Some people who seem successful to others, may secretly think of themselves as a fraud. This can cause unnecessary suffering and block more success. In this episode, we’ll look at 9 signs that you have imposter syndrome and a 3-step process to break free.
02:30 – 9 signs that you might have ‘imposter syndrome’
11:30 – What creates lasting change versus short term change
18:15 – A 3-step process to dissolve ‘imposter syndrome’ at the root
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66 Days to Retrain Yourself in Empowering Inner Beliefs
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This is episode 114 – 3 Steps to Beat Imposter Syndrome. Even though you appear successful to others, you may secretly harbour thoughts that you’re a fraud, causing unnecessary inner suffering and stopping you from more success and fulfillment. In this episode, we’ll look at 9 signs that you have imposter syndrome and a 3-step process to break free. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and this is the MindStory Speaker podcast.
Now you may have heard of imposter syndrome before and the common fixes, but I’m going to take a somewhat different approach that I think sticks longer term and provides much more fulfilment on your life journey. In case you’re unfamiliar with it… the term “imposter syndrome” started in the 1970’s when psychological researchers noticed that fellow female graduate students often felt like they didn’t deserve their success. They figured they’d tricked the university into accepting them. Their success is a fluke and it will go away at any moment, it isn’t real. At the time, the researchers identified it as feeling intellectually fraudulent.
Then, over the years, other researchers noticed that imposter syndrome showed up in all lines of work, in males and females, in all cultures, in personal relationships, and finances, in health and looks spiritual life, everything. And in all my years of working with people, I do notice many people have this thing…where looping in the background of their minds throughout the day are thoughts like…“I’m not good enough,” “I don’t deserve success,” “I’m a fraud,” “I’m a fake”.
I’ve certainly noticed something resembling Imposter Syndrome in several areas of my life. Maybe you have, too.
So, all that said…you may not be consciously aware of this syndrome. So I’ll share 9 common symptoms to see if you can relate.
Now, if you recognize yourself in this list of 9 signs, it’s normal, it’s common, and don’t get into beating yourself up about it. That kinda reinforces the malware. The truth is, you probably are smarter than you think, do better work than you think, are more successful than you think, so what I want to talk about today is how to realign with the truth of who you are, and also to cut yourself some slack if your standards of what’s the real deal are impossible to reach.
So, I’ve listed 9 common forms of external behaviour, but all that is usually motivated by a story, a disempowering MindStory. And there’s a narrator feeding you a script. Clients I work with who experience imposter syndrome unfortunately often don’t pay attention to the core script driving the whole syndrome, they just focus on trying to fix the symptoms, using willpower. But willpower against a subconscious core script almost never wins the day. Because it’s in the subconscous and was programmed in, so you need to program it out first, and you need to know how to do that. And, if the core script, the core driver isn’t dealt with it’s just like decorated your prison cell. You’re still in prison.
The downside of not shifting the whole story is that those voices might be talking you out of pursuing something in terms of work or business that’s totally right for you, very much on purpose, would be very fulfilling…but those voices convince you that you don’t have enough skill, experience, connections, attributes or persistence to succeed.
Or maybe that voice is continually stopping you from meeting the right life partner or friends or colleagues or communities of people to join. Or stopping you from growing your finances, or from starting a new hobby like dance or cooking or music.
Maybe the voice is correct, or maybe it isn’t, but you’ll never truly find out because you’re playing a certain role, The Imposter, with a certain script – I’m a fake…so that’s what you tend to magnetize in terms of results in. your life.
So, here’s the good news. These imposter syndrome thoughts don’t belong to you. They don’t come as part of your natural operating system. They are like bad malware you picked up as a child or some other time in life, and you totally have the power to dissolve them.
But many people have gotten so used to those background thoughts, they don’t even hear them anymore. It’s like white noise. Or, if you do notice yourself saying those kinds of things to yourself, you might think…that’s normal, everyone does it, or that’s to be expected given who I really am and what I’ve got going for me. I should be that judgmental of myself.
