Is Impostor Syndrome Holding You Back? Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Many years ago, I can remember being in my then manager’s office just causally chatting about some work related things, when all of a sudden they turned towards me, with a look of fear upon their face, and they said ‘I hope I don’t get found out as a fraud.’ This was my first real exposure to impostor syndrome and how it can affect anyone, even those you least suspect.
This manager had always seemed competent and confident at work. Apart from the usual little grumbles that most staff have towards their boss, I’d not heard anything except positive things and respect from other people in the office. Yet on the inside, this person was struggling with that fear of being exposed as incompetent, of being shown to be a fraud and not up to the job. Underneath their outer facade of confidence, they were anxious, fearful and vulnerable like so many others.
In fact, impostor syndrome, and the lack of confidence and fear of exposure that goes with it, is surprisingly common. That inner anxiety and fear affects and limits many, many people, even those whom you may least suspect. It might even be something that holds you back and troubles you in your daily life, leading to self-doubt, catastrophising, fear, regret and anxiety. You lack confidence in yourself, worry about being found out and being exposed, and you belittle your achievements, skills and capabilities.
If you get positive feedback or compliments then you’ll struggle to just accept them and enjoy them, and if you get negative feedback you may feel angry, threatened and useless.
More and more people have come to me for help with overcoming impostor syndrome and the unhelpful thoughts and feelings that come with it because they are tired and fed up of the constant sense of inner struggle and negative mind chatter. And because it is something that is all about your own internal thoughts, feelings and beliefs, it is something that you certainly take positive action to overcome.
It’s a subject I covered a little while back too, in this article: Impostor Syndrome – Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Impostor syndrome can affect anyone and is marked by that overarching lack of self-confidence, an undervaluing of your achievements and capabilities, and that persistent fear of exposure and being found out in some way.
Now, of course, it is possible for anyone to go through a brief spell where impostor syndrome affects you. Perhaps you start a new role or job, or you are training in a new skill, or you are stepping out of your comfort zone in some way. You feel uncertain and recognise that others are doing the same thing better and perhaps you feel a little uncertain of yourself and what you are doing. Yet, over time, that discomfort and sense of inadequacy fades and things settle down again for you.
Where impostor syndrome is more severe and ingrained in your thinking and beliefs, that sense of inadequacy and self-doubt, and the pervasive sense of being found out, linger and have a detrimental impact. You may doubt yourself and your decisions, be very self-critical and harsh towards yourself, not go for certain opportunities and then regret it, hold back from saying what you think and worry about what others think or that they may realise you are somehow a fraud in some way.
What causes impostor syndrome is less clear. Yet certainly underlying patterns of thinking and feeling play a part. You may have a tendency towards perfectionism, feel you aren’t good enough or worthy in some way, worry excessively about what others think of you or be very negative in your own self perception and in how you value yourself and what you do.
It may seem like everyone else is doing things better, or that it somehow comes easier to them and that you don’t deserve to achieve or succeed in what you do. In these days of social media, you may find that the things you see and the successes people share, somehow add to your own sense of low confidence and low self-esteem. You may compare all of their positive photos and stories with how you perceive things are for you and then conclude that you are lacking in some way. Their lives just seem so much better and more successful. It all adds to the sense of inadequacy you have and makes you more anxious about yourself and your achievements, and increases that sense of foreboding that someone will realise you are a sham sometime soon.
Of course, what I think we all sometimes forget when we scroll through our social media feeds, is that what you are seeing is self-selected. By that, I mean that what you are looking at and reading are only the things that people have chosen to share online. And most people share the good stuff and leave out the less good stuff. Whoever it is, they too will have challenges, anxieties and doubts in their life. They may seem to have it all perfectly worked out in their life, and maybe they do some of the time, yet there will still be setbacks, frustrations and disappointments. Why? Because they are human too and we all experience these things even we chose not to share them. So be sure to keep this in mind if negative comparisons add to your self-doubt and anxiety. And avoid the easy temptation to compare the outside of someone else’s life with the inside of yours, where you may be painfully aware of what isn’t as you’d like it to be yet.
Tackling Impostor Syndrome
As mentioned above, because impostor syndrome is all about your own beliefs, thinking patterns and feelings, it is something that can be successfully tackled, no matter how long it seems to have blighted you.
Firstly, keep in mind the point that I’ve already covered and avoid the tendency to compare yourself and your perceived failings, with what others chose to share about themselves. You can learn from their successes and be pleased for them if you want to, yet recognise that they are human and so they too will have challenges, worries and perceived failings too. We are kind of all in this together.
If you have ever received positive feedback, reviews or compliments (and you will have done), start to keep a record or log of them. Accept that the person who took the time to give this positive feedback was well intentioned and sincere. And then every so often, go back through them and remind yourself of accomplishments and things that you must have done well. Start to expose yourself to these more positive things rather than allowing habitual negative thinking patterns to obliterate them from your recollection or to undermine them in some way. If someone took the time, trouble and effort to be complimentary then allow yourself to recognise that it means you did something good.
If you are learning or doing something a bit new or different, then accept that feeling a bit inadequate for a while is just a part of the process. Unless you are doing exactly the same things in exactly the same way in every facet of your life, then there are going to be some areas where you are learning and progressing. No one masters something new on day one, there is a journey to be gone through. So no matter how many aspects of life you are competent at, recognise that there will always be some aspects that you are still learning or seeking to improve at.
As many of my clients know, one of the main premises I often come back to when considering our own thoughts and perceptions is this; is what I’m thinking a fact or am I just making stuff up in my head. If there is evidence you can point at then it may be a fact. If you are just thinking it and it has nothing to support it (and thinking it really often or really hard doesn’t count) then it’s probably just habitual perception, or as I call it, made up. so often we go through life making stuff up to ourselves in our own heads and treating it like fact. It can make you anxious, sad and miserable.
So start challenging some of the stuff you are telling yourself. Are your really rubbish at everything? do you really know what others are thinking about you? What actual evidence is there that you are a fraud or totally lacking as a person in every way? Chances are, that in that way that happens, you are telling yourself stuff out of habit and running with it in your head.
So rather then let your thoughts casually rule your life. Pause and consider just what you are saying to yourself in your own head. If you are a perfectionist then maybe things don’t actually have to be a complete success or else a complete failure. Maybe things can be pretty good, or good enough. There may be progress you can be pleased with even if you can learn and do things even better next time.
If you have a tendency to catastrophise then, rather than predict a disastrous future when all goes wrong, start to be more balanced in what is likely to happen and consider what you can do to mitigate or improve things along the way. If you worry about what others think, and assume it’s negative, again, seek evidence. Chances are they are way too busy thinking about their own stuff to be spending time negatively appraising you in some sort of minute detail during their day.
Start to reign in that voice in your head and make it all much more rational, factual and specific.
And you can start to become more comfortable with feedback from others, more relaxed if someone else disagrees, more at peace with yourself and in your world, and more comfortable with the sense that you can’t please all of the people, all of the time (and that’s ok!).
If impostor syndrome and the thoughts and feelings that go with it, are problematic for you, then you may find value in some of my hypnosis downloads for confidence, anxiety, self-esteem and challenging the things that go on inside of your own head. Take a look here: Hypnosis Downloads
I’ve helped many people with overcoming impostor syndrome and dealing with the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that underpin it and maintain it. So if you could use come help then do get in touch and let’s have a chat about helping you to feel better in yourself moving forwards: Contact Dan
To your health and happiness,
Anxiety Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Struggling with impostor syndrome, anxiety, stress, low confidence or low self-esteem and could use some help to feel better? Find out how I can help with a Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session. Learn more here: Appointments
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