40 Remedies for the Imposter Syndrome
by Robert Hackman
Picture by Chris Yang on Unsplash
I’ve proven who I am so many times
The magnetic strips worn thin
Lyrics by Bruce Cockburn
From his song “Pacing the Cage”
I found it refreshing to participate in a Zoom call with a group of other executives from BeaconNetworking4Life regarding the Imposter Syndrome. Accustomed to executives showing up with their armor, showing only their best face to everyone else. I find it more interesting when people reveal their more vulnerable parts, in addition to their competence. It builds trust. Whether we choose to admit it or not, we all contend with shadow parts of ourselves.
During the call, I found myself jotting down ideas about how people can gain relief from these feelings.
The imposter syndrome refers to a collection of thoughts and feelings that cause people to think of themselves as fraudulent, despite their skills, talents, and accomplishments. I don’t know anyone who has not experienced this at points in their lives. Some people encounter it on a more regular, persistent, and pervasive basis than others. No one is immune, however. The syndrome can crop up in any area of our lives at any time, always uninvited.
A longtime friend earned an undergraduate Chemical Engineering degree from an Ivy League University, a Medical degree from an elite teaching hospital, and an M.B.A. from a highly regarded institution. He achieved significant successes in various roles and organizations throughout his career. However, not until he approached retirement was he able to release the persistent, nagging feeling that, somehow, he and his work would be found unworthy.
Helpful antidotes to relieve the Impostor Syndrome:
- Remind yourself that you are not alone in your way of thinking or feeling, that others share similar patterns of thought and feeling.
- Reveal yourself to trusted friends, family members, or colleagues. Ask them about times when they have felt a similar way.
- Get to know yourself better – complete assessments to improve your self-awareness and understanding.
- Read memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies to learn the negative stories others have told themselves, despite often taking heroic action. i.e., The Color of Water by James McBride, Personal History by Katherine Graham, Truman by David McCullough, among many others.
- Listen to interviews and TED talks in which people vulnerably reveal themselves for the benefit of others.
- Participate in supportive peer-to-peer groups, professional and otherwise, that encourage vulnerable sharing and witnessing.
- Take on and retain Learner Mindsets and let go of Judger Mindsets.
- Consciously cultivate curiosity. You can be curious about the judgments you make; however, you cannot be curious and judging simultaneously.
- Ask questions of yourself and others to test the validity of your thoughts and feelings.
- Act and move forward even when you are afraid, rather than waiting to feel better in order to act.
- Develop and sustain an Outward Mindset, focusing on how you can help others. Shift your focus away from yourself.
- Consciously cultivate gratitude on an ongoing basis.
- Reflect on the stories you tell yourself and the degree to which they are true.
- Decide to incorporate a Growth Mindset and challenge a Fixed Mindset.
- Practice both self-compassion and compassion for others.
- Develop the habit of admitting you do not know things and ask for help.
- Normalize and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- Tap into your spiritual realm.
- Practice nurturing your trust and faith.
- Use talismans, such as smooth stones, a special keychain, or a piece of jewelry to ground yourself.
- Recall past successes and draw on them to visualize future achievements.
- Borrow habits and practices of authentically successful people and modify them to make them your own.
- Meditate to open yourself to receive what the universe has to offer.
- Center yourself in your body, which is always in the present, and pay attention to what it has to say.
- Reflect on whether your current situation, choices and actions serve you and adjust to ones that better align with your aspirational self.
- Eliminate the word “but” from your vocabulary and replace it with “and,” as in, “yes and….”
- Eliminate the word “just” from your vocabulary, most frequently used to minimize the power and potency of what you say afterward.
- Own your thoughts and feelings, and remember they do not define you.
- Remember that thoughts and feelings come and go, regardless of how frequently they recur. They need not be permanent nor pervasive.
- Create and utilize interrupters that jog you out of your unhelpful thinking and put you into a different groove.
- Remember that you are comparing your inside to other people’s outsides.
- Make journaling a habit in order to process your thoughts differently and shift your relationship to them.
- Actively seek ways to unleash your creativity.
- Engage a Coach to challenge your negative thought patterns, self-limiting believes and accelerate your growth and development.
- Participate in mentoring relationships with those you respect and are willing to help you.
- Make an agreement with an accountability partner to help you follow through on your commitments.
- Create Positive Identity and Negative Identity documents that represent your best and worst selves. Increase awareness of what triggers your negative identity. Improve your ability to recognize when you are operating out of your negative identity and learn how to shift out of it.
- Implement the habit of writing down 3-gratitudes and 3-accomplishments every evening before going to bed.
- Laugh at yourself, the absurdity of life, and the human condition.
- Create and practice rituals that remind you of what is possible for yourself and others.
This is merely a starter list. A resource to which you can refer as needed. Confident that you could develop another 40 more. I encourage you to use this as a jumping-off point to create and try out some of your own.
Regardless of our degree of accomplishment or success, we are susceptible to feeling we will be “found out” as lacking, unworthy or fraudulent. These beliefs are part of what makes us human.
It can be helpful to remember; we would not be very trustworthy or approachable if we did not experience these painful emotions. Let go of pretending otherwise. These habits can be part of creating your legacy of connection rather than separation. You, those you Love, and lead will be glad you did.
Robert Hackman, Principal, 4C Consulting and Coaching. He provides executive coaching for leadership impact, growth, and development for individuals, teams, and organizations. Committed to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, he facilitates trusting environments that promote unusually candid conversations. Rob is also passionate about the power of developing Legacy Mindsets and has conducted over 50 Legacy interviews with people to date.
A serious man with a dry sense of humor who loves absurdity can often be found hiking rocky elevations or making music playlists. His mixes, including Pandemic Playlists and Music About Men, among others, can be found on Spotify.
Bravely bring your curiosity to a conversation with Rob, schedule via voice or text @ 484.800.2203, or email@example.com