But, should you? Do you really deserve to be invalidated like that? Maybe a part of you – who we’ll call the malware pretending to be you – thinks, yes, look at all the mistakes I’ve made, the things I haven’t accomplished, the flaws in who I am. But another part of you – I’ll call the True Self – might be thinking, wait a minute, no. It doesn’t matter that I’ve made all those mistakes, or haven’t accomplished that goal yet, or have flaws. I’m lovable, worthy of success, worthy of respect, deserving of being validated by myself just for being me. And by the way, I’ve had successes and accomplishments and great qualities. And what if those mistakes, failures and flaws are okay, maybe even necessary, maybe they even make me just as lovable.
So the goal of this episode is to strengthen the voice of the True Self, by focusing on it. Because as the old saying goes, what you focus on grows. And the truth is, the harsh way we often view ourselves is not the way the rest of the world sees us. Most people are harsher to themselves than to anyone else, regardless of whether you’re male, female, young, old.
Since the 1970’s there’s been many takes on Imposter syndrome — some useful, some not so useful in my opinion. For example…when reading some articles on Imposter Syndrome some experts blame this syndrome on external circumstances…like your gender, class, race, income level, looks, etc. Maybe those things increase or decrease imposter syndrome in some cases, but those things can’t affect you if you don’t already have a core script making you see the external world in a certain way. In other words, I believe it is always an inside job. Again, not the true you inside, but inner malware, you just need to delete.
Then once you change the role, the scripts and story you’ve living by INSIDE, the external realities tend to change with it. Because if you are relying on external circumstances to change, it will likely cause a lot of suffering. Have you ever noticed that most people and systems don’t change because you complain about them? Maybe for a while, maybe on the surface, but for lasting change, people need to change inside, and then eventually the systems they populate will change. That inner change needs to come from understanding the root of these issues and changing it from there, not through shaming, blaming and complaining. That just tends to create more of what you don’t want.
Case in point. A woman I know grew up in India and was abandoned by her family because she was female, abused by many people over the years to the point of being disfigured. Finally she met a group who helped women in her position and she got training in how to rebuild her self-esteem and went on to help other women in her position. In her 40s she held a prominent position in her field and had no imposter syndrome that I could tell, or that she could tell. Her external circumstances didn’t get in the way of her sense of confidence, because she retrained her mind and her spirit on how to believe in herself.
In contrast, I knew a man who grew up in a prominent family in the US and became successful in the entertainment industry, as an actor, writer, comedian, producer. He was good-looking, people really liked him, everything he touched seem to turn to gold. But I’d never met someone who doubted themselves more. His external circumstances didn’t help an inner lack of self-support, because he never trained his mind and his spirit and how to believe in himself. All the external success in the world won’t matter if you’re suffering inside.
So while a lot of the advice to cure imposter syndrome is about willing yourself to believe you’re authentic, when at the core of who you are, you’re just NOT, I would like to suggest that imposter syndrome naturally dissipates away when you anchor into the true self, that’s always been there, it’s just been covered over by these false programs of what it means to be successful.
Why do we have this malware in the first place? There are many theories, and in the end you have to decide for yourself. Suffice it to say, it’s mostly likely about control – certain people or groups wanting to block the wellspring of creativity, intuition and powers of others. But as the world wakes up to this agenda, that control is falling away. All it takes is people like you and me remembering to take back control of the reigns and choose sovereignty of mind.
So, the best solution I’ve found is to change the archetypal character you’re living by, the one who is playing out a role within a MindStory, run by this core script. Or, to use a computer analogy, a MindStory is like an entire conglomeration of instruction sets in your mind-body system. In my coaching practice, I often name this imposter syndrome archetype as The IMPOSTER whose core script is “I’m a fraud”. Because the mind needs instruction sets to run on, and doesn’t have a moral judgment about whether it’s good or bad, empowering or disempowering, it will just run the script and then you subconsciously end up reacting to external circumstances from that core script.
