They sometimes say “expectation is the root of heartache,” which I dare say can be a self-fulfilling truth.
Expecting the best takes a lot of practice. It takes reminders many multiple times a day… But after a time, it becomes more of a habit than it is not, and that’s when the magic starts to unfold. . .
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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):
- The Perfectionist
- The Superwoman / man
- The Natural Genius
- The Rugged Individualist
- 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…
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.
I believe deeply in this sentiment – the ability to remain in the present (and upbeat!) is a high-level skill in a fast-paced and stressful world. But when we can tap into the positive, focus on what we can change (not what we can’t), and when we refrain from projecting into worry and fear, a world of opportunity unfolds.
Be open to changing an outdated attitude. Shift your wavelength to a positive tune, and the magic will unfold before you…
Life is fast-paced, and we don’t get to choose how long we get to enjoy it. As such, we are reminded that what we have truly is precious.
Still, it’s easy to see what isn’t working, and to be dragged down by the unsavory side of life. But what about all that good?! Whether our health, relationships, a roof over our heads, passions, friends, love – it goes on – I’m willing to bet your life is blessed in more ways than you can count. Maybe more than you have counted.
Having a thankful attitude allows us to fully embrace and enjoy our present – the people in our lives, the blessings we have, all the “little things” that make our lives brighter, richer, and worth living. (And it brings more of it our way. . .)
* Give compliments freely *
* Offer your help to someone in need *
* Smile at a stranger *
* Thank those who are there for you when they least expect it, and support them when they need it. Our bonds with others may be the very glue that keeps our lives together at times *
* Recognize the gifts you have, and the beauty you bring to the world…because you deserve your support too *
Stay thankful, stay grateful, and watch magic unfold…
Some days it seems like we only focus on how much farther we have to go. We beat ourselves up with “what if”s and “should”s, which not only clouds the joys of the present, but distorts our thoughts so much that doldrums are all we see. And that spiral will permeate every aspect of our lives. . .
Life as adults comes with so much responsibility… But, it also comes with immeasurable happiness. We get to learn every day, we get to make our own choices, we get to make a real difference by positively impacting the world around us. And…we likely make a lot more progress than we remember to give ourselves credit for.
If only for today…
Instead of looking down a long path ahead (one, by the way, you cannot predict, so why worry?), think about the distance you’ve already travelled.
. . . Remember how many times you battled adversity and came out the other side – victorious!
. . . Remember all the things you have done to be the beautiful person you are today, who contributes so positively to the world…
. . . Remember how much you are loved
. . . Think about how far you have journeyed and revel in the “damn, right, I’m amazing!”
You deserve to be acknowledged…and most importantly by yourself.
It’s a simple phrase – two words, to be exact – but it can have a profound effect on how your life unfolds. I’ll share an example below…
It is a human problem to get caught up in “should,” in “what is,” and “what could be” – everyone projects at times, and everyone worries. We also often mix up what we can change with the multitude of external influences that we can’t. Here’s a not-so-secret secret:
CONTROL WHAT WE CAN – US
Yes, I know…humbling. But, so true. We have absolutely ZERO control over anything but ourselves. Don’t lose hope, throw in the towel, or begin assuming that means we are on a predestined path-‘o’-doom just yet, though. We aren’t! By controlling ourselves – the only sphere in which we truly have power – we are able to affect what goes on around us.
Think of the ability to impact our surroundings, therefore, as the positive byproduct of managing ourselves (our reactions, our responses, our non-responses, our attitude, our actions…) It’s kind of like lead by example…only the student to follow suit in this case is destiny...
OUR INTERNAL DIALOGUE MATTERS
As per my post yesterday, Speak Victory, Not Defeat, the conversations we have internally can literally map out how our path unfolds before us. Positive thinking, energy, and words can – oh yes, quite literally! – attract the good you are hoping for. Ever heard “be careful what you wish for”? There’s a reason people say it…because enough people have experienced the “hoping-for-the-worst-and-that’s-exactly-what-happened!” Another sterling example of how life is shaped by the input we provide it – I’m willing to bet you’ve been there.
The energy we put out tells the Universe what we want – without judgment it tries to match our “desires.” The intense focus and power we give to our thoughts is like handing over a blueprint to the powers that be. “Thoughts become things,” they say… Yes. They do.
SHIFT OURSELVES, SHIFT THE UNIVERSE
I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to buffer oneself against disappointment, by the way. I also don’t think it’s necessary that we lower our standards. Rather, it’s about altering our own perceptions and expectations. When we see and expect great things, they often find their way to us. When we don’t, life can become a merciless tidal wave.
