Do you know the dirty secret of most achievers? Deep down they feel like complete frauds and that they don’t deserve the success they have. They are in a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud” because they keep dismissing any proof of success as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others.
This psychological phenomenon, known as Impostor syndrome, aka the ” I feel like a fraud” syndrome, reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes.
The Imposter syndrome is a hot topic, whether you know it or not. Research shows that 70% of people feel this way, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.Millions of people suffer from this syndrome: from mummies to entrepreneurs and celebrities. It does not spare anyone, not the riches, not the powerful, not the weak ones, not the high achievers. Anyone can feel like an imposter one day.
It is both normal and irrational.
The most successful, feel it or have felt at some point in their lives. So you are definitely not alone if you feel that way. I classify “the impostors” in 6 different categories based on my experience and my coaching practice:
1.People who become successful quickly or early and feel they do not fully deserve it, based on their looks, their color or their family background or academical studies…
“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’” Meryl Streep
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud. They’re going to fire me — all these things. I’m fat; I’m ugly…” Kate Winslet
“Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud.” (Emma Watson)
2.The high achievers who are successful but feel that they are not perfect or good enough to do or be who they are :
« My friend is an incredibly successful therapist but she struggles with her personal relationships. She feels like an impostor. I kinda feel this way too because I’m into healing others through fitness and spirituality but I also need soo much healing lol! Like does it ever stop? (I know it doesn’t) lol!!! Just want to know your thoughts! Thank you in advance!”
3. The Newbies who just started a new job, students, people who changed career and feel they are not qualified enough.
“I can totally relate with this impostor syndrome. I feel it’s holding me back from what I can truly be. I am afraid of sharing what I know, afraid of sharing the best part of me because I don’t know everything and don’t feel like an expert in my chosen field; and because I feel my life does not reflect. the life of someone who got one’s life together…”
“Rationally, I know I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without lots of hard work. Still, I can’t shake those lingering feelings of ‘What am I doing here?’ or ‘How in the world did I get here?’ that I experienced so strongly in my first year of graduate school.”
Mary Guerrant, a second-year doctoral student, North Carolina State University (Source APA )
“Any time I have to turn in a major assignment I feel the imposter syndrome creep up on me. I worry a lot when I turn in papers [that] I’m going to be booted out of the program because I am not who they thought I was.”
Aasha Foster, a second-year doctoral student, Teachers College, Columbia University (Source APA)
4.The New Rich who just became rich very suddenly and can’t take out of their mind the “ I come from a poor background” label
I have this friend who is at this fabulous house by a newly met very rich friend, she met at school. Their boys get along and the rich mum invited her son for a playdate for a playdate and well, when she arrived, no one was in the house, apart from the little boy and older kids. She first think that they are some kind of babysitters but when they suddenly started to play soccer in the living room filled with luxury items, my friend freaked out …interiorly of course…to realise afterwards that these kids were the step-siblings and that they didn’t care about breaking things because that was their usual environment. They are kids so they play around fancy and inestimable pieces of art. My friend’ kids were not allowed to play anywhere near to expensive objects and it made her reflect on how she was just not ready yet to ENJOY her new wealth and still felt deep inside as a huge fraud.
5. The Gender and color and sexual Outsiders who are usually women in male-dominated industries or the environment or colored people in non-colored environments
Still, differing in any way from the majority of your peers — whether by race, age, gender, sexual orientation or some other characteristic — can fuel the sense of being a fraud. They are taught that they would need to ‘work twice as hard to be half as good.’ While this instills a goal-oriented approach within, it also keeps them feeling as though our efforts will never be enough
“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
“I was certain I was going to receive a call and they were going to say, ‘I’m sorry, we made a mistake.’ Every single day.” Lupita Nyongo
“It is still revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist” Laverne Cox
6. The overachievers
They are the one, who have it all, successful and yet doubt. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told us a year before her book, Lean In, was published:
“There are still days I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.”
However, these 6 types all share the same very recognizable traits :
· Overworking / Stress / burn-out
· Undermining your achievements
· Fear of failure
· Discounting praise
· Superstitious thinking (I need this, luck to work that amount of time …)
· Excessive Humility
· Inability to receive compliments or praise
· Inability to enjoy one’s accomplishments
· Excessive worrying
· Expecting the worse
· Tendency to procrastinate
· Tendency to compare themselves to others
· Feeling of unworthiness
Let’s focus a bit on perfectionism. So-called impostors think every task they tackle has to be done perfectly, and they rarely ask for help. That perfectionism can lead to two typical responses, according to Clance. An impostor may procrastinate, putting off an assignment out of fear that he or she won’t be able to complete it to the necessary high standards. Or, he or she may overprepare, spending much more time on a task than is necessary. The perfectionist are often accused of practicing micro-management. They have issues delegating work, are very (too?) demanding to themselves and others. They feel they have to be perfect 100% of the time.
