Claiming Your Rightful Place
Desiree Anderson gives a new perspective on ‘Imposter Syndrome’…
By Desiree Anderson
There’s a room in my house that is full of certificates.
Degrees, diplomas, you name it I’ve got one… or two… or maybe even three!
I’m someone who loves to learn, explore new things, to encounter and embrace the world.
Being able to study has been one of the great passions of my life. There is, however, another side to all this.
For a long time, I was haunted by the recurring feeling that I wasn’t ‘good enough’.
I wasn’t clever enough.
I wasn’t confident enough.
Whatever skill the inner critic inside my head thought I should master, I was never ‘good enough’ at it.
So, I threw myself into academia, hoping with each new qualification that I might quieten the inner voice that told me I wasn’t succeeding. For years, with every bit of learning I achieved, I longed to shake off the sensation of being an ‘imposter’ in my own life.
It didn’t work.
‘Imposter syndrome’ is the phenomenon of feeling like a fraud, of worrying that we are secretly falling well below the expectations placed on us by ourselves or others. It comes with the fear that, at any point, someone might tap us on the shoulder and point out all our inadequacies.
What will happen when the emperor, rather than being dressed in new clothes, is discovered to be naked?
People of all types of backgrounds suffer from this condition.
Like it or not, we’ve all been ‘programmed’ by our history. We are the sum total of the experiences we’ve had up until this point. As such, most of us are guided by an acquired narrative (informed by the way life has panned out for us so far) that governs the way we think about ourselves. This feeling of being an imposter (a story we have told ourselves, over and over) becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
THE GOOD NEWS
Here’s the good news. It’s completely possible to get beyond the false narrative of ‘Imposter syndrome’.
Coming to understand that we, with our many imperfections, are ‘good enough’ is vitally important. Personally, I discovered that feeling good about myself wouldn’t come with that next elusive new qualification. I learned that contentment was something that I could claim straight away. I didn’t need to ‘do’ anything else.
I was enough.
The great news is that you are enough too. In fact, you are the perfect version of you.
RECOGNISE WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE
Remember you’re the only person on the planet who can be you. Rather than focusing on the things you feel you ‘should’ be doing or have ‘failed’ to master, why not spend some time looking at what you have achieved?
List your accomplishments. All of them.
Spend some time wallowing in the wonder that is you. It may feel weird at first. Persist.
FIND PEOPLE LIKE YOU
If your role models aren’t helpful in ridding you of ‘Imposter syndrome’, find new ones. People who embrace their imperfections are much more worthy of your focus. Look to those who don’t find life easy yet, despite that, do their best. Personally, I’m inspired by Michelle Obama, who has struggled with ‘Imposter syndrome’ herself. Her story shows how those unhelpful imposter feelings can be overcome – allowing space for positivity to blossom.
OPEN UP TO FRIENDS
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!” Robert Burns
Yes, the language in this quote is archaic, but the meaning is as relevant now as when Robert Burns wrote it. Seeing ourselves as others see us changes everything. The way others view us is invariably far more positive than our inner critics would have us believe.
So, open up to your friends. Tell them about your concerns and insecurities. Trust me, they’ll be amazed. Hearing what your nearest and dearest REALLY think about your abilities should be enough to banish ‘Imposter syndrome’ for quite some time.
EMBRACE YOUR IMPERFECTIONS
As Billy Joel once sang, ‘Don’t go changing’.
I’m sorry, bringing up Mr. Joel may make me sound vastly uncool. Actually, I’m not sorry. I like his music and that’s OK.
It’s so important that we embrace what makes us, us.
Examine your perceived flaws and imperfections. Take a good look. They may not be part of someone else’s view of perfection. But they make you, you and that’s enough.
When you finally understand that you’re ‘good enough’ as you are, your focus can move onto more important, joyful, aspects of life.
IN A NUTSHELL
‘Imposter syndrome’ is something so many of us, including me, have suffered with. Taming this feeling comes from changing the narratives we tell ourselves. We need to focus on the right role models, celebrate our own positive qualities, recognize the good things others see in us and embrace the elements of ourselves we’d wrongly once been ashamed of.
It’s all about perspective. Nowadays I still do the occasional course and qualification, but not to feed an inner void. Oh no, these days I do them for fun! I’m currently taking classes to learn how to bake. So, if you’d like any more real-world advice, get in touch with me, Desiree Anderson, and we can talk it through over some tea and freshly baked cake.
Founder, Crest Coaching & HR