We’ve all been there. You landed the job you wanted or finally got recognition for something you’re good at and deserving of and suddenly nasty, self-doubting thoughts creep in. Many of us have managed to stay alive, raise children, pass exams, have gotten degrees and awards but still feel like imposters or unconsciously try to screw things up for ourselves. Self-destructive behaviour or self-sabotage has roots in unresolved emotional trauma and psychological conflicts, and feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness.
Imposter Syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phoney and that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be and that at any moment they will be found out and that you don’t deserve to be where you are. It clouds our judgment, affects our relationships, careers, health and even finances. Having experienced all of the above first hand at different stages for the majority of my 20s, I decided to learn more about the subject in hopes to tackle it once and for all and I discovered a few keys things:
- Most people experience or struggle with feelings of inadequacy at some point in their lives, feeling like they will never be good enough and that there’s something wrong with them and they need to be “fixed”, so you are not alone.
- Self-knowledge is powerful and can change us dramatically but most of us will not take a step towards it because we are afraid of what we will find (who am I without my baggage?).
- It is not easy nor fun to abandon old habits. We cling to them because they have helped us remain alive and survive traumatic experiences.
Here are some things that have helped me manage the dysfunctional behaviour over the years:
Your inner critic or “the voice in your head” can and be ruthless and toxic
Learning about our psyche often brings up resistance in the form of fear and denial which can be a big obstacle in our development. Feeling stuck, being passive and indecisive and procrastinating are some of the signs that you might be acting against your own best interest. When we fail to recognize and overcome the temptation to repeat and recycle unresolved negative emotions we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to develop and heal so becoming acquainted with our inner critic is essential to stop the negative thoughts and neutralize them as soon as they start.
Not being validated and nurtured enough as a child was the excuse I used for years for my circumstance and to keep me from taking responsibility for my own life. Taking time for self-reflection and shifting your thinking from ‘I am a failure to ‘I failed’ or ‘they failed me’ can be helpful. We are all unconsciously attached or addicted to negative emotions so it’s important to be mindful of your thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. Be a parent to your inner child by taking ownership of your feelings.
Stop comparing yourself
Life’s not a race and no one person is the same. There’s a multitude of possibilities for every single one of us. It’s much easier to compare ourselves and judge others because that justifies our dysfunctional behaviour and keeps us from changing. Embrace your uniqueness instead and stay in your lane. Stick with what you love and what you are good at and be proud of what you have accomplished.
Set and achieve small goals
I used to set the most unrealistic goals and then blame myself and feel incapable when they did not come to fruition. I learned that pushing myself realistically is better for my self-esteem and achieving small goals does more good than never achieving any goals at all.
Take it slow
We all have dreams and goals and that’s an important part of being a human but you should not feel less deserving of love because you have not accomplished something. You deserve unconditional love and respect and joy just the way you are right now. You are enough.
While I still experience imposter syndrome and struggle with self-sabotaging from time to time, I’ve learned to manage it by using these methods. There is no magic pill and exposing self-defeating tendencies is scary as hell but the alternative would be to live a life unable to fulfil your fullest potential and fated to mediocrity. It’s about consistency and showing up for yourself every day, no matter what, making conscious what has been unconscious and being kind to yourself.
Some other things to consider:
Go for a walk
Take time for yourself
Write to a friend
Being perfect is boring
Don’t take yourself too serious