How to defeat Imposter Syndrome?
My breath tightened in my chest, my stomach lurched, questions pummelled my entire being, I was about to step on stage. What was nagging at me like my old Yiddish grandmother? I love and believe in the message and I’m a good public speaker, yet the fear that trembled through my body ripped me apart. All I could think about was what if they see me for the fraud that I feel I am.
Now, I was no fraud. Having spent decades working, 1000s of hours training, and even more than that living out the very words I was about to share, I knew that I could stand there and be present articulating the message the audience had come to hear.
So what was the problem?
Doubt. Doubt and fear were the problem. Those nagging thoughts, “What if I look foolish?” “Who am I to be sharing, anyway?”
How many times have those thoughts or a variation of them coursed through your body? Perhaps during a sales call, an important boardroom meeting, or an interview for your dream job, the echoes of doubt and fear stream across your consciousness creating anxiety and lack of assurance.
Did you ever dream that the answer to defeating imposter syndrome would come from a child’s tale?
Let me remind you of the emperor who loved new clothes, and the swindlers who took the whole kingdom for a ride. What were the words that they used to reduce even the king’s most trusted counsellors? They would say to each one, including the king, “If you don’t see the fabric, you are foolish and unfit for your position.” Each one so terrified of being “found out,” that none of them spoke up.
None of them except a child on the parade route. He was a game changer! I want to be like that kid. That child’s message has reverberated through my life, teaching me many things.
“Be humble – Not knowing something doesn’t make you a fraud, it makes you a student.” – Marie Forleo
What are they and how do they defeat imposter syndrome?
1. Know yourself
Remember how I began this article? Decades of work, 1000s of hours of training, a lifetime of living the talk, learn how to hold onto the effort and space you have taken to become that which you are. The child had nothing to lose, it wasn’t afraid of being “foolish” and “unfit.” The child just was, the child saw what was true. See what is true about you!
2. Speak up
Amidst the crowd, the child raised its voice. I’ve learned to listen and discern the truth of those voices that come with the statements of self-doubt and fear. I have a strategy full of one liners. I say back, “Yup, I am afraid and I’m going to show up anyway.” “Perhaps, some of this confidence is a mask, that is okay, that gets to be here, too.” “I am anxious.” “I do want this job, life won’t end if I don’t get it.”
Don’t get caught up in the noise and rucus of what is going on. Everyone of us needs to learn how to pause, take a deep breath, and step forward discerning out what is really happening. Don’t take the proverbial swindlers’ voices as truth. Pause!
“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” – Denis Waitley
Beyond the message of the story, my work as a yoga therapist has taught me a few things, mainly getting into your body!