Impostor syndrome is something I battle with on a daily basis and that I constantly see in my clients, family, and friends.
I had an in-depth conversation with mindset coach, Alexis Jane, around the topic, and she shared some great techniques. With her permission, I’d like to share them with you today.
For most of us, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve felt that low-grade nausea when we want to step onto a path that we are creating for ourselves. “I can’t do that; people won’t believe what I have to say,” or “I don’t have enough experience to be credible.”
Sound familiar? It’s familiar because impostor syndrome can affect anybody, no matter what experience or knowledge they have; it’s a great social leveller. From Oscar-winning actors to astronauts, impostor syndrome doesn’t care what you’ve accomplished in the past; its only job is to keep you in place, where it’s safe and familiar.
What if we stopped believing what that voice tells us and started proving it wrong? Instead of automatically looking for evidence to support our negative self-belief, we have to listen to the voice, and then say “A-ha! I can write a screenplay; I got a really good grade in English at high school.” “I can leave my job and start my own business; I bought myself an iPod with the money I saved up from babysitting/a bake sale/lemonade stand when I was a teenager.”
We might not have direct experience that contradicts the doubt demons, but I refuse to believe that we have nothing even remotely related to their cruel whispers.
Impostor syndrome has links to low confidence and poor self-esteem, so I’m going to share with you some techniques from Alexis’s toolkit that I use when the brain monkeys start kicking off. I use these skills, and the messages they send to me fill me with such happiness.
1. Pros and Cons Chart
If there’s a decision to be made that is draining your energy and making you feel caught inside a vice, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Divide the paper into four sections—two rows of two—and write “Pros” at the top of the left column and “Cons” at the top of the right. The top row is for doing The Thing, and the bottom is for not doing it. Fill out the chart with every thought that comes to mind, no matter how mundane or ridiculous.
By writing everything down (and I do recommend handwriting rather than on a computer, as it helps ground us in the work), we start to realise what’s inside our head. The goal here is not to get mathematical with the results, but simply to visualise what’s going on up there.
2. High-Level Questioning
Perhaps you’re feeling the weight of all of the steps you need to take in order to reach your goal. Try taking the focus much higher.
Ask yourself the big questions:
“What do I want to bring to the world?”
“Why do people need what I’m offering?”
You could speak out loud, or use a dedicated notebook/journal. You could even just roll the question around in your mind as you go on a walk in a favourite place. Once you have a clear idea of the questions, which aren’t hung up on the complexities and minutiae, start to think of high-level answers:
“I want to connect people.”
“I want to provide stability and love for my family.”
Finally, tell yourself how you’re going to do that but keep it zoomed out; don’t start getting caught up in details.
“I have experience-based knowledge that could help people who are in a similar situation.”
“I have a business idea and I’m willing to try. Not everyone has the bravery to do that.”
This gives some distance to the logistics of what you want/need to do and often reconnects you to the reason you had the idea in the first place.
3. Friend Check
When you catch yourself in full-on self-criticism mode, listen to those criticisms and ask yourself if you would talk to a friend in the same way.
“You can never do anything properly.”
“You screw up everything you touch.”
“You’re going to completely fail at this, so why even bother trying?”
Can you imagine how hurt your friend would be to hear such comments? So why on Earth are you talking to yourself that way?
Instead of telling yourself that you failed last time so you don’t want to risk disappointment/getting burned, tell yourself that what you tried last time didn’t work in the way that you thought it would. What lessons did you learn from that experience that you can use to try with a new approach?
Call it finding the silver linings, call it looking on the bright side, call it whatever will help you see things from a less destructive perspective. Don’t say you’re struggling with something; say you’re being challenged by it. This small shift in vocabulary can have enormous effects in rewriting the narrative that you’ve been telling yourself.
I’d love to hear your experiences with these techniques, so leave a comment below. If you’ve got a technique you use that you know others will benefit from, share it below.