10 Steps to Free Yourself from The Impostor Syndrome

In a recent article, 7 Signs You Suffer from The Impostor Syndrome, I helped identify indicators that you may be suffering from a syndrome that has afflicted celebrities and executives for years. Many readers wanted to know more–the steps I’ve taken, and how I’ve helped people overcome that sinking, self-defeating feeling of worthlessness.

Here are 10 steps that that I hope will help you feel good about yourself and the world around you:

#1. Recognize the 7 signs.

Often, just being aware of them—and understanding you’re not alone—is the first step in gaining control and feeling better.

  • You tend to focus on the one thing that’s wrong rather than what’s right.
  • You think it’s too easy — that anyone could do it.
  • You believe that what you’re doing is never enough.
  • You think it has to be difficult to be worthwhile.
  • You’re not in the moment because you’re too busy feeling and not doing.
  • You need the secondary gains because you get something out of feeling this way.
  • You don’t have perspective, and need to take a step back.

#2. Give yourself permission to feel this way.

Validating your thoughts and emotions can actually knock the wind out of your inner storm.  Usually, our first tendency is to beat ourselves up over feeling this way. Stop. Put the bat down.  If beating yourself up were the answer, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Know that it’s normal to feel this way, and accept that the syndrome may never disappear completely. Your job is to move forward in spite of it.

#3. Reprogram yourself: Challenge and change your inner dialogue.

This is huge—the most important step. It’s like learning a new language. It takes practice and hard work, but it’s worth it.

What you say when you talk to yourself matters. You are what you think—so it’s time to reprogram yourself.

Start by recording your negative thoughts. You may be surprised by how many you have. In fact, the average person has a negative thought every 2 ½ minutes. And impostors are above average.

Now, take control, and start changing the negative to positive. By doing this, you have the power to change the program that causes the problem. This new dialogue is always crafted in the present tense, using words such as “I am.” For example—change “I am such a failure” to “I am a winner. I am confident and in control of my life. I choose my thoughts, and I choose to change my thoughts.”  Do this over and over, and you change the way you see yourself. In fact, as change works from the inside out, you begin to shift how others see you too.

Dr. Shad Helmstetter drives this point home in his book, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self , which underlines positive self talk as the key to a healthy self esteem. He emphasizes the importance of the law of repetition: “By changing your programs, you’re changing your self talk; by changing your self talk, you’re changing your future; and by changing your future, you’re changing your life.” Truer words were never spoken.

We are all drawn to the negative, and impostors are addicted to it. By challenging and changing our inner dialogue, we achieve a more positive balance.

#4. Shift your focus: Get in the present moment.

Get in the here and now, instead of allowing your mind to wander. To do this, ask better questions: What am I grateful for? What am I proud of? What’s the next positive step I need to take to move myself forward?

One of my favorite movies, The King’s Speech, is the story of King George VI, a monarch known for painfully stuttering during every speech, due to severe self consciousness and impostor syndrome. The night before the king’s coronation, his coach challenges George by defiantly sitting on the throne taunting him. The beauty of the scene is when George, focused by his own anger, speaks powerfully, and clearly, stating “Listen to me! I have a voice!” He certainly does. He is in the present moment, and that is where we all need to be.

#5. Ground yourself in the practical, not in the emotional.

Remember that we all have sensitivities, but often feelings lie, and the emotion is just a negative distortion. Your job is to dial down the sensitivity and to distinguish feeling from fact.

In watching the winter Olympics, I’m always amazed by the athletes: All the hours of preparation it takes to get them there. And then, there are the chosen few who reach the podium. Have you ever noticed that when they get silver and not gold, some of them are broken hearted and cry openly? They dismiss the fact that they’re standing on the world stage as one of the best athletes. They feel as though they’ve failed!

We all need to have a more realistic view—of ourselves and the world around us.

#6. Kick the perfection addiction.

When you’re an impostor, you think you have to be perfect in all possible ways. You’re in a constant state of over delivering and over finessing to compensate for low self esteem. It’s exhausting, overwhelming and a poor use of time. No one is a perfect 10 in everything. Giving yourself permission to be imperfect is giving yourself permission to be human. And that’s a great thing. We’re all vulnerable in one way or another, and it’s at these moments that people relate to us. And that’s better than perfect—that’s life.

#7. Avoid the pitfalls of negative comparisons.

Impostors have a tendency to compare themselves negatively to others, and social media escalates the feeling that one doesn’t measure up. People look better on paper and online than in reality. Stop thinking you’re the only one who is lacking!

It is my belief that what we read and see on TV and the internet is often an exaggeration.

#8. Be compassionate to yourself. Be your own best friend.

For most impostors, it’s easier to be compassionate to others, but not to ourselves. If we heard a close friend talk badly about him/herself, we would defend that person and say it’s not true. We would comfort them with kind and supportive words. We need to be able to do this for ourselves. Speak to yourself as though you were speaking to your own best friend. Be compassionate to yourself. Use those same convincing words and be supportive—to you.

#9. Surround yourself with people who lift you up.

One of my greatest beliefs is that no one succeeds alone—no one. Whether it’s your family, team, coach, or a helpful article like this —we all need support. And here’s the caveat: surround yourself with people who lift you up towards the problem-solving path, and not the people who push you down the problem- generating path. You know the kind of people I’m talking about.

#10. Trust yourself. Disband the “Should” committee.

There are a handful of voices that have a big impact on our lives. They usually have started at an early age. Ask yourself: “Who’s really pushing me here?” “Who says I should?” Recognize whose voice it is that you’re hearing. Make sure that this is the voice of your better self. That’s the voice you want to hear.

We all think we’re a fake and a phony at various points in our lives, but we’re dealing with what we’ve inherited. Good practices and bad practices have come down through the ages. Know that these problems are perennial.  Also know that they’re solvable.

You are not worthless. You are worthwhile. I can tell you this over and over, but you need to own it.

Remember: The first sale is the one you make to yourself.

Amen to that.

 

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

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