Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is something I’ve never actually written about, but something that comes up time and again when I run workshops and deliver 1:1 coaching sessions.

Imposter Syndrome is “a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”… Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” Psychology Today.

So many people experience imposter syndrome. There’s something within us that stops us from really owning our successes.

It goes back to our ultimate fear of being rejected. On an animalistic level we all need to be accepted by other human beings. We are social animals and as Brené Brown describes, hardwired for connection.

Imposter Syndrome comes from our fear that we will be found out, and subsequently rejected from our communities. Our reptilian brains, (or more scientifically our limbic systems) tell us if we get in there first and undermine our successes then there will be no ‘finding out’, we’ll have got in there first.

It’s a bizarre gremlin-fuelled process. But one that we can shift. As Thich Nhat Hanh says, in order to feel self-compassion and happiness we have to understand our pain or suffering. If, in these imposter syndrome moments we take the time to recognise what we’re doing, realise it’s all about fear of rejection, and then get brave enough to veto that response and celebrate our successes we move closer to a more self-supportive, self-compassionate life.

If imposter syndrome strikes a chord with you I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And I’d like to leave you with a couple of quotes to remind you that you are not alone in your imposter syndrome:

“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”Award-winning author Maya Angelou

“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”Meryl Streep

Sending love as always, Hannah

PS. I have TWO(!!) coaching spaces opening up in October for new clients. If you are interested in learning more drop me an email and we can arrange a sample coaching session.

*Image by Tatyana Dobreva www.unsplash.com

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