So the fix is to delete that conglomeration of instruction sets known as a disempowering MindStory and replace it with a new, more empowering MindStory. That often starts by recasting yourself in the opposite archetype to the Imposter, which I call The TRUE SELF – whose script is I‘m genuine. If you live from this archetype you tend to believe in the importance of being in alignment with the true self, also known as the Higher Mind, the Higher Self, the soul filled, spirit filled self versus the lower mind, the lower self, the soulless being devoid of spirit that runs on egoic programs dictated by others.
That doesn’t mean you go around saying to everyone…by the way, just so you know, I’m true, I’m real, I’m authentic, I’m genuine, I’m the real deal, because if you have to tell people, if they can’t pick it up themselves, then you probably aren’t.
In this recasting of yourself, you’re subconsciously and consciously choosing to stop being the villain and to play the hero instead, to align with the True Self is to become the hero on your own mythic journey in life. The False Self is what we’re taught to align with as a child to fit in, to succeed, so we are more easily controlled. Most of us join this consensus reality at some point in our lives, to see what its like, or because the majority of people are doing it. But at a certain point, if you’re on an ascending, growth timeline, you will want to [or will have already] broken free from consensus thinking, and individuated, which puts you on the path of the true self…or at least moving closer to it.
As a result of recasting yourself, or literally taking off the mask of the unintended villain, you become the true, right and natural hero. There you have true motivations, true scripts to follow, which in everyday life are thoughts, that produce certain authentic feelings, that produce certain genuine actions which usually lead to more positive results in terms of authenticity, and realness, where what you see is what you get. You are no longer trying to be someone you’re not, just to fit in, or just to get something that wasn’t meant for you in the first place.
How do you recast yourself? Here’s a 3-step process.
STEP 1 – Identify the role you’ve cast yourself in, the script and the story you’re playing out. Pick one area of life to simplify it. So, I’ll give you a case study. The person in this example is actually an amalgam of many people I’ve worked with over the years. But I like to give examples so you can better understand, so it can ground the concept. So, let’s call her Maria. So, just do what Marie did was to tell a background story in terms of the imposter syndrome in third person, meaning using “he” or “she” or whatever pronoun you like to use for yourself…as opposed to “I”. So, it might look like this…
Maria developed theories and an expertise in a unique branch of linguistic analysis, that academics didn’t recognize or find valuable. It was useful in discovering the deeper values and motivations of a group of people by the language they used. She wanted to get this information out there so put up a website and offered her expertise as an educator, speaker, consultant. But she didn’t totally believe in herself. She definitely had Imposter Syndrome. Few others seemed to value her theories, so she went up and down in her belief in herself and her work. As a result, she hardly had any takers for her offerings.
She thought, if I could do a TEDx talk…then I’d be seen as more real, more authentic. She got an opportunity, worked hard on it, people seemed to love it, she put the video up on her website, but it still didn’t equal more work. Next she though, a book, that’s what she needed to legitimize herself. For a year, as she toiled in another job, she wrote and rewrote her magnum opus to perfection, and finally got it out there. Still it didn’t really turn into work. Both those experiences helped her better structure her theories and make them practical for people, but still something was getting in the way of really bringing it to the world.
In analyzing her situation, it became clear that imposter syndrome was getting in the way. Listening to herself speak, she noticed a tone of voice that revealed a sense of doubt whenever people showed interest in her offerings. She often sabotaged opportunities to pitch her ideas to groups who could use her services, by not being persistent or not making the content relevant for them. Also she often downplayed her accomplishments and avoided doing tasks that would make a big difference like advertising her book to key decision makers. She also noticed that she avoided getting feedback from others for fear of not being able to handle anything negative.
Going back into her personal history, she came from an immigrant family who felt on the lower rungs of the societal totem pole, both back in the old country, and then again in the new country. She suspected they had the belief “People like us don’t succeed” despite being hard working, smart, creative people. Even though she was smart and creative, as her teachers often noted, she rarely studied in school because she found the information boring or seemingly off in some way. So she cheated on her final exams just to make it through. No one caught her, but it started this story of herself as a cheater, a fraud, an imposter. In general, she wouldn’t play by the normal roles of society, she liked to think outside the box, and so others seemed to distrust her. Maybe they viewed her as unpredictable, therefore she must be…a cheater, a troublemaker. So, that’s the kind of thing you would write out. 2-3 paragraphs of what you’ve noticed to this point. Again, choose one area like career, or relationships or finances or whatever seems appropriate.
