Living As An Imposter

Beyond the fact that I am utterly fascinated by human behavior, this particular “syndrome” is one I am especially interested in. Why? I have it!

What is Imposter Syndrome? It’s what is often described as a “phenomenon” (versus a mental disorder) whereby an individual feels he (or she) is not as accomplished as he is in reality. As such, there is an overwhelming feeling that he presents as something he is not. Or, in other words, those suffering from this syndrome feel like a full-on fraud, a sheep in lion’s clothing, and completely unworthy of their accolades. 

This article on Inc.com actually made me laugh – I wasn’t laughing at myself (nor anyone else who’s experienced this phenomenon), but rather because it’s so on point. The article, along with a few others out in the ether, suggest that this occurs for about 70% of the population – that, my friends, is no small sum! 

What got me onto the tangent? I was listening to a discussion the other day on the radio with Grace Killelea, founder of Half The Sky. And… I LOVED what she had to say. I’ve recently been mulling (rather feverishly, I confess) about my direction in life. I’ve found my fit and purpose but how to hone in and progress in a totally new field? How to do it at 40 years-old? How to feel successful without the external hoopla to validate my existence? What about all the accomplishments I’ve fought for along the way that I’m neglecting to acknowledge? 

The conversation, needless to say, was one I related to. At one point Grace was sharing her own journey – she talked about having to step back and reevaluate her own needs, attitudes, and approach to her career and life in general. She learned through some introspection that her intense need for approval and respect was disproportionate to what reality allows (the kind of realization that may be a tough pill to swallow at first!) She began to recognize that she personalized others’ responses, reactions and attitudes, and that she needed to let go – not so much of an internal standard, but of the expectation that others would meet her where SHE wanted…or that they really had any clue at all. Other people’s “stuff” often has zero to do with us – it would serve us well to remember that point across the board! She came out and said she had to let go of what “no longer served” her, and that is a phrase I use ALL the time.

Humans have a way of getting stuck in patterns – psychological, physical routines, stale attitudes, outdated opinions…whatever. They may have been what we needed once upon a time, but in some cases our older M.O.s serve only to hinder our current progress, or make a mess of present circumstances in a way we simply don’t need (who, really, needs any extra stress? If a negative outcome is at the hands of a habit we can change, might it not be worth tackling?)

Interestingly, it turns out that Impostor Syndrome isn’t a one-size-fits-all “psychological pattern” (phrase per Wikipedia’s link above) – no, there are in fact several profiles under the Imposter umbrella… This article from fastcompany.com shares five such categories, per author Valerie Young (The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It):

  1. The Perfectionist
  2. The Superwoman / man
  3. The Natural Genius
  4. The Rugged Individualist
  5. The Expert

If you aren’t sure which type you fall into, there are (perhaps not surprisingly) a plethora of quizzes online. I couldn’t say which one is the best, but if you pop it into google, you’re sure to find a few. I took this one just for giggles…though admittedly, I could have answered a few questions in a few different ways. Whether or not you partake in the game-like fun of online quiz taking, you probably know whether you suffer from this already…

But…

Is it something you are willing to admit to yourself or others? I actually feel a kind of freedom in sharing my less-than-desireable traits and struggles – it allows me to show that I am as human and flawed as the next person. Why is that a good thing?

  • It provides me the opportunity to connect more deeply with others (we are never really alone – SOMEone out there gets it)
  • It allows me to more fully embrace that I have areas in which I could use some work
  • It allows those who matter in my life to recognize that I am aware, willing, and able to address it
  • And it reduces the stigma I might feel internally about it (in fact, it may reduce the stigma others perceive as well)

I’m definitely not ashamed of this at all – in fact, I feel like many who know me well would say, “Oh, hell yes, she has that!” with a laugh. Those who know me strictly on the surface would doubt me to the moon, however… We impostors are really good at ACTING the part we *think* we aren’t really cut out for! 😉 What a conundrum!

If you also find yourself in this boat (no doubt a rowboat with a fancy ship facade? 😉 ) fear not… There are plenty of ways to mitigate the falsities your mind is surreptitiously suggesting. This article shares 21 tactics to try, Forbes gives a few tips as well, and this site touts 12 tricks of its own. Keep in mind, you can always google more. ALSO keep in mind that you ought to take EVERYTHING you read on the Internet (including my own diatribes!) with a grain of salt. Take what works, ditch what doesn’t – it is always up to you what you wish to absorb. 

