Although imposter syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, the impact is widely recognized by psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors who assist people who believe that they are imposters in their own lives.
People with imposter syndrome are riddled with unfounded feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, incompetence, and shame. They wear a metaphorical mask and live in fear of being found out.
Even as they grow weary of their need to be people pleasers and workaholics, and their compulsion to appear invincible, their mask is so tightly affixed that it blinds them to the fact that their thoughts are distorted and their brains have tricked them into believing that they lack skills, talents, and worth.
The condition is pervasive. An estimated 70 percent of all people suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. It affects both men and women in similar proportions. When it infiltrates lives, it can become dangerous for careers, relationships, health, and well-being.
But it is possible to crack the mask. I was personally forced to confront it when my attempts to mask a life-threatening disease caused me several months of recovery and nearly cost me my life. Before hitting rock bottom, however, those hiding behind their disguise can take action by embarking on a journey of self-discovery.
The process isn’t a quick flip of the switch. It will require rewiring many entrenched mental patterns. But with persistence and determination, the mask will fall away and a confident, multifaceted, wonderfully authentic being will emerge.
Incorporate the self-awareness mindsets below to unmask your true self and allow it to shine:
1. Learn to let go of the past
Negative experiences can become engrained in our subconscious and ultimately affect how we think and behave. To heal and move forward, it’s important to identify these experiences and actively work on rewriting the beliefs that have been instilled in us.
For me, the genesis of my imposter syndrome reached back to when I was 6 years old and writhing in pain from a stomach ache (in my later years diagnosed as hereditary chronic pancreatitis). My mother believed I was lying so I wouldn’t have to go to school. I started to doubt my pain, and essentially myself.
I started to develop all the symptoms of imposter syndrome — self-doubt, lack of confidence, low self-esteem, perfectionism, and feelings of being a fraud. Recognizing the power of my subconscious mind and learning to let go of the past helped me to move on.
2. Challenge your beliefs
To change your beliefs, you need to start cultivating self-awareness. Opening yourself to self-awareness equips you to understand which beliefs in your subconscious are responsible for your imposter syndrome.
Once you discover these beliefs aren’t rational, challenge them. When you think you’re not good enough, take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Why do I believe this? What evidence supports this?”
Remind yourself of all the hard work you’ve put in and all that you’ve accomplished.
3. Find the upside of failure
One cause for imposter syndrome is a fear of failure. But fearing failure can sabotage you in many aspects of your life. At work, it leads to avoiding big projects in favor of menial tasks. It keeps you from voicing an opinion and taking risks.
Soon your manager will avoid involving you as you see to be too busy with insignificant work and uninterested in collaborating on big projects. You must change this mindset and recognize that those who never fail never win.
When you fail, you learn, and when you learn, you improve. Ultimately, you can only be happy if you’re living your life authentically — mistakes and failures included.
When you open yourself to self-awareness, you become better equipped to understand which beliefs engraved in your subconscious mind are responsible for your imposter syndrome.
With your new understanding, the mask you’ve hidden behind will crack, allowing your true self to emerge free from imposter syndrome’s oppressive disguise.
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