Do you remember when you achieved something so wonderful and everyone commended you for an amazing job but deep inside, you felt like you didn’t deserve it? Or maybe you’re dating the man or woman of your dreams and you feel like it’s luck and everyone would soon discover that you’re a fraud? Trust me, I know how that feels! Often when you achieve something phenomenal; a dream job, a successful business pitch or even recognition for being the best in your team, you’re still afraid; afraid that the scales will fall off their eyes and everyone will see you for what you really are; lucky, fake or just plain fraud! You might just have what is known as “The Impostor Syndrome”. Research shows that many people (about 70%) will experience this state in the course of their lives with women predominantly feeling the weight of this unnecessary burden.
Can you imagine a Senior Manager in a multinational organization winning the admiration of her superiors and peers for being an exceptional manager and in spite of all the external validation and praise, she feels undeserving of the honor! Imagine that so many young women look up to her as a role model, a beacon, a driving force; but she only sees herself as lucky! Sad isn’t it? This way of thinking and living, bound by statements like “I must not fail”, “I just got lucky” or “If only they knew I’m not as intelligent”, only serve to exacerbate the feelings of stress, anxiety and sometimes even depression and a crisis of identity. It is never in our place to feel unworthy of who we are and what we have achieved. In doing so, we open to door to more negative emotions and unconsciously give permission to others to intimidate, suppress and abuse us. It is important to break this cycle of unworthiness and realize we deserve the victories that we earn.
Although background situations like family expectations, over protected upbringing (parents), low self-esteem, tribal/racial identities and excessive self-monitoring can fuel the flame of doubt resulting in a fear of success, the knowledge that we are not alone in this thought process often helps. For me as a business owner and entrepreneur, I have in the past also felt like an impostor. I would share business ideas and business plans with friends and colleagues and they would be so impressed and thrilled about the content and its revenue generation potential, giving me so much kudos and accolades. Sometimes they’ll ask me to teach them to do the same and sometimes some would offer to pay me to write their own business plans. I often didn’t feel the same. I felt it was a fluke until I realized the harm this thought process was doing to my self-esteem, my dreams and my right to win. I had to overcome and now I earn a tidy sum from writing business plans. I did it, you can too!
A few ideas to help achieve this would be to practice gratitude. Be grateful for everything, especially for who you are. A statement like “I thank you God for the wonder of my being”, can be such a proud expression of gratitude and positive affirmation. Positive, healthy affirmations are useful to drown out the voice of doubt and disbelief. Lastly, find a coach, mentor or join a mentoring program. Coaching and mentoring help overcome self-doubt especially where the mentor has gone through what you are experiencing as this will give clarity and validation. Whatever you do, don’t stand on the quick-sand of self-doubt, find what works for you and believe that you deserve to win! Please share this with someone in your circle of influence who needs this. Someone will thank you for it!
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