“farther ahead than you in life” or who are truly masters of their domain, “unlike yourself”. This could create a toxic habit of constantly reaching for more - more learning, more work, more experiences - without knowing how to take a step back to full enjoy YOUR life as it is today, and everything that you are already fully capable of.
The Natural Genius - This is you if you value innate skill as opposed to learned skill, and judge yourself based on how long skill acquisition takes you. This could manifest in feeling discouraged even when you are making great progress, because you feel that you aren’t learning something “fast enough”.
The Soloist - This one hits home for me the most - and it describes you if you feel like your accomplishments are not valid if they were done with support from someone else. This manifests in an inability to ask for help and taking on way more than we can handle by ourselves.
The Expert - This is you if you feel like you never have enough knowledge and hoard knowledge for comfort as opposed to putting what you know into action. This profile manifests in feeling unworthy to pursue a course of action before ALL there is to know on the subject is learned.
Breaking Through the Inner Impostor
No matter which one of these profiles, or a combination of them, you are faced with, the beginning of undoing the pattern begins with honest acknowledgment - to yourself first and perhaps even to those around you - of what it is that holds you back. Ask yourself - “what am I up against?” and think about what the opposite of this pattern might be.
Using the Expert profile as an example, the opposite of delaying action until more knowledge is acquired is taking imperfect action and acquiring more knowledge through powerful experience.
Holding ourselves accountable to overcoming any of these profiles can also look like setting deadlines for ourselves - and declaring them publicly - to commit to a timeframe by when powerful actions will be taken.
Take Courageous Action
Impostor Syndrome ultimately comes down to delaying action for any of the above reasons and retreating back into our comfort zone. Overcoming it begins with accepting that very little learning and growth comes from living in comfort, and learning to take the necessary, imperfect actions to step out of our comfort zone and into our growth zone.
Additionally, Impostor Syndrome can be weighing on us emotionally and physically via the conscious and subconscious stress it creates. Often we’re aware of the acute stressors in our life: a car accident, tax time, or missing our flight, but it’s more difficult to identify why we might feel “off” when we wake up in the morning or have trouble going to sleep at night. Without having a concrete event to point to we are left feeling less than our ideal self, less energized, and less motivated day in and day out for prolonged stretches of time.
Clearing away the mental blocks in our way can be a weight off - and not just in a figurative sense. Stress physiology is a very real sequence of physiological changes that take place to help us adapt to threats and life circumstances, but we were never meant to be living under stress for prolonged periods of time - let alone months or years. Our thoughts can make us ill, but the great news is that our thoughts can also make us better.
There Is No "Right Time"!
A simple formula to begin undoing the habitual thought patterns that result in creating Impostor Syndrome profiles might be: become aware, declare, take action! You will never be fully ready, and the outcome or the product might not be what you’d expect, but the only thing worse than taking imperfect action is taking no action at all.
My invitation for you is to dig deep to answer the question - “How am I holding myself back?” - and see what the one most impactful thing you can take action on today is!
I’m here to support you along the way! When you're ready to dive in on your mindset about the value you bring to your work, you can book your 20 Minute Coffee Chat so we can create a strategy for how to get you to your desired position in the next 3-6 months!
Marina Kay is a Wellness and Mindset Coach for Professional Women. Having overcome burnout, she decided to reinvent her life to prioritize wellness, travel, and contribution in the space of personal coaching. She uses tools like breathwork, meditation and somatic healing techniques to help her clients overcome chronic stress and rise in leadership without burning out.
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