STEP TWO – Recast yourself in a more empowering role, with a better script and a better story. So, take that same story and retell it as if you’re not the Imposter, but the True Self. The genuine, authentic one. Now you may wonder how that is possible, but the truth is you can’t have one without the other. If you have an imposter or false self, you also have a true self. So, you are just going into the green room, the backstage area to the costumes area, and you’re taking off the costume of the imposter, and putting on the costume of the true self. Tell it from a more empowering, more ‘glass as half full ‘perspective. So it might sound something like this.
Maria developed theories and an expertise in a unique brand of linguistic analysis, that some people in her field did find valuable. It helped people discover the deeper values and motivations of groups of people by the language they used. In fact, one professor actually quoted her theories in one of his books. Although some people didn’t really get what she was talking about, she believed in herself enough to put up a website, do a TEDx talk, speak at various other events, consult on various projects. She wrote a book that received 31 glowing reviews from people just finding it on Amazon within the first month. By this time she had developed an even stronger structure for her theories, and learned how to make them practical and relevant for the people who could use this information the most. On several occasions she spoke about her work with great confidence, garnering interest and persistently reaching out to ideal people who could use the information, which led to good opportunities. Occasionally, she did get feedback on how to improve her pitch, her tone of voice, her examples so that she could get even better.
Going back into her personal history, she came from an immigrant family who broke free of a life and lifestyle in the old country that wasn’t working for them, and built a life in a new country, giving her opportunities to study, learn and develop her new ideas. Her parents ran a cleaning service, but did it in a creative way, with excellent customer service that led to ongoing work for years to come. Many teachers told her that she was smart and creative, and even though she rarely studied, she still did well in many subjects. Many people viewed her as an interesting, out-of-the-box thinker, and applauded her uniqueness.
So, that’s the kind of thing you would write out in step two in terms of a more empowering perspective on your story. So 2 to 3 paragraphs of how you might summarize your past journey as the true self exploring this area of your life.
STEP 3 – Repetitive focus: now in the third and final step you just need a way to continue to focus on the story you wrote in step two. The reason you need repetitive focus is because you’ve given repetitive focus to the story in step one, and so that’s given the instruction set to your mind about how to live your life moving forward. So now you are giving new instruction sets and they just need to be installed, and the best way is through repetition. So there are many ways to do that. It’s best if you can engage all your senses. Some people just reread the story every day for a couple of weeks. Some people record themselves on audio, and listen to that a couple of weeks. Some people use the Memory Imprint Journal that I offered to people, it’s where you write out 30 short stories using all your senses, highlighting your journey from this positive, true self perspective in a certain area of life, like career. So you do one story a day for 30 days. You’ll see how to get a free copy of that on the free tab at mindstoryacademy.com website. I’ll also give the link to that 5 day free trial course in the show notes.
But, use your imagination as to what would help you focus on your life from the perspective
of this true self. Because you have a choice each and every moment. But, you have may be had a bad habit of focusing on it from the imposter perspective, so you need to override it. Trying to delete it, beat yourself up every time you think from the role of the imposter, doesn’t work, that just strengthens it. It’s like watering the weeds in your garden instead of the flowers. So this repetitive process is like watering the flowers.
Another useful tool is our MindStory Blueprint Course, which was created by my partner and I Dave O’Connor, to help people develop good habits of mind. You receive 15 short audios on the most common areas of mind retraining that our clients seem to need, and they are designed to retrain yourself in focusing on your life as a mythic journey, taking on good, empowering archetypal characters, stories, scripts so that you get good thoughts, good feelings, good action and therefore good results. You can also find more information on that product at mindstoryacademy.com on the homepage, just go down to the orange square. I’ll also give the link to that in the show notes.
So, I hope that was helpful. Okay, that’s it for today. In the meantime, please hit subscribe, please like this episode and do share it so others can find it. Until next time, thanks for listening.