So now that you have read all of this, may I ask you one questions:
Have you ever felt like a fraud?
I have… More than I can recall. I often ask my clients or during my workshops: Do you feel like a fraud? Or How many of you feel like a fraud? Almost the whole room raises their hands, usually. It makes me wonder if it’s part of human nature. I wonder if everyone feels like one at some stage of their life. I know FOR SURE that I feel less alone when those arms shoot up in the air because I know the feeling…We all do, don’t we? Therapists, parents, teachers, business people, actors, doctors…That little alway talking voice coined by Arianna Huffington as the obnoxious roommate living in your head always makes sure that you feel like a fraud.
– Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
-Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
-Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
-Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your ineptness?
But while It seems quite normal to feel like a fraud when you begin a new job or start venturing into unknown territories, it can sometimes just be too much. For example, when I was a newbie in this coaching and healing business, I used to think that I was not good enough. I used to worry, not entirely knowing what I was doing but relying on my strong intuition and also thinking that they were so many brilliant and awesome people out there, already doing the work. What could I bring to the table? Why me?
Then I understood that we have different gifts and that we each bring something unique and special to the world. The imposter syndrome in most cases comes from a lack of self-worth but it goes much deeper than that. Upbringing, personality, and culture can play a role in the syndrome. I am going to share below 14 effective ways to overcome the Impostor Syndrome. They all come from my empowerment course called “FIRE YOUR INNER IMPOSTOR”.
1 . Identify the reason why you feel not good enough or not worthy and constantly seek or fear external validation.
The imposter syndrome comes from the need to be validated externally so it is useful to check in which areas of your life you tend to seek for validation. ( body, image, work….). For me, the need for validation existed because I had forged a very limited concept of what a perfect healer, coach.. should be. I was asked to be perfect as a child and so I ” have to be perfect” …always. It is often the same mechanism for everyone. Do we think that only a so-called perfect person has the right to have responsibilities, or to lead people or to give advice or to help people? We surely do.
“The assumption that you have to know everything before you consider yourself competent is a big reason why you – and a lot of other people – walk around feeling like a clueless fraud.” ~ Dr. Valerie Young
I am an advocate of Inner Child Work and I trust that the inability to see us as worthy, or good enough comes from childhood. So were we told to shut up as kids that we weren’t smart enough or good enough? Were we told that we needed to work more to match the requirements? All those beliefs about life, right or wrong, perfect and not, are shaped during our childhood so it is worth having a thorough look at them and understanding how they affect our self-worth and self-confidence.
Many people who feel like impostors grew up in families that placed a big emphasis on achievement. In particular, parents who send mixed messages — alternating between over-praise and criticism — can increase the risk of future fraudulent feelings. Societal pressures only add to the problem.
2. Stop chasing for perfection
It is important to remember all that we can do and all that we do well. We are all humans and we all have flaws. Embrace them. Mistakes are part of the process. They are opportunities to grow and learn. We fixate on our performance at home, at school, at work, at yoga class, even on vacation. We are obsessed as mothers, as wives, as sisters, as friends, as cooks, as yogis, as lovers…It is always about performance. Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, the authors of The Plateau Effect, call this tendency the “enemy of the good,” leading as it does to hours of wasted time. The irony is that striving to be perfect actually keeps us from getting much of anything done. Perfect is the enemy of Good and often equals work not done at all.
In my case, I had to run from the idea that healers must be perfect to be allowed to help people. Healers are humans and humans aren’t perfect… and we must accept it that’s the beauty of it. Accepting that we are not perfect and sharing the best part of us. I was free the day I told myself that I would stop showing a perfect image and just be real and inspire people by showing how I could manage the ”shit” life was throwing at me, rather than pretending there was no ‘shit’ at all.
Look at Oprah, Gabby Bernstein, Lisa Nichols. They all have not one but several coaches and healers because you can never know everything and you die the day you decide you have nothing more to learn. So perfection is definitely an illusion. So let’s be gentle with ourselves. Having flaws and dealing with shit, does not prevent you from sharing the best you have. Again a word of caution here, if the shit is so big that the best part of you is invisible, well focus first on your healing but the shit will always be there and it is so exciting! That’s what life is about.
3. Speak it out. Just say it. Talk to friends.
Most people don’t talk about feeling like a fraud. Part of the experience is that they’re afraid they’re going to be found out, which is the reason, they don’t want to talk about it. But if you can feel it and face it, you can heal it. Sometimes you need to reduce your isolation and understand that you are not the only person on this planet feeling like this. Most of the time, encouragements from friends, or people around are enough to get over the feeling of being an outsider. Talk about your feelings with trusted friends and colleagues.
