Tap tap tap…

You feel the sensation on your shoulder and you always knew they were coming.  The Imposter Police have finally caught on to you and they are here to escort you out.  You think “I know everyone here is smarter and more accomplished than me, and knows what the hell they are doing.  Well, its been fun while it lasted!” as they drag you away to obscurity.

It is time to wake up from this maladaptive fantasy because you are NOT an imposter!  You earned the spot you have and it is time to start owning your success.  The Imposter Syndrome robs us of our confidence, impairs performance, limits ambition out of fear, and keeps us from connecting to others in meaningful ways.  Understanding the Imposter Syndrome is the key to beating it!

Imposter Syndrome affects a specific target population – the educated, the affluent, and the successful.  If you have ever suffered with these feelings, congratulations, you are educated, affluent, and successful!  Also, you are NOT alone.  Studies reveal that at least 70% of this population is affected.  How can you face your imposter demons and wrestle them into submission??  Let’s talk about diagnosis and treatment!

  1. Status Comparicus

When you have some cool accomplishments and accolades under your belt – some awards, a few publications, an important committee at work – and you meet someone who has accomplished more. They have several publications, chapters, awards, and committees.  Then you meet the one-upper who has done 257 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials, has written an entire textbook and is the direct descendent of Hippocrates himself.  So you start shaking internally about how impressive and important everyone else’s accomplishments are.

Treatment:  Shake it off!!!  Because the truth is, they are awesome.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t also be awesome.  They didn’t use it all up!!  Awesome is an infinite resource!  And that person can’t be awesome in the unique, authentic way that only you can.  “Wanting to be anyone other than who you are is a waste of who you are” (Kurt Cobain).

  1. SHOULD-ing all over yourself

You tell yourself “I should do more research”, “I should write more textbook chapters”, “I should get on more committees” “I should, I should, I should”…until you are knee deep in it. And let me assure you, it reeks!

Treatment:  When you find yourself knee deep in the “should”, I am going to send 2 people over to your house: an incessantly questioning toddler and a snotty teenage kid.  When you say something like “I should do more research”, the toddler will ask you…why? Why? Why? Why?  If you answer is something like “because it resonates with me, I’m passionate about it and it’s my career goal” …then fine, he will leave you alone and go color on your walls.  Buuuuuttt…if the incessant whys lead you to something like “Sarah has a lot of research on her CV”, the snotty teenager will barely look up from his phone, roll his eyes at you, and say “who cares?!”.  So anytime you have the shoulds, it must pass the “why” and “who cares” test or you need to flush it down the toilet.

  1. ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts)

They pop into your head before you even realize they are there. Friend: “hey, that’s a really nice dress”.  You: “oh no, I have no fashion sense, I’m a hot mess” (boom, that’s an ANT!).  Coworker: “that was a really insightful comment you made at the meeting” You: “I’m only on the committee because they needed a warm body” (ANT!!).  You look in the mirror and your mind automatically criticize your “faults” …your nose, your hair, your make up (ANTS everywhere).  The infestation is insidious and destructive!  These little bug-like thoughts eat away at the foundation of your self-confidence.

Treatment:  As soon as you get a compliment and hear yourself thinking or saying anything negative, stop in your tracks immediately!!  Replace your typical reply by saying thank you and accept the damn compliment.  You won’t burst into flames, I promise!  The key to eliminating your infestation is immediate recognition and immediate counteraction.

  1. Telepathic Delusions, vague goals, and fear

When our confidence feels low, we are afraid to admit what we want. So instead of telling people our goals and dreams, we just try to think them so hard that people will notice our efforts and magically give us what we want.  Or we are scared of reaching for our goals so we do self-sabotaging behaviors like procrastination and half-assing things.  Because if you never finish something, no one can judge the final product, right?!  What you think you are doing is protecting yourself from rejection, but what you are actually doing is preventing yourself from reaching your goals.

Treatment: NO ONE CAN READ YOUR MIND!!!  If you want something, it’s time to ask.  If you want to be the director of patient satisfaction, set up a meeting with your boss and outline a plan of steps and accomplishments that you will need to reach your goal.  You need to stop being vague about it and get mighty real.  LIVE YOUR LIFE!!  Do that awesome amazing thing that is authentically and uniquely you.

  1. Perfectionism

You dot every i, cross every t, overprepare and over rehearse before you will even make a comment. You are so afraid that if you make one tiny mistake, everyone will realize that you aren’t perfect.  You are worried they will think you are dumb and don’t belong.  Because you are worried they might be right.

Treatment:  It is time to stop worrying so much about what other people think, because the truth is, people aren’t thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are.  What are they thinking about?  Themselves!!  Their own ANTS and problems.  Stop worrying so much about being perfect!  Newsflash – you are not perfect.  But neither is that awesome person you feel intimidated by!!  We are all just humans.  Being.

  1. Overwhelm

Everything you have and do is balanced on the foundation of your self-confidence and self-worth – your career, goals, ambitions, relationships, hobbies, and dreams. When that base is rickety from lack of inner support for yourself and from being eaten away by ANTS, it is no wonder we feel wobbly!  But do we speak out??  NO!! Because if we tell anyone that we feel like we don’t know what we are doing, we are afraid…Afraid that they will…what??  Shoot us??  Fire us??  Quit being our friend??  Unmatch all of our socks??  What are we so afraid of???  The Imposter Syndrome keeps us lonely because we are afraid to reach out and make a meaningful connection and “confess” to others.  But the only way to beat it is to shine a light on it!

Treatment:  Reach out!!  Humans aren’t meant to be solitary creatures.  Use your support system, find your tribe, speak your truth.  If at least 70% of educated, affluent, and successful people feel this way, it is very likely that the people around you can relate.  YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

The truth is, there will always be problems and stressors in life.  You can’t change that.  But you can change how you respond, you are absolutely empowered to do that!  Problems are like lemons, if you cut off a big hunk of lemon and stick it in your mouth, it is bitter!  But if you dilute it into a glass of water, it’s not so hard to take.  You dilute it by connecting with others, recognizing your ANTS, and practicing and strengthening your confidence skills.  In time, you will become so good and so strong that the next time life hands you lemons, you will make apple juice!!  And leave everyone wondering how the hell you did it.

Watch the full FIX17 talk below!