Believing in yourself is an ever-changing process (unpacking imposter syndrome)

Believing in yourself is an ever-changing process (unpacking imposter syndrome)
Photo by Rada Olshevskaya / Unsplash

You feel frozen. As your big dream approaches — to show up, to really help people, to do the big thing you’ve always wanted to do — as it approaches, you begin to freeze.

Who do I think I’m kidding? Why did I ever think I could do this? I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I should probably go back and get… like… seventeen more certifications before I get started.

Do you know this feeling? Was it a little uncomfortable to even read that? If so, I understand. I’ve been there, plenty of times. But what I want to do, now, is help you unpack this feeling, so you can begin to get a sense of how to move out of it, and take your rightful place in the world — as a good and caring person, capable of helping others in ways only you can.

Compacted into a frozen moment

The moment I described above — when we feel frozen by imposter syndrome — is like being compacted into one, eternal (and exhausting) moment. It feels something like this:

  • I must be impeccably good at this all right now
  • Any flaws will be my downfall
  • ...And I have got… to get… out of here!

We feel asphyxiated — all the oxygen of possibility, hope, and the chance for growth has left the room. And what is left is this nervous, anxious person with no room for growth.

But after decades of learning how to work with this (from age 3, I am guessing), I get it; and I have a few insights that might help you.

Can you give yourself some space?

When you think about this frozen, imposter syndrome place that you can sometimes be at, you may want to ask yourself some questions:

  • Who ever said you I to be wonderful at all of this, in order to be valuable to someone?
  • Who ever sold me on the idea that I have to be flawless... in order to be wonderful?
  • Can I give myself the space to breathe into the place I am going? —The room to move from who I’ve been, into who I’m becoming?

The imposter syndrome doesn’t want us to take any chances, or have anything new creep into our lives, lest something go wrong. (Am I right?)

What would it be like to give yourself the room and the appropriate container in which to make mistakes, to not always have to be right or know every answer?

Can you picture a space where you got to try things out and feel safe to have fun and play again, instead of one where no wrong answer was permissible?

What would that feel like to have room and a supportive audience to be able to grow into your greatest expression of what you want to do here, instead of feeling like you’re not allowed the space to learn and grow?

Being grown up is a journey; not a destination

I believe at the heart of our imposter syndrome is the following idea:

I’m already supposed to know what I am doing.

And at the heart of that is this idea that “I am already grown up and already know what to do, thank you.” But of course — we don’t; we often don’t; and admitting that can begin to give us the room to experiment, play, and find out what’s really there; what our gifts are.

The truth is this:

  • Every time you start a new thing, you enter the territory of the unknown, yet again.

Let’s say you’re an experienced therapist who has worked for 12 years for a local clinic; but now, you want to start that private practice you’ve always wanted to do. At that very moment, you are, once again, an infant in this new role.

  • And this is totally fine, as long as you can give yourself the room to be there!

The trouble is when we think “I’m supposed to know all this” — as though all of the new information you need to learn in terms of running a private practice was irrelevant or must somehow have been absorbed by osmosis. (It’s not!)

  • Can you be comfortable with that? Can you be comfortable with the reality that you don't know everything you would need to know in order to be excellent in this particular set of circumstances, way of working, set of connections, methods, etc.?

Because if you can, you can then grow into the new person you want to become.

If you would like help with this, please reach out and let me know.