There is a vocal group who tell us to “stop telling women they have Imposter Syndrome!”
Actually, we aren’t telling them that at all.
Not every woman has it. And not everyone who has it is a woman! Imposter Syndrome is a message given to under-represented demographics as they rise to the ranks of high-achievers. They look around themselves and see they are among the “first, only, different” in their circle. Some of the most prevalent sufferers are entrepreneurs, and it so happens that the majority of those right now are women.
Imposter Syndrome isn’t our natural self-doubt when we are trying something new. Imposter Syndrome is actually quite certain – you don’t have what it takes. You are a fraud. None of your achievements count. This is a very scary place to be, and it can be invisible to the people around you. Imposter Syndrome is your inner critic on steroids. That’s the bad news. The good news is there are some powerful strategies that can heal and quiet her voice.
High-achievers face challenges just like everyone else. When that happens, the last thing you need is your Inner Critic taking the wheel, getting on your case about every last little thing you’re trying to do. No one is harder on us than ourselves, and Imposter Syndrome sufferers’ Inner Critic has internalized societal messages that keep us playing very small.
Try these tried and true strategies to rebalance your self-awareness and tip tip the scales in the favor of growth and expansion instead:
Inner Critics often are subtle. They sound quite reasonable as they tell us how incapable and undeserving, we are, and they are sneaky. They mimic our own inner voice so we think it is just part of our natural thought patterns. By paying attention to what’s going on in your head, you draw their lies out into the light where they cannot stand. That would look like, “WOW! I am really talking negatively to myself right now! I would never speak to another person like this.”
Give It a Nickname
Whenever the Inner Critic speaks up, give it a silly name. Think to yourself things like “Hey, it’s Moldyvort, back again to cause trouble.” By making fun of this voice, it’s a whole lot harder to take seriously. I tell me clients to give their Inner Critic a lollypop, and tell it to go sit in the corner for a while in time out until they can get some things accomplished. By the time they do, there’s really nothing for the Inner Critic to criticize.
What About a Voice?
Do you hear some pretty negative things? Try saying them out loud. By giving voice to these thoughts, you’ll hear just how ridiculous they sound. As a corollary to this, it is also helpful to write out what the Inner Critic is saying, word-for-word. This helps you to spot the voice when it comes up. You can also ascertain if the voice might sound just like someone from your past—a boss, parent, teacher, or other authority who gave you critical messages about your abilities.
Take a Negativity Break
Tell your Inner Critic they can only come out to play at a particular time each day. During that time, take a break and tell the Inner Critic to do their worst. Be sure to set a timer for the space allotted, so you don’t give more time to the negativity than necessary. Sit back and let it speak its piece. The funny thing? Most of the time, you won’t even remember what it was the Critic had to say by the time your negativity break rolls around. Even if you do, when the timer goes off, remind yourself you’re done and walk away.
Is there any truth to what your Inner Critic is saying? Examine the statements. Feel free to argue back. Point out the flaws in the reasoning and back it up with examples of times when you’ve proven those things aren’t true. I suggest a very specific approach to this assessment:
When you catch yourself in the act of harsh self-criticism, notice what the voice is saying.
Next, ask yourself, "Is this true?"
If you are tempted to say “Yes, this is true,” then ask, “How do I know?” Cite your “proof”.
If you remain convinced the worst is true, then ask this last challenge: "Even if I believe the worst is true, what are other, positive, affirming alternative possibilities I have not considered?” You don’t get to say, “There aren’t any.” Even if you believe the alternatives are not probable, you must consider the possibility.
Replace the Words
Finally, drop the negative words entirely and rewrite the script to turn each negative into a positive. For example, saying, “I’m terrible at writing reports” can become “I did a great job on the last report I wrote. I bet this one will be fine too.” Or “Although I don’t love writing reports, I am able to do this, and get better each time I write one.”
Remember, silencing an Inner Critic is going to take time and energy. However, you have already invested a lot of time and energy in the Inner Critic, believing it would help you. Now you are realizing there’s a better solution that helps you even better.
Once you’ve begun this shift, your world will change enormously in self-awareness, optimism, growth, creativity, clarity and real confidence. You have already achieved enormous amounts despite your Inner Critic’s interference, not because of it. Now you can achieve almost unlimited success once you step out of her shadow.