You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?
And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’
Meryl Streep, 2002
Between working as a Barrister and founding The Conscious Professional I had the privilege of training lay and expert witnesses around the world for a company called Bond Solon. Over the years, I recognised that every single person I trained had something in common. They all reported experiencing Imposter Syndrome – whether they were an eminent medical professional, a billionaire, or a CEO – each reported a deep fear of being exposed. My job was to remind these witnesses that it was ok to know some things, and not know other things. That it was ok to remember incompletely, to take time to think when quizzed and to feel confident consulting their notes and sources. In other words, that it was ok to be human, and to have an imperfect recall.
As I worked with them, I also came to see my own moments of intense Imposter Syndrome in a different light: like when I represented a client in Court for the first time aged 22 when I led my first professional meditation class, and when I changed my Linkedin profile to International Mindfulness Expert. In all of those moments, there was part of myself that had not felt worthy or ready. Yet in time, I came to see these moments of uncertainty as a sign that I was on track, that I was in a moment of stretch and growth, and that personal transformation was occurring.
Given the above, I would guess that at some point on your journey, it is likely that Imposter Syndrome will feature too. And if you can start by accepting that this is a natural part of the human condition of emergent growth – it becomes easier to deal with and move through.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome (I.S.) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.
Arlin Cuncic, Author of Therapy in Focus
Need To Know Facts
- Imposter syndrome is common and manageable.
- How you relate to imposter syndrome matures and changes over time.
- Accepting the presence of imposter syndrome is the first step in overcoming it.
Things To Tell Yourself When Imposter Syndrome Is Present
When Imposter Syndrome is present you will likely be listening to a set of negative thoughts. Whilst these are unique in tone and language to each person, they are likely to be similar to those found in the left column below.
To move out of an anxious state characterised by I.S. and back towards a calm, centred and professional awareness, you may wish to remind yourself of the truths found in the right column or find your own words which represent your truths more completely.
The Deeper Streams of Imposter Syndrome
I suspect that at a deeper level, Imposter Syndrome arises from the often-unacknowledged truth that the roles and responsibilities we act out in our lifetimes are based on a very fragile premise. The premise being that someone, way back when, thought it was a good idea.
From these historical guesses and musings spring forth rules, contracts, jobs, money, positions of power, hierarchies, societies, governments and human civilisation. This fragile reality means that we all commonly feel an underlying sense of something being somewhat amiss with the world and ourselves. We have a feeling that we are all somewhat making it up as we go along – and we are.
As we then rise through the echelons of our chosen path being called upon to play more pivotal roles in this conceptual system, at times our unease may multiply, perhaps manifesting as a lack of confidence and self-acceptance. When Imposter Syndrome is experienced intensely, it can therefore also be an invitation into a more comprehensive exploration of our purpose, place, and contribution in this lifetime. It may in fact signal the start of being called onto a new path and to remember who you really are.
BY NEIL SELIGMAN
The Conscious Professional offers coaching for those working through Imposter Syndrome and other Conscious Leadership challenges. We also deliver group training in Overcoming Imposter Syndrome. Contact Neil Seligman for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org