Imposter Syndrome, Part 2.
By now, you know from my last blog entry that my relationship with Imposter Syndrome has been long and twisty, as it is with a disproportionately large number of Highly Sensitive People. (An author for Forbes magazine calls HSPs “Sensitive Strivers”. I’m not sure why I think that’s so interesting, but I do. Does the word “striver” indicate productivity, which makes the Forbes reader more comfortable with the HSP?)
Let me share a few tangible truths about Imposter Syndrome, to redirect your focus from the insatiable beast who feeds on your insecurities, chattering lies about “unearned” rewards (you’ve earned every good thing that’s ever happened to you) and feelings of inadequacy (you are more than adequate).
1.) Imposter Syndrome affects both men and women, some studies have shown, equally.
I can attest to this truth, as I have found the affliction present in nearly everyone I’ve had the honor to work with over the years, across all genders and industries. (Some HSP celebrities who are very open about their own battles with imposter syndrome are Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Seth Godin, Maya Angelou, Sheryl Sandberg, Lady Gaga, Howard Schultz, Matt Higgins, and Tina Lifford to name just a pin-drop few.)
2.) Imposter Syndrome is not based on reality.
Say this five times right now, and every day until your perception of validity starts to shift–“Just because there is a voice inside of my head who tells me I haven’t earned…I haven’t accomplished…I haven’t the right to…DOES NOT MAKE IT TRUE.” Stop feeding the beast by validating its lies. Talk back to that doubt. Tell it you’re no longer buying what it’s selling.
3.) There is nothing insufficient about you.
Here is my favorite fact. Once I learned it, it created a beneficial crack in the foundation of my Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome disproportionally affects people who are intelligent, capable, high-achievers. It is a paradoxical fact that if you experience it, it pretty much proves that you aren’t an imposter.
Okay? So, I don’t want to hear it, you incredible, capable, super star!
The most common and devastating effect of constantly trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome (remember, Highly Sensitive People are also often stricken with rigid beliefs about perfectionism) is burnout. And burnout is so prevalent in the USA that economists calculate its cost to the economy to be around $190 billion a year.
We have to carefully evaluate where our desires for one more professional certification, one more degree, one more flaming hoop to jump through, one more expensive e-course to buy (because this one will surely be the ticket to that six-figure income!) are coming from. The world is filled with HSP’s who have spent thousands of dollars on preparation steps without ever feeling ready to actually move forward.
You. Are. Ready. You are more than ready. The world needs you, and what you were born to uniquely provide.
5.) With actionable strategies, feelings of inadequacy can be overcome.
The strategies are:
- Talk back to the voice. Do not indulge the lies that Imposter Syndrome whispers in your ear. Be ready for it. Otherwise it will sneak up on you over and over again.
- Keep a journal of small, daily accomplishments, as well as a fact list of your professional milestones. It is important to gather tangible data to accept your success and rewards. Without this step, you will have a hard time not defaulting to only seeing what you haven’t done, rather than literally training your brain to focus on what you have done.
- Make a list of every reason why you tell yourself you are NOT READY, and then break down every item on that list into “irrelevant or untrue” categories. Crinkle up that list and ceremoniously bury it in the earth. Let Mother Nature mulch it up for you. Now write a new list and document every reason why you ARE READY. Post that where you can read it every day, multiple times.
- Put yourself in small daily positions of risk. Take chances on You. Prove to yourself that you can take meaningful steps forward, even if it means possible failure. There isn’t a leadership strategist alive who does not agree that every reward comes on the tail of some measure of risk. Make friends with failure itself. Seth Godin once said, “Show me someone who’s failed a thousand times and I’ll bet money they’re going to change the world.” Examples of small daily risks might be to express yourself more honestly with a loved one, to smile at a stranger, to share a little more deeply of yourself on a business transaction, to try something new that you’re definitely not good at, or maybe even launch a new business offering.
What the Oxford Scholar said to me, which delivered the final blow to my lifelong Imposter Syndrome. (And how this is relevant to all Highly Sensitive People.)
In my last article I promised to share this, so if you haven’t read it and are missing some context, please hop over there now where you’ll find the full story.
The day after my conference presentation (written about in the past article) Dr. Anthony Jack, Oxford University educated, professor of Leadership Psychology and Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University explained that our world can be broken down into two schools of thought: 1.) Analytic Reasoning (to look at information and break it down into rigidly defined patterns) and 2.) Empathic Reasoning (the ability to understand another person’s emotions and respond appropriately).
You know that as a Highly Sensitive Person, you are already ahead of 80% of the population in Empathic Reasoning. This is literally your super power, without even trying. Your nervous system is wired for high empathy.
Dr. Jack made the bold statement that the world is in a whole lot of trouble because at some point somebody decided that Analytic Reasoning would be the machine that runs the world, and history underwent a very direct path to discredit and make irrelevant Empathic Reasoning entirely. He then looked about this large room filled with people highly skilled at empathic reasoning and mentioned my presentation directly, when he stated that what the world needs is this kind of work. This Highly Sensitive work.
Healing, HSPs and Imposter Syndrome
Somehow my brain processing locked onto him as a symbol of the system which originally told us that our gifts were not valid (the building blocks of Imposter Syndrome) and finally the lie was disassembled within my psyche. If an experimental psychologist (the antithesis of my background in transpersonal psychology), philosopher, and neuroscientist from two institutions considered to be stalwarts of Analytical Reasoning specifically references my seminar the previous day as valid…game over subconscious saboteur! There are no more lies to tell.
Take that in. Use it like I did–because he was talking to all of us who excel in the areas of empathic reasoning. Let it be your inoculation against viral self-doubt.
Please let me know in the comments that you are ready and committed to doing everything in your power to overcome your voices of self-doubt. Tell me where you tend to get stuck, and I will do my best to offer a little insight that may help you.