In the course of our daily lives, we may find ourselves conditioned by society, individuals perceived as experts, those in our wider orbit, and even people in our inner circle to doubt, judge, or otherwise disempower ourselves.
Some of this conditioning is unintentional by those who are well meaning. Other times it’s driven by folks wanting to jump on the bandwagon of opportunity regarding the latest flavor-of-the-week “thing” that is supposedly plaguing humankind.
In this particular instance, we’re talking about imposter syndrome, a term that’s become so commonplace that one might believe it to be a highly contagious disease.
Accepting self-defeating labels as the gospel truth or wearing them like a badge of honor is never a good thing. That is because words have tremendous power. When you use derogatory words to describe yourself, or join a club of people claiming similar negative labels, you disempower yourself and attract situations into your life that validate your limiting beliefs.
Interestingly, the phrase imposter syndrome was first coined in the 1970s by two psychologists, but it never really caught on back then. More importantly, to this day, imposter syndrome is not recognized as an official disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Yes, you read that correctly. Imposter syndrome isn’t an actual disorder.
Despite this fact, there are books and even support groups built around a term that rather convincingly attempts to validate that you are supposedly fake, incompetent, or unworthy.
Most likely, you are none of those things. Nor is there likely anything wrong with you. And, this isn’t a legitimate syndrome that you’ve had the misfortune of acquiring.
However, to support you in coming to your own informed conclusion, let’s put the term imposter syndrome under the microscope and poke some holes in it. We’ll start by taking a look at the dictionary definition of the word imposter.
It is defined as “a person pretending to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.”
The word imposter is also synonymous with being a fraudster, swindler, deceiver, trickster, cheater, or a similar type of shady character. Keeping that in mind, would you say those words accurately portray you? I’d venture to guess not.
If you’re still not 100% certain whether you are an actual imposter, know this:
Unless you are going around pretending to be a licensed pilot or surgeon and endangering the lives of others or intentionally impersonating someone for the purposes of criminal gain, then you have very likely mislabeled yourself as an imposter.
A healthier alternative to this type of self-sabotaging behavior is to go within and connect with what is really going on inside of you. Some questions to ask yourself include:
- Am I feeling uncertainty because I’m embarking upon a new opportunity or stepping into an unfamiliar role as a leader, parent, business owner, etc.?
- Am I feeling uncomfortable because I’m using brand new skillsets or those I have limited experience putting into practice?
- Am I worried or fearful that I might mess up or not get things perfect?
If so, what you are likely experiencing is feeling normal human emotions that will benefit greatly from healthy emotional processing. Rather than hiding behind a disempowering label like imposter syndrome, here are four things you can do to better support yourself:
1. Show yourself the same compassion you would others and consider that someone inexperienced or learning something new isn’t an imposter. Therefore, you likely aren’t an imposter either. Be kind and refrain from judging yourself.
2. Replace the low frequency word imposter with more empowered phrases like:
“I’m newly experienced and learning” or “I’m gaining practice and growing my skillset.”
The same goes for any other negative words you have been associating with yourself.
3. Remember to focus on all the things that are wonderful about you rather than what someone else is trying to convince you is wrong. To do so:
- Create a list of your unique attributes and various ways that you shine.
- Create another list of things you’ve successfully learned to do throughout your lifetime whether that is learning to drive a car, swim, play a musical instrument, create art, etc.
- Refer to those lists regularly as a way to validate to your subconscious mind that you are more than competent and capable of whatever you set your mind to achieving.
4. Reclaim your power and retire yourself from the Imposter Syndrome Club or anything else that diminishes your worth and value in the world.
By choosing to realign and empower yourself in the above ways, you’ll attract far more abundant and fulfilling outcomes in your life.
Bringing It All Together
When you take a step back to consider all of the facts along with any potential agendas for wanting to make imposter syndrome “a thing,” it becomes much easier to see that imposter syndrome is nothing more than a trendy limiting belief and a self-defeating label that is masquerading as the truth. Whether you choose to claim it for yourself is entirely up to you.