I have spent a lifetime feeling like a fraud but it took until recently for me to understand that the feeling was the sign of something good going on at a deeper level. Most of the time when we battle Impostor Syndrome, or the fear of being exposed as a fraud or a fool, we internalize it as a sign that we are out of our league or somewhere doing something we aren’t qualified to do. We take it as a sign that we aren’t enough. But it isn’t that at all. It is a sign that we are doing something worthwhile and that we are living well. I will unpack this statement and concept for you, but first allow me to share some of my own personal struggles with Impostor Syndrome so that you know that I really do get it and that you aren’t alone.
There was a summer in high school I spent walking through the ports of Oak Bluffs and Tisbury, surrounded by classmates with whom I didn’t belong. The clanging of metal from the yacht yards and the cool summer air seduced me into pretending that I belonged, but I didn’t. I wasn’t from the kind of family who could afford to take vacations, let alone the kind of vacation that lasts a few weeks in a place like Martha’s Vineyard. Someone wealthy had paid my way, the same way much of my boarding school tuition had been covered, and once again I found myself in sea of Nantucket Red pants and seersucker dresses, hoping that no one would notice my last season clearance find from Old Navy. I had a few items from J.Crew, offhandedly gifted to me by friends who had gotten bored of their old wardrobe after a weekend shopping spree. There is nothing about my high school experience I would trade, but I will forever remember the feeling of fear that insulated my social experiences. I lived in constant alarm of being discovered as “less than” or as “unacceptable” and I felt foolish to think I could ever fully belong among the offspring of wealth that my family couldn’t comprehend or imagine. While my friends traveled the world, dined with dignitaries or took exotic ski trips I worked in an ice cream shop or as a lifeguard in rural Virginia. For Christmas my classmates received horses, guitars or concert tickets to shows in Paris and I was excited to receive a new pair of jeans (ones that weren’t hand-me-downs) from Express, hoping they would help me feel more confident when the next semester started. Impostor Syndrome followed me like a shadow, always telling me that I didn’t belong and that I had nothing of value to offer.
I moved on from boarding school to a private college where I still never quite felt like I fit, but at that point I was at least used to the feeling. The Impostor Syndrome crept deep into me because I was on a full scholarship – a combined athletic-academic one given to only one female per graduating class – and the pressure I felt to prove myself deserving felt at times unbearable. I wasn’t the fastest swimmer on the team and I certainly wasn’t the smartest person in my class – I feared that people would think I was unworthy of the scholarship or that they had made a mistake in selecting me. I traveled Europe after college and when it finally came time to dig my roots back in Virginia to start my career the fraud feelings surfaced once again. The night before I started my first day as a personal trainer I cried. I stood – arms extended and turning circles – in my sports bra in front of my mom asking her to tell me that I was in fact “fit enough” to be a trainer. I was terrified that not only did I not know what I was doing, but that I wasn’t physically qualified myself to lead others. I had no choice though – I needed the job and my heart was passionately desperate to help others with their weight loss and disordered eating patterns, so I showed up for my first day determined to “fake it till I made it.” It turns out it worked. I ignored the fraud fears and dug in deep every day to learn everything I could, to be the best trainer I knew how and to convey confidence to others even when I wasn’t feeling it myself. In just a few short years I found myself at the top of my industry, achieving milestones of influence I never dreamed would be possible for me.
What I didn’t know then that I do know now is that feeling like a fraud is a good sign. It is a sign that you are doing something that matters – that you are stretching yourself and that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone in a way that is sure to promote growth and learning. It means that you aren’t playing it safe in life – you are rising up to the challenge of change and that you are open to learning from others and from situations. It means that you are learning to stand on your own and to take ownership of who you are and how you fit in this world. It means that you are mastering the practice of subduing self-doubt and that you are courageously walking with confidence, even when you don’t always feel it.
I have been studying confidence and mindset training for years now and wanted to compile a resource for you to feel encouraged and empowered by for those moments and areas of your life where you experience self-doubt and fear from Impostor Syndrome. The following strategies are my simple suggestions to help you stop believing the lies of Impostor Syndrome. Like anything, change doesn’t happen overnight, or in grand leaps or turnarounds, but rather in the small, baby steps of daily change. Take the following strategies and begin to implement them day-by-day and I am confident that you will see some magnificent mental change happen inside of your mind and your life will change dramatically as a result. Outlined below are seven simple strategies to help you turn down the volume of the voice of the impostor so that you can silence its lies and start moving more confidently towards those things you are pursuing.
Here are 7 strategies to help you overcome the internal pressure you feel as a result of Impostor Syndrome:
Strategy #1: Give yourself some credit.
One of the reasons we believe the lies of Impostor Syndrome is because we don’t have a full and proper grasp on who we really are, just how far we have come and just how capable we are. It is imperative that you start giving yourself some credit in life. Acknowledge that you have had a hand in some of your own success. Look for ways to celebrate your intellect and your growth – it’s time to take ownership of the plasticity of your mind and of the fact that you are actually smarter and more capable than you think you are. When you learn to really trust that you have the ability to grow and adapt, and when you can see that, in fact, that is exactly what you have been doing in the past, then you will see just how qualified you are to live as boldly as you want. The more credit you give yourself, your growth and your potential, the more bold you will be, silencing the lies of Impostor Syndrome.
Strategy #2: Keep your mind focused on contribution and value.
One of the reasons that Impostor Syndrome trips so many of us up is because we are too consumed in caring about what other people think. We worry about the opinions of others because we are hyper-focused on whether or not we are valuable and liked. Instead of obsessing about whether we do or don’t add worth from the viewpoint of others, channel that same energy into living in such a way that does add worth to the world around you. Take action on the dreams and goals in your heart – not because achieving them is about you – but rather because pursuing them is a way in which you can contribute to the world in a way that matters. When you keep your mind focused on contribution and value you will be fueled with a natural confidence and motivation that will far outweigh any hesitation or self-doubt caused by lingering thoughts of Impostor Syndrome.
