Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome
Impostor syndrome and how to unlock it forever...
Many people feel they lack confidence at work. Despite a track record of promotions, awards, exam certificates and glowing testimonials, some people still feel they could get found out as a 'fraud'. This feeling can sometimes come to a head when asked to do a presentation. Sufferers of impostor syndrome see the task as a make or break time to 'prove themselves'. Surely friends may reason with them, being selected to do this presentation should be ample evidence that you have already 'proved yourself'. But those of us who suffer from the impostor phenomenon never feel secure, and will deny reality. For them, presentations are pure hell.
People who suffer from the impostor phenomenon are not in any way to be confused with those in the workplace who do have an exaggerated idea of their own worth and overestimate their abilities. Most of us have come across them at some point in our working lives. People who suffer from impostor syndrome share absolutely nothing in common with such narcissists. Impostor sufferers are genuinely competent and good at what they do. They have every right to think well of themselves, but are often for reasons best known to their unconscious minds, unable to make a realistic measure of their true worth.
It is not known exactly what causes some people to think the 'real truth' about their abilities will one day be revealed. We do know however, that to be to be the 'real deal' is a vital part of our evolutionary hard wiring. To be found out as an untrustworthy fake would incite the wrath of our tribe and was greatly to be feared. Shakespeare's tragedies abound with scheming deceitful betrayers, who win the confidence of the trusting and always meet their awful end. It is fascinating then, that people in the modern workplace who are genuinely deserving of trust, see themselves unconsciously as the villain in disguise, not worthy of the confidence of the office team. Such a person lives in fear of the day when the truth will come out and it will all fall apart.
If this strikes a chord with you, then it is time to take action so you can enjoy being confident at work. Here are a few, simple key points to disable the subconscious programming that maintains the impostor syndrome:
1) Give yourself praise.
The unconscious mind does not make much distinction between what is real and what is imagined. We have very visual brains which constantly generate imagery and emotions. One good habit to inculcate is to encourage yourself by reviewing true, concrete moments in the day's events which went well and to praise yourself in clear, resonant and striking detail for your good actions. That will be just as powerful in the subconscious, as if the praise came from someone one you admire. Got a compliment? Savour it and ingrain it in the memory bank.
2) Past accomplishments.
You can take that to the next level by regularly reviewing accomplishments from the past. Think about 'accomplishment' in a broad sense - even if they are small things to someone else or that only you know about, they are vital to you. A memory can be so real. The unconscious mind does not recognise calendar time, and an attainment from years ago can feel as real as if it occurred only moments before. Bring the memory back to life in wonderful intense detail and engross yourself in it. The more vivid the detail the better. This practice greatly strengthens your confidence and sense of yourself.
3) Visualise future moments of glory, including promotions and winning awards.
Yes, those events are still in the future and might never happen, but on the other hand they very well might. You need to be prepared by your unconscious mind (that does not recognise the real / unreal divide) to enjoy them. Shakespeare tells us to 'act as you will become' because a positive mindset will help bring into being what you wish.
The power of the mind in achievement was also well illustrated by the actress Kate Winslet. When asked how she felt receiving her Oscar, she replied that she had been rehearsing for that moment from the age of eight when she first acted out her 'Oscar Acceptance Speech' with a bottle of shampoo in front of the bathroom mirror!
Hypnotherapists are professionally qualified to help overcome the impostor syndrome and have many techniques and strategies that will work well for you as a unique individual. If you feel you would like further support, do consider consulting a hypnotherapist. As with any professional service, be discerning and take time to choose the best person for you.
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About Marian Barry
Marian Barry is an advanced clinical hypnotherapist practising at the Harley St Hypnotherapy Clinic London and Gt Abington, Cambridge. She has given talks at international conferences around the world specialising in personal change and confidence building. She is a best selling author of many popular works published by Cambridge University Press.