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Overcoming Your Inner Imposter

How to find freedom from the voice in your head telling you that you don't belong.

Woman with a sad face holding a mask of her with a happy face.

Have you ever started something new and thought to yourself, oh [insert curse word of choice], I have no idea what I’m doing and they're going to find out? (Who me?? No way…never…well ok maybe…).

If you're reading this you may have already heard the term Imposter Syndrome. This phenomenon is characterized by a feeling of inadequacy despite obvious evidence of your success and qualifications. Even if you haven't hear of the term it is still likely that you've experienced Imposter Syndrome given that it affects 70% of the adult population. Yeah you read that right, SEVENTY percent of adults report having experienced Imposter Syndrome at some point in their life.

There have been many research-based and organizational- driven discussions around the experiences of the imposter in order to normalize those accounts. While I assume many people have benefited knowing they are alone in their own experiences, talking about the issue doesn't just make it go away, right?

Consider you cut your finger chopping onions trying to mimic the knife skills of one of the professionals you saw on the last episode of Chopped. Did talking about your bloody finger make it stop from bleeding or hurting like a mother trucker?! NO! And same goes for talking about this experience. So how do we really solve for it?


According to Dr. Valerie Young in her TED Talk on Imposter Syndrome, the only difference between people that experience Imposter Syndrome and those that don't is the thoughts they have. That’s it! They are no smarter, more impressive or more accomplished than those experiencing Imposter Syndrome, they just think different thoughts.

Typically those experiencing Imposter Syndrome feel shame around things like struggling to learn something new, not having an answer or making a mistake (i.e. when they can't do/have/be it all). While "non-imposters" know they can't be amazing at everything and they're ok with it.

So if we want to actually change the way we feel we have to start with the thoughts we have around the situation.

We start to shift our thoughts by becoming more aware of them. That means getting more conscious about what happens between your ears throughout the day so that we can adjust and respond accordingly, rather than allowing our subconscious mind to just react for us.

When you hear your thoughts, or better yet, SEE them on paper outside of your head it becomes easier to separate from, question and change them.

So what can you do? Start a journal today and get clear on what happens when you feel like an imposter:

  • When did I feel like an imposter?

  • What do I think or believe about that situation?

  • How does that thought or belief make me feel?

And then consider:

  • Does that thought or belief serve me? What sort of behaviors or actions does that thought or belief attract?

  • How would I rather feel?

  • What's a new thought that would support that feeling? (*BONUS* - turn it into a mantra!)

Once you have this new thought or mantra go even further:

  • Why might this new thought be true?

  • How can I take action right away to embody this new belief?

This is a powerful way to practice choosing a new thought and believing it.

When we realize the power that our thoughts have to change our current and future realities it gives us the freedom to create the life that we want for ourselves. And it gives us the freedom to release our inner imposter.

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