I’m so excited that Grace Killelea’s segment coincided with my being in the car – it was one of those moments where I did receive some indirect external validation. While of course the idea is that we create our OWN (I’m working on this continually!) it did offer me a moment of I’m-not-alone-ness right when I needed it most. I suppose that’s why I feel so inclined to share…

So many of us go to work each day under what we *feel* is a guise. But lo and behold, if we really reel out the list of things we have accomplished in our lives, the progress we have made as individuals, and the positive impact(s) we have had on those around us…we would be bowled over with a well-deserved “WOW!”

Hold your chin up when you look in the mirror – remind yourself of your multitude of talents, abilities, and achievements. It takes work to bathe ourselves in affirmations, and it may feel a little silly, but do the work – you deserve to feel proud in your own skin because you’ve worked hard to get where you are. So, dangnabit, have I! I’ll be working at it with you. 

Xo

Success – Perspective And The Path

The journey to success is not often a linear one, nor is it rife with “yes!”s and obvious, silver-plattered opportunities. Rather, it is littered with failures, mishaps, wrong directions, and “what the hell was I thinking!?”s. Reality can be tough!

But…our perspective of that journey – that non-linear, tumultuous, stress-inducing road – can make all the difference in whether the path ends with success* or another “not-quite.”

*success as defined by us, let’s be clear

When we can take each “failure” as a positive, we are on our way to finding the successes we are aiming for. Why? Because each time we fall, we learn something new – we learn how to better navigate the rocky road of life and about who we are, what we need, and how we function optimally. In other words (and as we tell our kids in Martial Arts classes) when we lose, we learn…and that’s why we LOVE to lose.

It is horribly unrealistic to expect that the seas are always going to be smooth. It is also unrealistic to expect that we will fearlessly and perfectly navigate through every storm and crashing wave. What IS realistic is to expect that each fall we take will provide us with invaluable feedback, a lesson of some kind, and something positive in the end (knowledge gained, new connections, self discovery, an “ah-ha” moment…whatever it may be.)

Open your mind to the possibility of failure being a much-needed life guide – without it, we are incapable of learning that our limitations are often much farther out than our minds might impose, and that we are indeed destined for greatness. 

Fear not if you falter, then, but reap the rich rewards -PLB

Yesterday You Said “Tomorrow”

This has always been a favorite, ass-kicking quote of mine. When I say I’m going to do something and I lollygag, I’m in for a nice trip to Self-Disappointment Central. This quote reminds me that if I commit to something – doesn’t matter what – come hell or high water, I’m going to go for it.

I don’t have to be perfect – it’s about progress, NOT perfection! – but I damn well need to try. SOME effort is better than ZERO effort in my book.

Never mind that… The prospect of spiraling downwards, getting stuck, or making life harder for myself (longer climb the longer I “put off what can be done today”) is absolutely horrifying. So much so that I flash this quote in front of my face and I start somewhere.

Ever have a moment where you think, “holy smokes! Is it (- day of the year –  ) already?!” or...”when the hell did I turn 40?! Where did the rest go?!”

Life moves FAST – in the nigh-literal blink of an eye. Cherish what you have today.

START working on your goals today.

Today turns into tomorrow, then next week, then next year before you know it – instead of drowning while your head is reeling, take a step forward. A little one is still in the right direction. You got this!

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No Better Way To Say It

If you want results, you have to work – it really is that simple.  

It doesn’t matter if you are speaking about your career, your hobbies, your weak links / areas for improvement, your family… Whatever arena of life you choose, it takes work to create the life you want, need, and (frankly) deserve.  Moseying along at “mediocre” means staying in the same rut your whole life, minus the success and growth that “could” be.

Don’t lose heart, though – because of the hard work you put in across the board, the results have the power to be mind-blowing.  You are more incredible than you think – put your all into whatever aspect it is, and be prepared to amaze yourself.

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Discipline

It isn’t always about the motivation – sometimes it’s simply NOT there.  Maybe you’re tired, maybe you just don’t feel like it. Discipline is that figure sitting on your shoulder, whispering in your ear:

“You can”

“Just start”

“You’ll feel amazing once you get through it”

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Motivation isn’t always easy to come by, but discipline can get you through.