How I Told My Imposter Syndrome To Stop Pestering Me
Imposter Syndrome, self-doubt & 6 ways to help silence the inner saboteur
Imposter Syndrome affects almost 70% of the UK population at some stage in their life, which is a pretty shocking figure, really. I know I myself have suffered terribly with feeling horrifically insecure, so although the figure is shocking I can’t say I’m that surprised.
For as long as I can remember I have always had this little voice in my head saying; Be careful. Don’t fall. Don’t disappoint. Don’t be too bossy. Don’t be too aggressive. You can’t do that. Maybe one day. That is until I learnt how to manage my little agent of self doubt.
Self doubt is one of the most awful parts of experiencing Imposter Syndrome, but it is also what keeps the ego in check and stops us from making snap decisions without considering the consequences. It’s good to take stock when the hesitation is rational like, “maybe I shouldn’t walk down that dark alley alone tonight”, or “Perhaps I need to check my workload before I take on more responsibility”.
However when you’re questioning everything you may find yourself staying still in a bad way. Staying still is often my goal when it comes to rest, but when your doubter, your imposter or your saboteur encourages this stillness and keeps you there you are more likely to fail by default. So, in some ways, this element of Imposter Syndrome is somewhat of a superpower so long as we can keep it in check.
Definitely not an easy thing to do. It’s awfully difficult to be happy with yourself when someone is being horrible to you, moreover when the horrible person in that situation is you. There are so many ways you can mediate your imposter and it is absolutely important that you find a way that works for you. Having said that, I’d love to share with you some coping mechanisms that have helped me shelf the opinion of the little gremlin inside me. Hopefully this will help you, too.
1. Call it by it’s name
Having imposter syndrome often makes you feel very isolated in your thought process. It can affect your self esteem. When you understand what it is, it makes it so much easier to cope with. I know for me, there have been instances where I can pinpoint the exact moment my self esteem took a plunge and who, or what, caused it. I began to relay a story to my coach of a time when someone who I thought was a friend of mine berated me for winning a magazine pitch. She had said to me that she had been writing for them and that she hadn’t understood how I could have earnt a space. She even went as far to say; “You’re not a writer Katie”.
Well, fuck you. Yes I am.
From then on I developed a character that I can visualise and recognise. I even made a little drawing of my imposter. Doing this has enabled me to realise when I doubt myself, question my successes or even berate my failures I know that the voice doing that is separate from who I am. All it is is an echo from a narrative about myself I used to believe in, but no longer do.
That degree of separation is something quite powerful to obtain. Because in doing so I have been able to listen to my doubter, my imposter, my saboteur and pause to think if the next step is the right one to make. Similar to pausing an infinite scroll. Now that I’ve had a minute to take stock I can put my ego in check and I make a conscious decision to speak up for myself.
“Thank you for your input, imposter. I heard you. I listened to your concerns. However these are not my concerns. I’m going to do the thing now”.
2. Learn to listen
You have an army you never knew existed in your friends and family who celebrate your successes and build you up from your failures. These people are worth their weight in gold. Listen to them. They want to help and they believe in you more than you do at times. They will be your biggest supporters and will make it so much easier to forgive yourself when things go wrong and when things go right. They will enforce the message to you that you are on the right track, you are capable and you are competent. All you have to do is listen to these people who love you, which sounds like an easy pay off, right?
There are ways you can practice listening. My personal favourite is to firstly make a conscious decision not to interrupt. Don’t stop people from telling you how great you are, it’s rude if not anything else. Think how you would feel telling someone you loved and cared about something important and they chimed in with a “let me just stop you there”. Secondly repeat the gist of their sentiment back to them. If they agree that you’ve got the right end of the stick then you’ve 1. listened and 2. understood the message. The last thing you need to do is say thank you. No arguments, no excuses for yourself – just a simple thank you.
Saying thank you to people who tell you good things about yourself helps you accept the truest representation of yourself and not the one your imposter syndrome presents.
