Imposter Syndrome is a term that’s been in circulation since the 1970’s. We all know what it is. Many of us have had these feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, and fear at some point in our lives and careers but have we made any real progress with our growth and evolution by using this term? No.
The best counter to imposter syndrome is to stop using the term. If we stop saying it, we stop giving the term power. Instead, consider ways to acknowledge your feelings and take steps to self-evaluate, re-script your thoughts and measure your progress. Maybe we can use a relational term like Compassion instead and recoin the phrase to “Compassion Syndrome”. Imagine a world we as a community could re-direct our thoughts back to the wisdom and brilliance that comes from within.
A brilliant therapist once shared with me a wonderful technique when my stress, anxiety was at an all-time high in the summer of 2020. She said, “naming where you are, normalizes how you feel”. Feelings are a normal part of our everyday experience, especially when we find ourselves in the middle of something unfamiliar. Think about all the places where you are self-doubting and are questioning your worthiness right now. What is a typical response? I would take a guess and say it’s to work harder, hold ourselves to higher standards and hide our true feelings from most people. What if we changed the mental narrative and said to ourselves “I am a human being with feelings and I am feeling insecure at this moment. Things will improve because I am learning every day. How can I show myself compassion the same way I would help a friend?”
I know what you are thinking; that sounds squishy and soft and not something that is going to work for me especially in an emotionally charged situation. I can attest to the fact that it is not easy, but it can be learned. Shifting your self-talk can move you to a neutral, rational, open-hearted place quickly and it can offer your brain the mental break it needs so that other ideas and perspectives can surface.
I am a very rational, practical thinker who is hard charging and ambitious. I have spent the better part of the last 16 years in search of my most effective self. That orientation has come at a price. While I am out driving, creating, connecting, and lifting others, I have seen a pattern where I use that energy to quiet the voice of my inner critic.
The truth is, when the project is complete, or the speaking engagement has concluded I am alone with my thoughts, there she is. The scared and insecure self who is wondering how I got here, was it good enough and how long it will be before I hear the negative feedback.
What moves me back into a calm, self-loving place where my delicate, anxious, vulnerable, and soft-spoken side has a voice is not reading articles about overcoming “Imposter Syndrome”. I am not interested in “fixing” a broken one. Instead, what I seek is self-compassion, understanding and kindness. Whether it is a good cry with a close friend or the soothing words and practical advice of Kristin Neff, Ph.D. I want to have a happy and an interesting life where terms like compassion and kindness are the learning terms we use for our career development.