So how do we shift that little thing called the Universe? We rephrase. Instead of “I can’t afford that,” we could say “I have more than enough to do all the things I want and need to do.” Instead of “I can’t” try, “I can do anything I put my mind to – I attract positive opportunities all the time.”
Here’s an example from my own life…
Somewhere around three weeks after meeting my husband, I told him a story about magic and miracles. Until I finished speaking, I’m not sure he knew I was referring to him…
We were having dinner at a diner in our hometown, and I remember – wholly unabashedly – explaining how I had (only a few months before) announced to the Universe that I was all-in for a change. A complete overhaul. I was so committed to being happy and healthy, that nothing was to stand in my way. I had decided that either:
- I’d go through life solo, and be 1,000% okay with that (and I was) OR…
- I’d meet a man who was everything I ever hoped for, and the man I would marry.
Yes, I was that specific.
And…even more so…
I made a vision board and described – to a T – the man I was sitting with that night, and the man I married one Halloween a year and a half later. I described qualities that I so desperately wanted in a partner, but ones I never had. I described a man who was loyal, honest, gentle with my heart, accepting of me in spite of my quirks, who would respect and love me more with each day. I described the kind of person who would be as excited about my passions as I was, for no other reason that they brought me joy. I described the kind of man anyone would want in their corner because he’d have a heart brighter than the sun…
And then? I took it further. I embraced the “AS IF.”
New Years passed and I not only continued to remain committed to myself, but I made it a point to practice daily. I thought about what it would be like to come home to someone who was actually happy to see me at the end of the day…because no one else ever was. I acted AS IF that actually happened, and I’d hear him in my mind coming home and speaking to me with kindness. I’d make myself feel what it would feel like to be held, and loved, and cherished…AS IF I already had those things.
I not only focused, thought, spoke aloud…but I believed. I believed I was worthy and deserving. I believed those things AS IF. It took some practice as I had not known what such things felt like…but I did everything in my power to try.
I remember the look he had in his eyes when I finished speaking that evening. I remember my voice saying that I had dreamed so deeply that my thoughts became real, and that in a moment of magical manifestation, he walked out of a snow storm and through the door at the coffee shop where we met. I remember the hug he gave me before I got into the car after dinner, and the feeling of safety, comfort, warmth, and joy.
STAY IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
I was never the kind of person who needed to be in a relationship. I never felt that I needed to be “completed,” and I wasn’t desperate to be in another situation after so many that had failed. I was a shell of a person for a long time, and it still takes work to be a better human being each day – something I ever strive for. But I decided that the only thing that would hold me back is ME – my thoughts, energy, action, and words. I needed to do an about-face, jump back on the positive bandwagon, and to act AS IF the things I wanted had already come to pass. When I did, my life shifted dramatically…
I remember, also, when I shifted jobs earlier on in my career – I remember whenever I started to feel unappreciated, not challenged enough, or that I wasn’t growing on the trajectory I had set for myself, something else came along. When I think about it, I was envisioning being promoted, or being eagerly offered something new. And opportunities always managed to materialize. Maybe I was young and felt naively impervious – that may be true. But I recall not having the sense that I couldn’t – it just felt like opportunity was there and I could have it. (I also, by the way, remember leaving my last job in Fashion…which was horribly unpleasant. It was, however, something I sincerely believe I “wished for.” Tale for another day, but let’s just say, I was heard by someone upstairs!)
Life is tumultuous and we have no way of knowing what is to come. We can stay worried and stressed, which is a horrible way to exist (we rob ourselves of joy and the ability to experience life!) OR…we can practice positivity and act AS IF. Trust me, I’m working on it too – being an Empath means I feel my own emotions (rather loudly!) and everyone else’s too. I have to work at not taking things that aren’t mine, and finding the space to breathe. But…I DO. I turn the radio down and talk to myself ALL. THE. TIME. I make it a habit to say something nice to myself, and to act AS IF as much as I can. Even when we know it’s the best way to be, it isn’t easy! But…it’s possible, and it’s the “possible” we want to aim for.
- Focus on what you can change, not on what you can’t. That means getting to know YOU intimately.
- Speak victory! Try shifting perceptions and expectations to GOOD and GREAT. Expect wonderful and you might just find yourself having a better day, or presented with exciting opportunities.
- Think about times when you got what you “wished for” – good, bad, otherwise. This might reveal quite a lot…
- Rephrase everything you say and think to positive statements.
- Remember that you are worthy and deserving of good things.
- Picture all the wonderful things you want in your life AS IF you already have them. Be specific. Be clear. Focused intention can bring about miracles.
- DON’T GIVE UP! Keep practicing. Fake it until you make it. It takes time to shift our thinking but…everything is possible, and the Universe will follow suit.