4. Get a coach or a mentor
Sometimes you need someone to help you and see the greatness in you. Sometimes you need to lose the expert hat. Seek out a mentor or advocate in your organization who believes in you. Sometimes we need someone external to mirror to us our truth.
5. Share your expertise and focus on giving value
When you tutor younger or less experienced people, it helps you realize how far you’ve come and how much knowledge you have to impart. Focus on the people you want to help. It is especially useful for people who feel they have to chase for new diplomas or certifications to one day know ”enough” or be ” qualified enough”.
6. Stop comparing yourself
When we fail to measure up to such people, we feel inadequate so if you are constantly seeking out training or certifications because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed and to be ready. Let me tell you one thing. No one is. We try we fail we learn and we rise again. Release the validation you think you should give yourself, you don’t need it and trust me you will never wake up and feel ready. Stop comparing yourself to others and just focus on doing your best
7. Use affirmations and positive feedback
Keep a record of the nice things or testimonials people say about you and your work. Every time someone gives you a good review or sends a thank-you email, file them away for later. They will be handy when the Impostor Syndrome comes calling. Visual reminders of what people appreciate about you can lift your spirits.
Use affirmations. The following one is the one I use everyday. It works if you are consistent and if you give time to time.
“I awaken to my own radiance and I allow this radiance to be shared with the world. What I don’t have, what I don’t know and what I am not good at, does not prevent me from sharing what I do have, what I do know and what I am good at doing. I am a xxxx (just replace by your work, passion…) because it is my birthright. I don’t need validation nor justification. I am a good xxx because I chose to be a xxx and because I give it my best and my best is always enough “
8. Shift your thoughts to positive thoughts anchored in facts.
For example, say ” this was a tough topic or a hard challenge”, instead of saying ” I knew this was too complicated for me or there is something wrong with me”. Studies show that women tend to go for the second answer, while men tend to think that the problem comes from outside and that they are not the problem. That is obviously related to the Confidence Gap between gender so watch out your thoughts.
9. Action against procrastination
Just do what you can and your best and trust it is enough. Stop thinking so much and just act. Do it anyway. You will never be ready, just do it. Force yourself to start the project you’ve been planning for months and start by something. Avoid procrastination. Truth is, there will never be the “perfect time”. The sooner you’re able to accept that, the better off you’ll be.
10 . Banish some toxic words
Banish some expressions from your vocabulary such as “Hopefully” ” Maybe”. When thinking about your future or any achievements, resist the urge of finishing your sentence by hopefully…. because it is a way of denying again facts and your skills saying that luck or fate matter the most.
11 .Focus on the why you are there doing what you do.
Center in your heart, breathe and remember why you are doing this? What is the drive behind your passion? Why do you do this work? Remember the why often, because the Why, the call, the passion is stronger than your fears and your feeling of being an impostor. Always.
12 . Own your achievements
Assess your achievements and celebrate them: Look back over your career and objectively look at the challenges you faced, the accomplishments you experienced and the skills, capabilities, and qualities that helped you succeed. Owning and celebrating achievements is essential if you want to avoid burnout, find contentment, and cultivate self-confidence.
Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs: Examine your deep-seated beliefs about criteria for success. Then, look for facts or examples to test whether these criteria are actually valid, and how they might hold you back.
Get Clear on Your Strengths: Instead of focusing on your weaknesses, make an inventory of your strengths, listing at least 10 things you do well and reflecting on how to leverage them more fully
13 . Celebrate your successes and acknowledge praise when it comes your way.
Resist the impulse to deny and deflect compliments. Allow them in your energy. Stop saying ” I was lucky” when people compliment you or refer to one of your achievement. Or stop thinking that if something good happens, it means that it forecasts something bad because you can’t be so lucky, can you?
False and fake humility won’t work for you. Stop making look or pretending that things are easy and stop discounting your value.
14 . Have some Humour
True Imposters don’t suffer Imposter Syndrome. Acknowledge this truth. Most high achievers and successful people feel like a fraud or have felt like one. Acknowledge this truth.
Dumb people or lucky dumb people don’t suffer Impostor Syndrome, they have Dunning–Kruger syndrome which is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their abilities as greater than it is. This is where an individual is overly confident with a very strong belief in their own skills and abilities, despite clear decisive evidence that they are completely and utterly incompetent, so much so, that they are totally blind to the degree and depth of their incompetence.
In Conclusion, you are the only person thinking to be a fraud so well, not really a big deal if you think about it? Pause for a while and think about this. Who will trust you if you don’t trust yourself? We are all just trying to figure it out. Maybe it is time to learn to dance in the rain, instead of being worried about an umbrella that might break or about not having one…And well, we are all playing roles on this planet, so have self-confidence and fake it till you feel it for real and please fire your Inner Impostor. It is just a bully.
Please do let me know your thoughts on this post and if you have other pieces of advice to share.