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Could Imposter Syndrome be Holding You Back?

by Jodi

"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

One of my favorite things in life is learning. Whether it’s in person or online, hands-on like being taught a new sport or experimenting with some therapeutic tools, reading books or studies, researching a topic I find fascinating or taking a formal training course – I love it all! To maintain my various professional certifications, I’m required to complete a certain amount of continuous education every three years. Typically, I end up with about 10 times the actual amount of required hours because I’m such a geek when it comes to educating myself.

With all of this knowledge and enthusiasm, you’d think that I’d be teaching workshops, classes and events non-stop and writing blog posts about everything I’ve learned and want to share. There’s a bit of an issue, though, that sometimes keeps me stuck in sort of a holding pattern. It’s called Imposter Syndrome and it can mess me up for weeks or even months at a time.


What exactly is Imposter Syndrome?

This phenomenon is a belief in which one doubts their own ability to share their knowledge or message with others for fear that they’ve not earned the right to do so. Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines imposter syndrome asa psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one's abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one's ongoing success”.

In my case, although I spend a lot of time furthering my own education and I’m excited to share with others, I often find myself questioning whether I’m really qualified to teach this material or wondering why anyone would be interested in hearing what I have to say. Recently in a conversation with one of my mentors, I discovered that she also finds herself holding back at times for this very same reason. After learning that someone I look up to as a teacher, friend and role model has some of these very same feelings, I realized that I needed to start a discussion about this topic because there’s likely lots of people trying to deal with this same issue.

When looking for quotes to go along with this post, I found something that truly shocked me. It turns out there's LOTS of people wrestling with imposter syndrome, people that most of us would assume have plenty of confidence and a healthy sense of self.


What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Research into this pervasive issue has shown that there’s definite links between anxiety, depression and imposter syndrome. Depending upon your personality and life experiences you may fall into one of several subtypes of impostorism commonly referred to as: Perfectionist, Superhuman, Natural genius, Soloist or Expert. It's common to be a combination of several types all at once.

Throughout our childhood, we all develop core beliefs about ourselves that can impact the way we perceive and experience the world around us. Sometimes, these beliefs aren't even based upon our own direct experience and instead are inherited from the adults who raised us. As we transition into adulthood, our conscious ideas and thoughts often change reflecting the person we have grown into while our deeply rooted core beliefs may still exist on subconscious level causing internal conflict.

 

Another factor for some is the tendency to fall into the comparison trap. In today’s social media dominated culture, it can be tempting to believe what you see on the screen and assume that’s the whole picture. When we look at someone who seems similar to us in some way and by outward appearance they’re achieving or accomplishing more than we feel we’re doing, it’s easy to beat ourselves up and judge ourselves to be less than another.


How Do We Move Past Imposter Syndrome?

Fortunately, with all of the research into this phenomenon, there's plenty of suggestions for working through imposter syndrome. Mental health awareness has enjoyed more prominence in recent years giving us a lot of resources that were once less readily available. Talking to a therapist, psychologist or counselor can now be done in office, online or via video chat. Identifying your core beliefs and unraveling where they came from can be a challenging and emotionally charged experience. In addition to self-study, meditation and journaling, it could be beneficial to get some professional guidance to help you better understand where you've come from and how it's currently affected the way you perceive the world.

This is also true when we start to process our feelings around comparisons and social media. Remembering that what we see is just how things look, not necessarily how things actually are in reality. People share only bits and pieces of their lives and they can choose to omit plenty of details that would show how very different their situation may be from us. No two people have had the exact same journey and there is simply no legitimate comparison between two lives. Therefore, there’s no need to measure ourselves and working with someone to embrace self-acceptance is a solid step towards moving past imposter syndrome.


Yoga offers us many tools to help us heal as well. Once we’ve identified the beliefs that may be holding us back, we can set intentions that better align with who we are and how we want to live.  A sankalpa or deep desire of the heart can become a new belief that we nurture and grow on a regular basis. Meditation offers us the opportunity to get comfortable with the discomforts that life presents us through regular exposure and a daily practice. Pranayama or breath work can help us to ease anxiety by bringing us into the present moment instead of worrying about future possibilities. Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for a daily spiritual practice that may include yogic elements, prayer or any other ritual. “Routinely applying mind, body and spirit in the pursuit of a spiritual goal is the most natural and efficient way to surrender the ego, to find relief from suffering and to attain peace.”

If you’ve found yourself suffering from feeling like a fraud or like you’re not deserving of good things in life, hopefully you now realize that you’re not alone. Now you also know that there could be some deep-seated issues keeping you from fully embracing your wonderful self. So, I invite you to join me in doing the work to find out what’s keeping you from living your life authentically, confidently and abundantly.

 

 

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