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How to overcome imposter syndrome

Coach Joanna Lott by Joanna Lott
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Do you feel plagued by feelings of self-doubt? Have the feeling you don’t know what you’re doing despite having done it before? Feel like everyone else is better than you? Fear someone will find out you aren’t who they think you are and expose you as a fraud? Think you should know things easier or faster than you do?

If you’re nodding then you may have imposter syndrome. It’s a collection of symptoms and behaviours that stop us living life to its fullest. It is very common but cleverly fools us into thinking we are the only one feeling this way.

Symptoms of imposter syndrome include:
• Perfectionism
• Procrastination
• Feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing even though you’ve done it before
• Feeling that things should be easier for me to learn
• Always somehow feeling not good enough
• Plagued with feelings with self-doubt
• Struggling with criticism
• Always comparing
• Feel like a fraud

Overcoming imposter syndrome

1) Uncover the roots of the imposter syndrome

Start from why it’s there and how it shows up in your life.

From my coaching experience, the roots of imposter syndrome often stem from childhood when we’re criticised. We internalise that and it defines who we are.

This doesn’t mean we can’t move forward. It means we are stuck at a point of our development path and need to uncover our authentic self so that the path becomes more obvious.

The emotional rather than rational part of the brain often wins, and when we try to do something different, we end up treating ourselves in a way we would never treat anyone else because ‘we’re not good enough’.

Ask yourself:
• Why do the needs of others come before me?
• Why do I let my imposter syndrome symptoms get in the way? (eg What’s in it for me? On some level it’s working for us).
• What’s the impact on my personal and professional life?
• Choose 3 of the imposter syndrome symptoms to work on –which would have the biggest impact if they were eliminated or shifted?

2) Know your imposter syndrome script

We need to acknowledge where we are today, where we have got stuck in our development journey, and grow from that point.

Our brains think between 20,000-60,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot of thoughts. Alarmingly around 80% of those thoughts are negative and what we think today we’re going to think tomorrow as we entrench these negative pathways in our brain. We need to become more aware of our automatic thoughts – know it, acknowledge it, challenge it.

During our childhood we are told things about ourselves which leads us to decide the way that we need to be, but we can hit a point where it no longer serves us.

Ask yourself:
• Was that a helpful thought? Does it move me to my potential? If not challenge it – is it true or is it an automatic script which you’ve outgrown?
• Reframe the thought – how can you reframe it into a positive - what went well? Acknowledge the little wins – our brain takes around 60 seconds for a positive thought to imbed.
• Imagine someone else expressing those thoughts – what would you say to them?
• Use affirmations - affirmations work to reprogram your mind, helping you believe that you have already achieved your goal. I am enough. How does it make you feel when you say this – name the feeling (but keep saying the affirmation!)
• Say affirmations out loud – this helps build new neural pathways and build conscious awareness.
• Keep a journal – record the automatic thought and in another column list what is the helpful thought you’re going to replace it with.

3) Rewrite your imposter syndrome story

Question your current story and rewrite it

We are not our stories. Clearly understand your story and become aware of negative thoughts through journaling and reflection.

Ask yourself:
• Write your thoughts down and reframe them. Are they true or is it an automatic emotional response?
• What is the story you want to create? What is your desired vision for the future? Our story is grounded in our script – we use it to stay small and safe. We can break out of survival mode with a vision.
• Work on daily and regular affirmations. Start your affirmation with I AM.. this works by tricking the brain that you’ve already achieved your goal.
• Use journaling to measure your progress.

4) Reprioritise your authentic self

Build your sense of entitlement and work through the resistance to fulfil your potential

We came into this world with unique abilities which differentiate us from everyone else. Nobody else has had the same experiences as you. Nobody has all of the natural talents combined with the various skills you learned. Often these superpowers come so naturally to us we might not realise they are something special.

Ask yourself:
• What energises you and makes you feel strong? Keep track of how you spend the next couple of days. What are you always doing or thinking about?
• Reflect upon what you are naturally good at and write it down.
• Ask 5 people to tell you what they see as your unique abilities.
• Do a combined reflection and declare it and say it out loud!
• Create a scrapbook recording all of the achievements you have made and all of the positive things people have said to you
• Start a nightly gratitude journal – this can train our brain to look for the positive rather than negative thoughts

It takes daily practice to build awareness and practice new skills. A great analogy comes to mind when I think of this work. Are you the garden or the gardener? The garden is fed, watered and flourishes, it expects to be taken care of. The gardener doesn’t have any needs.

"Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to OWN" - MICHELLE OBAMA

If you would like support please contact me.

Joanna Lott


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