Imposter syndrome is a real deal experience for many women. Particularly, those of you that strive to achieve perfection in everything you do. You want to do your very best as a mom, friend, employee, business owner, instructor and have developed a set a standards based on feedback you have received throughout your life. There is underlying pressure imposed by societal expectation, some of it is subtle and tricky to spot. This expectation becomes part of your expectation for yourself. It has permeated your daily life impacting the way you think your life needs to look, how you need to be, and when you need to get there. One minute you might feel inspired and motivated, and a few moments later think, “What am I doing? She does it great, but that will never be me. I don’t know enough. It’s too late. I’m too old. I’m not smart enough….or [fill in the blank] enough.” Instead of that passionate energy being channeled into challenging yourself into healthy growth, the imbalanced form competitive judgment and criticism, has you comparing yourself to others around you leaving you feeling inadequate and powerless.
Imposter syndrome is powerful doubt, feelings of not making it or doing well despite of all the success or proof otherwise that you are rocking it. Your confidence in yourself and your abilities is low, and there is a danger in resorting to blaming all those amazing moments where things worked on luck, disregarding how much work you put in and your unique gifts.
You might think, okay, but what is really the problem? Results are results, right? You’re worried if you let go of some of that pressure as a motivator you might stop moving all together. Quite the opposite, high levels of self-doubt may temporarily motivate you to want to do more, but long term there is risk for burnout, analysis paralysis or feeling frozen by evaluating options and choices, anxiety and/or depression. The motivation is not a balanced and healthy one.
How do you know if you’re at risk of falling into the imposter syndrome trap or might already be there?
You’re a high achiever. Your self-worth, how deserving you are of love, is tied up in mixed messages of approval. You find you need outside sources to tell you you’re enough or did something good.
You’re a mama trying to be super mama. You try to do it all, work full-time, take care of the baby, cook dinner, wash laundry, have an amazing sex life, and look like you aren’t breaking a sweat or feeling overwhelmed doing it.
You’re trying something new, a job, career path, project and fear being found out as a fraud during the sensitive time of growth that occurs as you feel out who you are in this unfamiliar space.
You frequently find yourself procrastinating. Avoidance and distraction could be the result of not wanting to fail. You can’t fail what you don’t try.
You work too hard to cover up how insecure you feel with no space for rest and downtime. This may feel like restless, but constant movement.
You were super excited about an idea, and have had tons of ideas, but find it hard to take action toward any of them. After a week or so you might fizzle out as doubt really starts to take hold.
How to heal and gain your momentum back
Take tiny bites out of your goal and spend time celebrating AND acknowledging each step before focusing on the next one.
Ask for help. Leaning into support is not a weakness. This could look like delegating. Saying no or recruiting a friend, expert or mentor.
Have compassion for how you are feeling, your experience and the things that don’t work out as you thought they would. Talk to someone about it. Shame is one of the strengtheners of not feeling good enough. Too much time in this thought loop will program your brain to continue to seek out evidence you’re that thing.
Check in regularly and ask, "What do I need?" Pause long enough to listen. If you need a break, take one. The healthier you stay the more opportunity you’ll have to correct the mis-direction of your beliefs.
Ask yourself if your expectation is reasonable? An unreasonable expectation is one way perfectionism and imposter syndrome create an environment that keeps you stagnant.
Write down accomplishments, amazing moments, and any kind of pat on the back experience for later reference. This is your reminder list of your competency for the bad days.
Sit with the idea that perfection doesn’t exist. See what happens when you release this pressure, try something and be okay at it. Notice what it feels like to allow good enough to be enough.
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