So much of how far we go in the world stems from our sense of self. Sure, there are influencing factors out there, but much of our success is driven by our internal world. And of course, the same can be said for much of what holds us back.
Most of us have experienced moments of imposter syndrome first hand. Those times when you feel inadequate. That worried little voice in your head that asks, “who am I to do ‘X’?”
These little moments aren’t a big problem when we can rationalize them away by reminding ourselves of our achievements, our experience and our uniqueness. But if we are struggling with frequent visits from that worried little voice, then imposter syndrome can be one of the biggest roadblocks we will ever come up against.
I have a friend who wanted to start a graphic design business. He was excited about the prospect of doing so; however, that excitement didn’t last long. Challenges appeared as he worked to get his business off the ground – and with those challenges came self-doubt.
He started to say things to himself like:
I will never be successful!
What did you expect, you don’t have business experience!
There are so many other graphic designers in the marketplace, why would anyone hire me?
Has this ever happened to you? Do you ever question your ability to follow your dreams of starting a business or pursuing a career? If so then trust me, you are not alone.
Countless people give up on their vision because of imposter syndrome, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to you too. So read on and take notes – this is something you can absolutely turn around.
Molded By Society
Imposter syndrome is the product of familial and societal conditioning, and we have been exposed to it at so many levels. Our schools, our workplaces, the media, and our parents all have contributed to us adopting an image of ourselves. Based on this image, we compare ourselves to others as to how we stack up.
We ask ourselves things like:
Who am I to think that I can do this?
What if I am just a fake and others find out?
Why should anyone trust me?
However you phrase it, it is all the same. If you are holding on to a disempowering belief about yourself, you are looking in the wrong place. You are looking outside of yourself for validation (never a god idea), instead of looking inward to your gifts and experience.
The antidote to the imposter syndrome is to redirect your attention from those beliefs that do not serve you and place it on what makes you unique. Turn your view from outside of yourself, where the world is full of comparison, and focus internally, where YOU live.
Here are some practical ways to make that shift:
Step 1: Create a vision
Having a vision is like having a target. It gives you something to aim for. Finding your vision, if you do not already have one, is not as difficult as it may seem. You can begin by asking yourself what makes you happy. Note, I didn’t say to create a vision based on what your family wanted for you or
based on what you see the herd doing.
Here are some questions to get you started:
Think of a time when you were the happiest and at your best…
- Where were you?
- Who was around you?
- What were you doing?
- When you were doing this, what talents, knowledge, strengths, or gifts did you employ?
Based on the answers that you come up with, think of how you could recreate that time and make it your future reality. How could you incorporate the elements of the four questions into a successful business?
If you can relax and go with your instinct here, you might be surprised what you come up with.
Step 2: Your Why:
As important it is to have a vision, what you focus on is just as important. I cannot tell you how often I meet people who have a vision, but their focus is on questions like:
- How will I accomplish this?
- What happens if I make a mistake?
- What if I do not succeed?
- What do I have to know?
- Where will I get my funding?
Making questions like these your primary focus will make you vulnerable to imposter syndrome, and you will effectively talk yourself out of your vision before you even begin.
It is not that questions like these are not important; they are. They do need to be addressed, but they will not drive you to success. Think of these things as ‘admin’ tasks for later. Right now we are working at the visionary level, and everything should be a general overview, without answering any nagging questions about logistics.
Dare yourself to just dream first!
Ask yourself, “What if I can do it? What do I really want to experience?”
Then imagine yourself doing those things and thriving.
Next ask yourself why you want to go after this dream. What is the motivation within? Your ‘why’ is likely tied to your passion, it holds the meaning for the drive and pursuit.
Step 3: Take Inventory
Part of Step 1 was the question:
When you were doing the thing that you were doing, what talents, knowledge, strengths, or gifts did you employ?
Remember, many of us give up on our dreams because we compare ourselves to those who are already succeeding. From this limited perspective, we question ourselves as to whether we can compete with them. When my friend was trying to make it as a graphic artist, he figured that there was nothing to separate him from established graphic artists. He had creative talent, but so did they!
What he failed to realize was his unique qualities and experiences that he brought to the creative process. It is the understanding of what you bring to your vision that matters. Identify your unique traits, qualities, skills, and experiences that make you who you are. These are the things that will differentiate you from everyone else, if you employ them. Additionally, being loyal to your uniqueness is what will sustain you when challenges arise. Remember, you may have a message that is similar to others, but who you are as a messenger is unique.
You versus You
So far, we discussed developing a vision, understanding why you want to achieve your vision, and taking inventory of what makes you unique. The final component for making your vision reality is to track your progress toward its achievement.
Hey, guess what: Many people fall victim to imposter syndrome at this stage of the process. So this is somewhere to be extra cautious and remember why you started down this path.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, take an honest look at where you are today and where you need to be to achieve your vision.
Of course, this does not mean that you don’t learn from others or pay attention to what is happening in your industry or field of interest—doing these things are important as they will inform you of what to look out for. However, to evaluate how you are progressing without getting caught up in imposter syndrome requires that you measure yourself against your vision – not against other people.
So, how do you measure your progress? It’s about noting each step you take, and making sure you keep taking them. Each day, commit to doing something relevant to your vision. Take a small step in the right direction, and then another the next day, and so on. When you utilize this method, your daily incremental improvements will stack up to big progress.
Your greatest success will come when you become true to yourself. Do not fall for the trap by trying to mimic what others are doing. Follow your intuition, have confidence in yourself and trust your abilities to make your dreams real.
Ultimately, we are the creators of our own reality.
For support overcoming imposter syndrome check out the LifeWriting process to unlock your inner hero and silence the inner critic.