Impostor syndrome (also known as fraud syndrome) is a psychological pattern in which person (later in text a woman) doubts her accomplishments, and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed or seen as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, talents, skills, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, they are faking it all, and do not deserve all what they have achieved. Women with the imposter syndrome attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are smarter than they perceive themselves to be.
Impostor syndrome, as per my experience, in working with my 1 on 1 life and confidence coaching clients, and giving workshops in Fortune 500 companies to many female managers, usually has it’s roots in emotional wound in the childhood which resulted in feelings of inadequacy and low self worth. For example, having overly critical parents who were telling us we were not good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, comparing us with other kids or siblings all the time, who were not “approving” our failure or lower grades, who were pushing us too much to compete and be “the best” and who were never quite satisfied with us unless we were “performing well” or who were not giving us the love, attention, and appreciation unless we were winning, getting good grades, or “behaving”.
These feelings can get rooted deep within and no matter what we achieve in life we can feel like we are never good enough. Having a traumatic experience in the childhood can especially leave a really deep emotional wound of unworthiness later on in life.
Another reason for the impostor syndrome can be a failure we have experienced (divorce, dropping out of college, getting fired, failed investment or business, unhappy love life…) or shame and guilt we feel about making certain mistake(s) in the past. These feelings of shame and guilt, and not being good enough can get rooted deep within subconsciously and make us feel unworthy for good things in life, big success, love, or achievements.
Here are three steps that can help in overcoming the impostor syndrome:
Impostor Syndrome Tip #1: Self Empowerment
Impostor syndrome has in it’s root feelings of unworthiness. You need to every single day remind yourself how amazing you are (I would suggest wiring down a list of your achievements, talents, and skills and reading it every single time that you feel unworthy or even every day in the morning).
You need to remind yourself every day of how hard you’ve been working on your dreams and goals and how much time, energy, skills, and hard work you have invested in it. It was not “girl just got lucky” or “faking it until making it”.
Positive affirmations for building confidence and self worth can be of help too, if they are being practiced on a daily basis (morning after waking up and evening before sleeping is the best time to say them out loud or note them down in the journal as our brain is at the state of deep relaxation and much more receptive for storing up the new information).
Impostor Syndrome Tip #2: Self Empowering Talk
How we can feel worthy of good things in life if we are constantly putting ourselves down with self criticism, disempowering thoughts and words, and comparing ourselves with other women (endlessly)? We must stop that! We cannot possibly feel worthy if we are thinking of ourselves all the time how we are not good enough and keep on criticising ourselves!
Perfectionism is the killer of self confidence and the unrealistic expectation we set to ourselves which only can lead to disappointment in self!
I would suggest noting down in a journal for one day all the negative thoughts you think about yourself and all the negative sentences and words of self criticism that you say about yourself! You may be surprised how much you think and speak about yourself negatively after reading it! It is a very powerful exercise to bring he awareness of how much we are constant putting ourselves down and disempowering ourselves!
After reading down the list, pin down the most common negative self talk and thoughts and write them down on another page. Cross each and ever of them and write down beneath an empowering thought praising sentence. Make sure that you read the empowering lines you wrote every single day out loud.
Another exercise you can do is to write down ten praising sentences about yourself. Women who are struggling with low self worth find this exercise very difficult and they may take a long time to finish the list. Pay attention on any emotion coming while writing self praising sentences. Also, pay the attention on how much time it will take you to write down ten praising sentences. Can you write it down easily or you need to think A LOT to “remember” or get the courage to write all ten down?
After doing this exercise you can ask five people that know you really well to write ten praising sentences about you. Reading how much other people value you, honour you, respect you, admire you… can help to see yourself trough another more objective eyes and to transforms the opinion you have about yourself!
Women in general find it difficult to receive the compliment with grace: we were constantly programmed by the society that we should be humble and friendly and not “boost”. When other people give us a compliment or words of praise we tend to “shy it away” or “deny the compliment” by demeaning it.
“Oh, I could have done it better.”
“Oh, you really think that my speech was powerful?”
By doing that we are only increasing our feelings of unworthiness. We are not empowering ourselves to feel better about ourselves and appreciate ourselves more!!! So, stop doing that “humble” thing and start accepting compliments and words of praise with grace. Just say next time “Thank you very much!” like you totally deserve the compliment because you are!
Impostor Syndrome Tip #3: Increase Your Self Worth
Although self empowerment work (affirmations, positive attitude, reminding ourselves of all the things we have achieved by our hard work and how amazing we are) can help with dealing with the impostor syndrome, it is really important to tackle the root cause: to increase low self worth and to heal the emotional wounds from the past which was the reason for feelings of unworthiness. Working with a life coach or a therapist (in case of any traumatic experience from the past) can be of big help.
Self empowerment work is all about us empowering ourselves, picking ourselves when we fall, convincing ourselves in our greatness every time when we feel self doubt and reminding ourselves every single day how worthy and amazing we are!
When we consciously chose to empower ourselves eery single day and do the inner work of increasing our self worth, we can successfully overcome feelings of unworthiness and the impostor syndrome.
Danijela is a life and confidence coach from SE Europe, currently based in India and working while traveling. She is helping women internationally to achieve their goals, boost confidence and increase self worth by 1 on 1 coaching advice via Skype, articles, online courses, workshops, and motivational speeches. Her advice on happiness, achieving goals, and building confidence and self worth has been featured in many international magazines and platforms including COSMOPOLITAN and The Huffington Post.