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The Imposter Syndrome: Who Are You, Really?
Posted: 11/11/2013 | Personal Development Comments
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I once knew a comedian who, after many years of struggle and hard work, was finally rewarded by an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. This was the pinnacle of his success, and meant better work, higher pay, greater status–and millions of people were watching! While he performed well on the show, he reported that he had the odd fear someone in the audience would stand up and say, “Hey, what’s he doing here? He’s not funny!”

It’s not just the pressure of a nationally televised performance that brings out this fear. Everyone probably experiences it to some degree. At some point, you may have been acknowledged for an accomplishment that, deep inside, you didn’t feel you deserved. Whether you’ve achieved some success in academics, sports, a promotion in your company, a bonus, award or just a pat on the back, this imposter syndrome can trip you up.

What is the imposter syndrome? It’s that feeling that you’re pretending to be something that you aren’t, usually something more successful, competent, intelligent, or talented than you believe yourself to really be. Your accomplishments, acknowledgements and other successes have been an accident or mistake and you didn’t deserve them. It plagues you that someone in a higher status, authority or esteem will suddenly realize you’re a fraud. You feel that under your fraudulent exterior is a failing, mediocre you that will one day be exposed for who you really are. It’s a painful and exhausting way to live.

It doesn’t seem to matter how much evidence a person has to prove their success, they can still feel like an imposter. Walk down a busy street in the city, and you’ll see numerous well-dressed, pulled together, seemingly confident people who carry the fear that one day, their ruse will be discovered. Try as they might, they can never accumulate enough money, awards and accolades to believe they deserve what they’ve earned.

Sadly, the imposter syndrome can really take its toll. It’s hard to feel peaceful and joyful when you’re walking around fearing the rug’s about to be pulled out from under you. You can completely miss those wonderful moments of success in life that are really telling you, “Good job, you’re on the right track!” The anxiety and stress will eventually affect your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well being.

So, how can we break out of this syndrome? It takes your attention and practice. Here are a few ways to get started:

Bask in the glow. We miss out on those great moments when we worry about our incompetence. If you receive a compliment, acknowledgement, or award, allow it to sink in. Look back on your efforts, and acknowledge yourself for your hard work and persistence. Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the praise and accolades before you move on. You’re not only making room for future successes, but you’re making a difference for those around you who really want to share their appreciation with you.

Allow yourself to make mistakes. When we’re wrapped up in the fear that we’ll never do enough or do it right, we become afraid to take actions. Remind yourself that as a human being you’re going to make mistakes sometimes, and it will help you grow. The more you can make room for your mistakes, the more room there is for your successes. Then you can focus upon and appreciate your ongoing development and personal expansion, rather than just the end result.

Talk about it with others. You might be surprised by how universal this syndrome is once you start talking about it. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with close people you trust might help you not feel so alone. It may be hard at first, but when you can let the cat out of the bag, you might see how many others feel this to varying degrees in their lives too. Talking about this deep-seated fear will help you lighten up and relax a bit more, making your progress in work or life a little easier to embrace. If you feel crippled by fear, guilt or shame it might be time to take it to a professional. A great psychotherapist or spiritual counselor can help you explore and heal these difficult feelings so you can move forward with your life.

Remember, just about everyone feels like they sneaked onto the success train without buying a ticket at times. When you embrace your successes and allow yourself to make mistakes, and when you share your feelings with trusted friends, you’ll experience the peace and joy you really deserve.

Have you experienced the Imposter Syndrome?
How has it affected you? Please leave your comments; they make a real difference for all of us!

For further information on accessing your wisdom, happiness, fulfillment, and peace you desire, click here to learn about Dr. Howard's Multiple Award Winning Book "Your Ultimate Life Plan: How to Deeply Transform Your Everyday Experience and Create Changes That Last."


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