Imposter Syndrome is not the result of a lack of action. You don’t feel like an imposter because you’re not working hard enough or not putting in the time to succeed. Imposter Syndrome comes from feeling you’re not worthy of or deserving enough of something you desire. We often validate these feelings by making blanket statements like, “well maybe I don’t work hard enough,” or “I’m not smart enough” to invalidate our success or worth. We feel like imposters or frauds when we believe we’re not good enough for that which we desire. The feeling of not being worthy causes persistent doubt; maybe we’re not as talented as people have told us, or that we’re not as smart or capable. Eventually, this fear turns into a chronic mindset of “I am an imposter,” as the feelings of unworthiness consume us.
Imposter syndrome often manifests in our careers when we’re on the brink of a major uplevel. This is fear of success. The feeling of being an imposter is directly related to how worthy or unworthy we feel, and this is most often relevant in our jobs or careers. And just as most of our beliefs about ourselves form, this lack of worthiness likely comes from feelings or experiences in our childhood that taught us we’re not worthy of what we desire. This manifests in our careers transforming from statements of “You can’t be ___,” to “I’m not good enough to be ___.” Although we may see that our work is good, and we see the time and commitment we put in, we may not believe it’s enough to be “worthy” of what we want.
The Fear of Success
From a young age, we’re taught that to survive, we must be safe. As humans have evolved, levels of safety have as well. However, our subconscious still functions on the basic human instinct to feel safe, i.e., our fight or flight instinct. When we’re on the brink of major success, our subconscious begins to fear this change. It isn’t that we fear the uplevel, but the change it will bring. For example, let’s say you work in a corporate job and you’re up for a major promotion. It’s not that our subconscious fears the things that excite us–higher pay, better office, etc–but rather, what those changes may bring: higher expectations, and more responsibility. Uplevels bring monumental change. And suddenly, instead of feeling excitement, we fear change and begin to wonder if we’re truly good enough for it. This is when our flight kicks in through methods of self-sabotage.
We fear success because our subconscious fears change
When the time comes for us to take on new roles, we feel like an imposter because it’s something our subconscious mind has never learned before. We feel that because the change in circumstances is different from what we know currently, we won’t know how to fill that role or adapt. Our subconscious mind fears the discomfort of the unknown, therefore we adopt the mindset of a fraud and often attempt to self-sabotage the impending change. Thankfully, there is a way to teach our subconscious to no longer fear change.
In most cases, we know what major changes are coming with an uplevel. If you’re up for a promotion, you’re likely aware of the new responsibilities you will take on and what the increase in pay will be. Although our conscious mind understands these adjustments, our subconscious mind fears change because it takes us beyond our comfort zone. Where the fear of success and imposter syndrome come together isn’t actually in the subconscious fear of change. The two connect when the change itself means “you’re successful,” almost as if the uplevel is proof of your skill and ambition.
Imposter Syndrome as a Result of ‘Learned Beliefs’
Similar to the discussion around “un-adopting” our parent’s beliefs, to overcome Imposter Syndrome, we have to un-learn the subconscious behavior that arises that makes us believe we’re not worthy. Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome most often manifest in forms of comparison. Let’s return to the promotion example. If someone in this position were to feel imposter syndrome about receiving a promotion, they would self-sabotage by comparing their “lack,” of ability with their colleagues’ “obvious” ability. This combines feelings of unworthiness with an inability to successfully fill a role. We do this by undermining our ability and attempting to highlight someone else’s skill.
Healing Your Feelings of Unworthiness to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Here’s the thing, we are all inherently worthy of all that we desire. A disconnect is created where experiences and circumstances in our lives teach us that we can’t have all that we desire. Let me be the first to tell you, this is false. The human experience is inherently created based on all that we can dream and create. If you can dream it, you can become it. Healing feelings of unworthiness that manifest into imposter syndrome goes all the way back to healing the first time you were told/felt you weren’t worthy of something you wanted. In healing these core beliefs, I highly recommend using EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique. Using EFT as a form of healing challenges you to identify where and how you built core beliefs and go back and change the neural pathway it’s connected to.
Beyond the work of healing your mindset and changing your fundamental beliefs of self-worth, there are simple actions you can take to move beyond Imposter Syndrome. When you feel you’re self on the brink of an up-level and feel self-sabotage arising, use intentional practices to remind your subconscious of your worth and the value you add. There is a reason we’re on this brink; amazing opportunities just don’t fall into our lap. There is a reason you’re up for a promotion, signing new clients, or moving up in your career. Not only have you put in the work and shown up, but you’ve shown the people who matter most.
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