Imposter syndrome, your inner ‘mean girl’, fraud complex, your ego who is certain you’re going to be found out as a bogus sham – whatever you want to call it, it’s likely we all have a similar voice swirling in our heads.
Being hard on yourself is not uncommon, but feeling like an imposter at work, in your relationship, or in a personal pursuit, is no fun for anyone, least of all you. Below are four reasons to help you make peace with that voice, or at least not let it take you down the rabbit hole.
1. People believe in you or you wouldn’t be where you are
This one often relates to career – many women I know are a bit baffled as to how they’ve made it to where they are. They are intelligent, hard workers but still hear internal murmurs that they’re not deserving or that they’ll be ‘found out’. When I became an editor many moons ago, I had a deep seated fear that someone would arrive at my desk and demand I complete a pop quiz on split infinitives and non-verbal clauses. Needless to say it never happened.
Don’t disrespect the judgement of those who have hired you, promoted you, given you good feedback and helped you get to where you are. The more people you work with and the more workplaces you work for, the less likely it is that it’s a coincidence!
2. We’re all playing roles in our lives
A dear friend imparted this advice on me years ago. We are all ‘acting’ in some capacity – sometimes my role is a project manager, sometimes my role is wife, sometimes it’s zen yogi. The principle is that you don’t have to know everything in all of your roles and you don’t have to embody all of the roles at once, 24 hours a day.
It’s ok to act as if you’re gorgeous and funny and deserving of your relationship. It’s ok to pretend you’re a high-powered, confident employee, even if the little voice is trying to throw you off track. The more positive talk you instil in your mind, the closer you’ll get to believing it and showing it outwardly.
3. Everyone feels the same
I promise, ask anyone and they have likely felt like an imposter at some point in their life (if not, day / week / month).
I remember having to give a nerve-racking speech a few years back in front of the CEO and MD of my company. A number of other people had to give a speech that morning, including an experienced publisher, who I looked up to as a kind of mentor. After revealing my anxiety, he admitted he felt the exact same way. I knew then that if someone with 30 + years experience was doubting themselves, it was totally ok to feel how I did and enlightening to know that I wasn’t alone.
4. It’s ok to feel negative emotions completely
This one is a struggle for many women. It’s much easier to favour the upbeat emotions and brush away nerves or sadness in an attempt to get back to brighter days. But if you never fully feel these emotions, it’s likely you’ll never actually deal with them.
When you’re spiralling with negative self talk, set aside time to feel it. If you’re jealous in your relationship, freaking out at work or doubting your creative skills, step back and assign some time to dwell on it. Just not at that exact moment.
Set aside 15 minutes that evening or the next day to let the negative talk go crazy. Chances are it will have passed or quietened down a little by then. Either way, spend some time writing down how you feel and what you’re afraid is going to happen. What is the absolute worst thing that could materialise?
Once the time is up, you’ll often feel better and can resume your day. What’s even more useful is going back and reviewing the journaling – did any of it come true? If it did, was it as awful as you thought? I hope not but I’m also pretty sure not too.
Tell me – how do you deal with your inner critic?
And in what area of your life are you afraid of being ‘found out’?