3. Don’t second guess
Let me just start with saying that I am the queen of second guessing myself. I believe it’s partly in my nature, which is fine, but I also know that this is something that trips me up from time to time. More often than not, this hesitation causes me great insecurity and sends me on all sorts of spirals into ‘what if’ catastrophes. I’ve had people tell me they can see my brain working when I’m devising multiple thought pathways for me to mediate my imminent failure. The problem is that this is a sure fire way to create a self fulfilling prophecy. Not cool, my dude.
Get in the habit of just doing the thing. Imagine you’re at the end of a diving board, about to complete the biggest and best swan dive of your life. Everyone is cheering for you. You’ve trained for this. You know you can do it. You take your strides to power you up for your flight into the air and you hesitate. The board makes you wobble and you fall. Imagine if you hadn’t hesitated. The risk of you falling is significantly lower, the chance of you succeeding in your dive is increased ten fold. Trust yourself to take a leap of faith.
Self confidence is the hardest gift to give yourself but in crucial moments like this, believe in yourself and forget the damage limitation. Be bold and do your best. That’s all you can expect from yourself.
4. Celebrate the wins
If you’re anything like me you can succeed but you don’t succeed enough. How nonsensical is that? Other people may feel that their success is due to other factors, like teammates or work colleagues supporting them. How many times have you told yourself; “Oh, I couldn’t have done it without my team”, or “I couldn’t have even dreamt of this without bla bla bla”.
Well you did dream it and you did do it so why are you making excuses for yourself? It may be true that the support of your peers helps drive you, but don’t ever take away from what you have just achieved. It’s to your testament that you want to include people in your success, and trust me, the appreciation will embolden the people that surround you. However saying the phrase ‘I couldn’t’ has such a negative connotation. Try saying; ‘We succeeded as a team’, ‘I was supported by incredible peers that helped me to succeed’ or even, ‘This achievement is something I am so proud of. Thank you to my supporters. You’ve been an integral part in this success”.
SN: Touching upon the idea that you can’t succeed enough which I briefly admitted to above can do one of two things to your head. It can stop you from doing anything or it can drive you to learn how to do better, which we will go into more detail on in the next paragraph.
5. Learn from the losses
It can certainly feel like a hoof in the anus when things don’t go as planned. I have failed so many times in so many different ways at so many different things. But, in every failure, in every loss I have usually learned how to do the thing better or learnt that pursuing that thing, really wasn’t for me.
Things I have failed at: Becoming a musician, becoming a ballerina, becoming a marine biologist, becoming a chef, becoming an illustrator, becoming a homeowner, becoming a teacher. The list is LONG and truthfully, that’s a-okay.
First thing to remember is that failure is just an opportunity for you to learn from your mistake or from your lack of understanding and get it right next time. Mitigate failure by asking questions, reading up, watching videos, taking classes and talking to people who know more than you. It’s okay that you don’t know everything and actually, not knowing everything makes life more interesting.
The thing to remember is that you are not a failure. Failure is not a destination, it is just something you experience on your path to becoming fleetingly successful before failing again. It’s a roller coaster of resilience that you just need to rationalise.
6. Always move on
I cannot stress this enough. Let the damn thing go. I know that I have personally spent years ruminating on things I’ve said, things I’ve gotten wrong, ways I’ve behaved or even chances I squandered thinking; if only. If only what? There is no other option than to walk the path ahead and allowing yourself to project on what might have been is certainly not going to pave the way forward for your successes. In fact it only creates room for Madame imposter to take root and drag you down. Don’t give it the satisfaction.
Sure, things might have been different, but they aren’t so what are you going to do about that? This is a perfect opportunity for you to get your ducks in a row and see what it is you now want, what works for you and makes you happy.
Pausing to think on what you have learned, glimpsing back and taking note of your experience will always help you move forward. The trick is not to end up woefully staring at the plates you have dropped otherwise the ones still spinning have no hope.
What helps you deal with your imposter syndrome? Leave me some info in the comments below!