Making Peace With Your Ambition - Finding The Cure For Imposter Syndrome
There's so much to be said about this topic because it opens up so many things for me personally and where I am right now. At the moment, I'm in this intense study of the nature of ambition and what I’m noticing in my own life and relationships as I step into this next era of contribution. Because of this, I’m being forced to face myself in some very powerful ways... the good, the bad, the ugly and the amazing.
It's led me to create this series - Making Peace With Your Ambition. Wanting to be successful comes with so much baggage for many of us, whether we come from families where those around us have been very successful or whether we come from background where the majority of our people have not, and how we feel from this sort of ambivalence about achieving to this fanatical, almost maniacal obsession with “making it”- and what we believe making it will mean - there’s a lot in there.
So as we journey through this series, I’m going to ask you to start paying attention to your own narrative about your ambition and where you are in relationship to what you want, need and or feel entitled to. It's about owning the truth about who we are, the truth about what we want and the reasons why we think we can or cannot have it.
As I become more successful, some of the old habits and conversations become more vigilant and I say that to say there are always levels and stages to our evolution. We breakthrough only to reach the next barrier, so listen to very closely to where you are in this.
So let's talk about the Elephant in the Room right now. That Elephant is called Imposter Syndrome.
We are now in a world where its seems as if the rug is being pulled out from underneath people left and right as a daily exercise - sometimes very famous people, or captains of industry or people who’ve been painted as upstanding citizens. Then we come to find out they're flawed in some way. And as this whole cultural pastime of building people up and ripping them down is at an all time high, I’ve got to wonder if this dog eat dog environment is making you…well a little more timid about stepping out there with who you are and what you have to offer. We’ve heard the phrase Imposter Syndrome thrown about ad nauseam but is it really?
What is it? This term was coined by Pauline Clance in her 1986 book, the Imposter Phenomenon: Overcoming the fear that haunts your success. It is described as a psychological phenomenon, where individuals are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Imposter syndrome is commonly understood as a false, and sometimes crippling, belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill. We witness people who have been branded one way get “found out” as being another way and we just decide we’ll do anything we can to keep the glaring light of interrogation from landing on us. Statistics show that approximately 70% of us suffer from this concept on some level.
What Does It Stem From?
There are 4 primary feelings that hold us back: Each one is distinct, but they travel in packs!
- Shame - we hold onto a sense of pain and humiliation rooted in our identify or behavior - something about who we are or what we’ve done….causes us to shrink back and turn away from ourselves.
- Guilt - this core feeling of being wrong or having done something wrong or having achieved or received something that maybe you should not have - this feeling of unearned fortune or blessing.
- Unworthiness - lack of esteem - innate belief that your inherent value as a human being is not enough -when measured against the things you want to have, do and be in the world.
- Inadequacy - internalized feeling of not having what it takes - to achieve the things you want or desire - that somehow you are fundamentally lacking what’s required to be successful and there is nothing you can do about it.
Where Does It All Come From?
There are layers of messaging that are internalized over the course of our development:
- Familial conditioning
- Cultural conditioning
- Societal conditioning
- Spiritual/religious conditioning
- Past life experiences
What Are Some of the Consequences?
So let’s go over some of the consequences of suffering from Imposter Syndrome:
- Intense fear of negative evaluation/ deep fear of persecution
- Massive people pleasing and appeasing
- Hiding behind other people, supporting their greatness and accomplishments
- Downplaying and or deflecting your own contribution to a collective effort and unnecessarily drawing other people into the spotlight
- Working harder than anyone you know, maybe even to the detriment of your health
- Over giving and resisting receiving or keeping any kind of advantage or accolade
- Conforming to environments that encourage you to play small, hanging out where you are comfortable and safe
- Avoiding conflict at all costs
- Tolerating bullshit, not demanding that people respect you and honor your value
- Consistently putting others needs before your own
- Suppressing or downplaying your own talents and gifts
- Thwarting your own creativity i.e. dreams, ideas, and aspirations
- Being reluctant to raise your voice, especially when something matters
For some of us we see this behavior and we’re always fighting with ourselves like “why did you say yes to that? "or "why did you let him treat you that way?”. For others of you, you don’t even realize what’s going down until someone else points it out to you. For even more, you may not experience these issues until you start to get into bigger rooms with more massive players. Then, all of a sudden you're saying to yourself “that dude’s about to win the Nobel Peace Prize, what the heck am I doing here?”
How do we begin to heal it?
- Out it & talk about it - being willing to out ourselves with trusted friends and colleagues and ask for their support. Just sharing it sometimes gives us the courage to make a different choice.
- Being willing to acknowledge when we do a good job- practice actually patting ourselves on the back BEFORE we move into critique mode. Give it a full 24 hours before you give yourself notes on that keynote, workshop or product launch.
- Being willing to celebrate - raising a glass to ourselves and allowing others to celebrate us is massive!
- Create a mantra- Say it to yourself before you step on stage, enter a big meeting, or pitch a major project. One that HONORS who you are and what you bring.
- Give ourselves a BREAK - literally and figuratively. If you are working your tail off and tending to everybody else on the side, take a spa day, go play hoops or watch the game - whatever brings you joy. UNPLUG and leave your phone at home.
- And the other break - allow yourself to be perfectly imperfect. To come as you are without being super prepared to the point where you’ve driven yourself and everyone around you crazy. You know when you’re doing the work and when you are obsessing.
- Surround yourself with people who SEE You - Who will Love and Affirm You no matter what. You don’t have to be anything for them AND they are happy if you are everything. They have no agenda, they just love you.
Bonus: Find the humor in it all - start to believe that it will all work out and when you find yourself doing those things….just take a deep breath - and recommit to showing up fully as you!