7 Signs You Suffer from Imposter Syndrome: #3-5

3. You think it has to be difficult to be worthwhile

Some of us are taught this at an early age by struggling for love and attention from one or both of our parents. They withhold love until we prove ourselves worthy. Since their love and approval mean everything to us, we think that we have to fight for everything worthwhile in life. In fact, sometimes, we over complicate things just to compensate for anything that should be easy. It’s exhausting, and time to stop.

Forgive your parents—they were doing their best and relying on what they were taught. My belief is that lies are often inherited—they’re passed from generation to generation. So, most of all, forgive yourself to.  

4. You believe that whatever you’re doing is never enough.

This lie goes hand-in-hand with #3: in trying to satisfy that inner need for recognition, we set unrealistic expectations. We also compare ourselves to others and think that we have to struggle to measure up. This paradigm solidifies that we can only feel worthy when we are achieving, as that’s what it takes to get positive attention.

In the Harvard Business Review article, How to Keep A-Players Productive, Steven Berglas discusses the “extraordinarily punishing superegos” of over achievers such as Winston Churchill, who “voluntarily push themselves to extremes.”

Trust me, they had help. Churchill’s angst began with pressure from his abusive father, which set the stage for imposing this same pressure on himself at a later age. In fact, as an adult, Churchill was enormously self-critical, reviewing everything in his head that he failed at, and ending every single day with this ritual: “I try myself by court martial to see if I have done anything effective during the day.” No wonder the guy drank.

Often, this self-critical, punishing voice is not our own, but one we’ve heard, loved and trusted more than our own selves.

We forget that no one is all achieving in all possible ways all the time–no one.  

5. You need the secondary gains, because you get something out of staying this way.

Often, we stay in the imposter state for a reason—a reason of which we may not be aware. Sometimes, it pushes us to do our best work. In fact, I would hazard to guess that it’s the motivation that drives Maya Angelou each time she sits down to write a book. I think we become our own competition. It’s kind of like golf, where you’re always playing against yourself.

For me, I found that I tended to prepare myself for failure so it wouldn’t hurt as much if it actually happened. After the traumatic experience of getting laid off from a job I had and loved for years, I found that I tended to protect myself this way. I call it a psychological safety net.

Hope these signs help you find your way out. Look for the final 2 in my next post..

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

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