Strategy #3: Compile a “power file”
One of the more simple things that you can do to overcome Impostor Syndrome is to keep a “Power File” for yourself. A Power File is a compilation of things that make you feel great and of things that help you see yourself for who you really are. The Power File will include things from others as well as things that you add to it yourself. You can start your Power File by collecting notes, compliments, feedback, praise and affirmations that others have ever written down about you. Additionally you can add your own lists of empowerment, like a list of your strengths, values and talents, a list of gratitudes or a list of things you love about life. In short, this is a “one-stop-shop” for you to refer back to for when you are having moments of self-doubt or fear and is a way to refuel your mind quickly and powerfully with truth and self-empowerment. A Power File will help you to stop minimizing yourself with thoughts of being “just average” and will provide tangible evidence that you do indeed have a lot to offer the world.
Strategy #4: Be open to being wrong and to “failure”
As you work to overcome the voice of Impostor Syndrome it is important to shift your priorities in how you want to live and experience life. Instead of focusing on self-preservation and avoidance of failure, focus instead of growth and being open to learning from the inevitable mistakes you will make along the way. This is a simple shift from having a “fixed” mindset to having a “growth” mindset. Once you master the growth mindset approach, you will realize that having setbacks or hiccups along the way doesn’t mean you didn’t or don’t belong, or that you weren’t qualified or capable to be doing what you were doing … it means that you are growing in that moment of setback. A growth mindset allows you to interpret “losing” as proof that you were wrong to try – but the opposite – proof that you have decided to a contender and participant of life, and that is something to celebrate and be proud of.
Strategy #5: Refuse to rob the world
When you hold back in any way, you are robbing the world. Too often Impostor Syndrome causes its victims to hesitate and move cautiously forward, leaving them to only give part of what they can to the world around them in an effort to play it safe and not look the fool. The problem with this is that it literally cheapens what you do and robs the world of the light that you were meant to bring to it. It is better for you to venture out and feel like an impostor than to selfishly sit on the side – thinking about all the things you want to do and could do, but feeling inadequate to do them. So let that altruism within your heart shine – when you aren’t sure if you can overcome your own self-doubt, take action anyway – you’re not doing it for yourself, you’re doing it for others!
Strategy #6: Decide to life regret-free.
Life is short – don’t allow yourself any room for the regret of not having tried or having put yourself out there, which is often what happens when we listen to the voice of Impostor Syndrome. Most often it is fear of judgment or exposure that causes the lie of the impostor to ring deeply. Focus your thoughts and energy instead on your desire to leave a legacy – to do something that matters – and realize that the only day you have is today, so take action and do something! As you do this you will fire up within you a powerful and confident voice that is unable to be shaken or swayed by fear and you will venture boldly and courageously towards the life you want to live – even in the face of fear or self-doubt.
Strategy #7: Realize that nobody knows what they’re doing and take action on that!
One of life’s little secrets is that no one actually knows what they are doing. Somehow though we convince ourselves that we are the only outliers and the only ones on the verge of being “found out” as inadequate or unqualified. When you learn that everyone struggles in some capacity with the self-doubt and fear suggested by Impostor Syndrome, you are more prone to find freedom from its shackles because you realize that it’s not about just you, and that if everyone feels this way, then it certainly can’t be true. Be empowered to know that you are not alone – and life is a puzzle that we get to piece together one day at a time. Instead of fearing that we don’t know what you are doing, be bold about the piece of the puzzle that you are living out today and be eager to learn from the piece of the puzzle that you will be introduced to and grow from tomorrow.
Don’t be fooled to think that the voice of Impostor Syndrome doesn’t still creep into my mind, even now that I know how to minimize its influence over my behavior. I am convinced that the more boldly you live, the more often you will feel like a fraud. When these feelings creep into my thoughts I know they signal that I am bravely leaning into growth or new expansion in my life…but they still tempt me to fall into self-doubt or to approach something with protective reluctance…but since I know better, I push onward anyways. Know this, my career and calling is to be a Confidence Coach – to speak, to write, to podcast, to coach, to mentor, to consult, to love – and yet everyday something in me tells me that I don’t know enough, that I’m not doing enough and that I’m not qualified enough. I have simply decided that that voice is wrong. Instead I take that voice and reinterpret it to confirm that I am on the right path, that I am doing something that matters and that, while I have much room for growth, I am where I belong: I am showing up for life.
PS >> I want you to know that I really do get it. I have experienced firsthand the self-doubt, self-questioning and fear that you feel and that is holding you back from giving the world your best. I know that God made you for more and that He breathed into you greatness, gifts and confidence that is unshakeable as long as you trust in Him and His plan for you. If this blog post resonates with you and fills you with hope then I want to invite you to take the next step of action in really tackling the self-doubt or hesitation and overthinking that are holding you back by joining us in The College of Confidence. You can join us right now at www.trishblackwell.com/college and I will personally coach you at a ridiculously affordable rate (let’s just say if you can afford coffee, you can afford this) and help you silence the voice of the Impostor for good in your life. I can’t wait to see you join us >>> www.trishblackwell.com/college … and I want you to know that if I can learn to push past the barriers of Impostor Syndrome, then, with the right coaching and approach to growth you can too – there is no doubt in my mind!
PPS >> If you didn’t catch the podcast episode I did recently on this topic and want to dive in even deeper, go check out the episode for free in iTunes or directly at my website at www.trishblackwell.com/223