By Gordon Fraser
If the answer to that question is yes, then you’re not alone. Many high achieving people hold themselves back, believing they are one step away from failure. The justifications are there for ‘Imposter syndrome.’
I’ve seen it first-hand, years ago as a fresh-faced actor. I had the opportunity of working with a famous American director at London’s Haymarket Theatre in the West End. The cast included acclaimed LAMDA and RADA graduates, as well as an A-list actress who could cry on demand. On the first day of rehearsal, she broke down in [unexpected] tears during her scene. She exclaimed how unworthy she felt in the company she was performing with. Why the uncomfortable performance? She’d never formally studied at Drama School and her big break was from a family friend. It became an insecurity for this actress – being unmasked by her ‘legitimate’ colleagues. Fast forward a few years and she became Academy Award winner for Best Actress. I’ve often wondered if she still feels the same today despite all the awards and fame…
When does this start, how does it happen and why do we feel like this sometimes?
From my experience, it’s something that follows us from childhood. As children, we accept the opinions of others heavily, whether it be friends, parents, siblings, teachers, bullies. We internalize their voices into our own. Some good, some bad. These voices can persist and grow louder into adulthood. It’s that nagging voice that gut checks you during the highlights of your life. If you become successful, a part of you may still be identifying with these childhood remnants and this could be limiting your experience of life.
On the other hand, others may see you in a role of excellence. You appear confident, capable, powerful, and organized. The reality is you often feel out your comfort zone and have the same feelings and frailties everyone else has. We all have that little child inside who thinks they’re a step away from being found out by authoritarian figures in our life waiting to cut us down.
Building your confidence
I firmly believe one must find a safe place to appraise oneself. You have to stop criticizing and comparing yourself unfairly based on the fictitious voice in your head. You have to appreciate who you are and what you do, no matter how big or small. Stop judging yourself and stop thinking other people are judging you too. Ultimately, everyone else is worried in a similar way and don’t have time to criticize you. The only one pointing the finger at you, is you.
Taking action today can be difficult, which is why you’re going to start small and work your way up! Try to write (not type) a list of 10 good qualities, traits, and skills you have. Then ask a trusted friend or colleague to describe some good qualities / skills they in you. Compare the two. See how the world views you, versus how you see yourself. See if the two line up. Refer to it as proof of your competence if you ever feel a wobble coming on.
Staying true to yourself
We tend to fall back onto bad habits when left to our own devices. How do you avoid that? Take take the time to practice daily affirmations. Just 10-15 minutes a day can make a world of difference! Ideally, you want to practice in front of a mirror, looking into your eyes, and repeat these affirmations several times. Make sure you do this with a hard copy note to read off. Some people will tape these to the inside their medicine cabinet to have it always on hand. These affirmations can be general pledges or tailored just for you.
Some good examples to start off with include:
• I am good as I am
• I am good at what I do
• I respect myself
• I appreciate my skills and accomplishments
• I deserve success and I expect the best
• I am beautiful/handsome and love my body
• I learn new things every day
• I attract only good things
Close the door on the demeaning ‘imposter’ voice in your head and open yourself up to the successful, talented, grounded, appreciative, hard-working person you really are.