Impostor Syndrome, simply put, is the tendency to dismiss or discount one’s accomplishments and success.  “Anyone could do that”, “It’s no big deal” or “I was just lucky” are common responses to praise.   Impostor feelings are often experienced by highly motivated, high-achievers who are unable to fully own their capabilities nor appreciate the value they provide to the organizations or clients they serve.

What makes Impostor Syndrome a silent saboteur is that it often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed, even if someone is working with a therapist or coach. Impostor traits may present as chronic anxiety, low self-worth, perfectionism, fear of failure, abrasive personality or difficulties with working collaboratively.  Not believing they deserve the success or status they have attained, Impostors may unconsciously self-sabotage through procrastination, ‘career limiting moves’ or coping behaviours (alcohol, drugs) that can derail their livelihoods. 

The paradox lies in the dilemma.  Even though, at some level someone may know they are smart and capable, they experience significant self-doubt about their talents.  Those who feel like impostors often become very good at projecting confidence and competence when they don’t actually feel that way on the inside.  The need to appear as an idealized image of yourself is exhausting, causes elevated stress and creates the need to avoid close connections.   The fear of never achieving one’s potential or being discovered as a fake can create chaos and overwhelm for those whose identities are often tied to their success.

The way through? We live in a thought-related experience of reality. Fortunately we can learn to differentiate thoughts and become mindful of those that undermine confidence and worth. More about this to come.

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