Ok so you’ve heard about imposter syndrome. But do you know how to recognise the symptoms?
When imposter syndrome flares up, I hear clients say things like ‘i cannot apply for that job because everybody else is better than me’ or 'i need to keep taking courses, i don't know enough yet' or even 'i cannot take on that project because I don't have enough experience'.
Let’s try an exercise.
Take a moment, think about the dialogue in your own head. The kinds of things you say to yourself.
Can you think of a recent time you spoke negatively to yourself? What was it exactly that you said? Perhaps you told yourself that you simply ‘can’t’, that you weren’t capable of doing something.
Have you got the thought? Great.
Now, let's flip it.
Have a think about how you would you feel if someone was saying those things to you. What if you told somebody that the exact same thing you said to yourself. That they simply can’t do it.
Now think about what would happen if you were saying those things to somebody else. How would that person feel? Would it be helpful for them to hear that? Would it be kind for you to say that?
When you think about it, would you stand for somebody else saying those things to you? If no, then why do you put up with it from yourself?
The truth is that we all experience negative self talk. We all have an inner voice that helps us live our lives - it can cheer us on or it can undermine us. Another name for this voice is the 'inner critic'.
What causes it?
Imposter syndrome is the result of experiences we have during childhood, experiences that shape the way we think and act as we move in to adulthood. It’s something that flares up when we think things like, ‘one day somebody is going to realise I’m just faking it at my job’. It’s anxiety, lack of confidence and doubt.
This inner dialogue helps determine whether what we are doing is the right thing or the wrong thing. It helps filter out irrelevant and useless information. It is the key to our creativity, it aids our dreams about the future and our ability to problem solve. It keeps us safe and it warns us when we are in danger.
The problem is when this voice becomes overly judgemental and starts berating us, treating us like a naughty child. It's just like having a nasty parent who lives in our heads. This is known as the Inner Critic.
This critical voice is a part of us that has turned against us. It focuses entirely on negative thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are in opposition to our best interests. Continual criticism from this voice undermines our confidence, interferes with our self-esteem and becomes our own worst enemy.
The Inner Critic encourages us to be self-destructive, telling us:
“there’s no point in trying”
“why don’t you just give up?”
“you’ll never be good enough anyway”
But the critic does not stop with just us. It is also very good at warning us about other people. The voice can promote distrust, anger and cynicism of other people. Painting a negative picture of their motives.
It says things like:
“Why are they being so nice… what are they really after?”
“You can’t trust anyone!”
“Don’t take the risk of opening up because they won’t like you. When they find out what you are really like they will say awful things about you to other people, and then other people won’t like you either!”
The inner critic can also be deceptively self-soothing.
This voice can sound sweet and encouraging whilst leading you down the path of self-destruction. It might say “Have another biscuit. You have been working really hard at the gym and you have already lost a few pounds, so having just another one is just what you deserve.” So you take another and another. Before long the inner critic begins to berate you for being greedy and telling you that you have no self-control.
This inner critic exists on some level in all of us.
Some of us are more aware than others that this inner critic is so destructive. Too often we just accept what it is telling us as the truth and we are not even aware that we can do something about it.
What can I do about it?
When I coach clients who suffer from imposter syndrome, I teach them techniques to tame the inner critic. If this is something you’ve been struggling with, why not sign up to my free 6 part ‘moving forwards’ series?
Step by step, I’ll take you through 6 of the biggest challenges I see my clients faced with. Click the button below to sign up!