To be, or not to be.

In response to: “I’d like to read about Imposter Syndrome.”

This is the one guys!!! Boy did this give me flashbacks. Having received this as a topic of interest from a follower I was eager to get right to it. Though I’ll tell you I was tempted to start a LIVE video on my Social Media Platform right then. I was bubbling inside with the many experiences I’ve had with this particular issue. Who knows, I just may do that anyway after sharing this post. (Drop a comment below if you’d find this helpful) This is such a hot topic, I feel we all need to explore this on a more personal level. I promise once you read this it will all make sense.

In reality, we all have that little voice in our heads that make us wonder if in fact we’re really good at what we do. We wonder, do other people see it too? Is it all in our heads? Are we merely impressing ourselves to believe we are because we’re just that optimistic? Or is it the opposite? Do we think we aren’t good enough? Do we struggle receiving compliments? Do we have a hard time putting our best foot forward because we don’t think we’ll be as well received? After all, there are so many other people out there doing what we’re doing and doing it better, right? Or do we hype ourselves up to believe so? We’re afraid of rejection, criticism, and failure.  We want to step out on faith but some days our faith wavers. We know what we’re capable of but we don’t think its good enough to wrap in a bright red bow to show the world just yet. Or, we are ready to make our big debut and then, we panic! Sound familiar?

This my friends is what you call, Imposter Syndrome.  Let’s define it. It’s a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud, disingenuous, or phony.

If we’re being honest with ourselves here, we’ve all been there. Our minds play tricks on us. Before we can get ahead of the negative thought patterns that fill our heads we’ve run far into the distance carrying a bag full of those very doubts and fears. Needless to say, this oversized bag gets heavy. The more we hold on to these crazed ideas of imperfection, the more we devalue ourselves.  And the more we get wrapped up in the cycle, the more we believe it. Goal oriented thinkers do this the most. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again… “We are our worst enemy!”

Let’s talk perfectionism for a sec. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know I’ve battled this demon. I semi-conquered it, as it tends to want to creep back up from time to time, but perfectionist thinking is partly to blame for our elevated Imposter Syndrome. Before we get way too ahead of ourselves here, it’s important to note that this “syndrome” isn’t an actual diagnosable illness. Nothing to be alarmed about or need to seek psychological attention. It’s simply a fancy way of saying, “I’m in my own head and I can’t get out!”

Those who study the behaviors of the mind have discovered that there are five types of Imposter Syndrome. Arlin Cuncic describes it best on the Very Well Mind website as follows:

  • The Perfectionist- one who believes that unless you’ve carried something out absolutely perfectly, you clearly could have done better. (The pressure!)
  • The Expert- doesn’t feel confident unless they know everything there is to know about something or feels like they’ve mastered the process. (This my friends is relative.)
  • The Natural Genius- doesn’t feel they are naturally intelligent enough and unless they get something right the first time around, they feel incompetent. (Okay, Genius!)  
  • The Soloist- feels incompetent having to ask for help; unable to accomplish things on their own they question their own abilities. (Lowers head.)
  • The Super person- believes they must be the hardest worker or reach the highest level of accomplishment or else they feel dishonest. (Welp!)

Pardon my jest here but, can you relate? Lord knows I can. Long before I started this blog I’ve had a desire to excel at all things. Receiving awards and accolades in recognition for my participation and/or my development of projects was a driving force for me. I envisioned having excelled when I had enough awards on my desk, or mentions in articles/emails/memos, having been selected first to head a special mission, or simply got a pat on the back. I thrived off the Super person mentality. As a Super person I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own. I came to see that I was burning myself out and it became quite clear that I had to delegate tasks. Delegating was clearly not my jam. Because as a Perfectionist, no one could do it as well as I could. No one would understand the mission, the goal, the scheme, the theme, the… you get it. They weren’t in my head enough to see “the vision.” So the Soloist took over.

Ever heard the saying, “It’s lonely at the top?” Well, it is. You have to let people in. How do you do that? You bite the bullet, your tongue, grit your teeth, but hesitantly open yourself up to the possibilities to allow a natural flow of growth. And yes, that comes with opening yourself up to possible public scrutiny. I more than anyone can relate to social anxiety. As the shy kid growing up, I’ve been known to say “I don’t do people,” a time or two. But that’s not true. I just don’t do “people” who aren’t a direct reflection of the character I want to embody in my life. People who don’t have similar goals and interests don’t usually gel with us very well do they? They have ulterior motives and may not have our best interest at heart. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone I realized that I had much more to offer than I thought. It’s a risk I was willing to take. In the Super person-Perfectionist-Soloist mentality I realized that I was blocking my blessings. And what better way to open the flood-gates than to release control? Easier said than done, I know. It takes some practice.  

Which then begs the question, “Do I have Imposter Syndrome?”  Read and honestly answer the below questions:

  • Do you struggle with realistically evaluating your own capabilities?
  • Do you credit your success to factors outside of yourself? (I.e. someone helped you, it was an easy transition, etc.)
  • Are you overly critical of your own performance?
  • Are you afraid you won’t live up to expectations you place on yourself or the expectations others place on you?
  • Are you an overachiever? (humbly, slowly raising my hand)
  • Do you find that you sometimes sabotage your own success? (I.e. put forth less effort when things are just starting to fall into place.)
  • Do you doubt yourself?
  • Do you set goals that are far beyond your reach and then beat yourself up for not accomplishing them?

If you answered yes to all or most of these questions, then, I’m sorry to break it to you love but… you need to seek ISA (Imposter Syndrome Anonymous). Kidding here guys. Let’s breathe. In hindsight, there’s a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow (veer deep into the future at that bright light in the distance). Exhibiting these characteristics screams one very loud and unequivocally favorable thing, YOU HAVE MOTIVATION TO ACHIEVE! Do you know how many people struggle with finding that motivation? Some of us have to drink a caffeine fueled beverage to attain it. Consider this a blessing.

We do know however, that it may come at the cost of some additional struggles. I mentioned above, the tendency to be socially anxious as a result of all these self-deprecating thoughts. You may be experiencing generalized anxiety, due to the rush of emotions causing you to sink too deep into the Imposter Syndrome hole.  We don’t want that. That in itself is counterproductive to our success right? So, how do we resolve it?

As with all things we must get down to the heart of the matter, in this case, it’s YOU! Clearly I don’t mean it in a mean girl, point the finger at you, kind of way. It’s time to consider what your fundamental values are. What do you believe deep down in your soul? You’ve got to dig deep for this one. What you think about your SELF is key to understanding your thought process to meet those aspirations. Consider your motivating factor. Pick apart the ideal that you must be blemish-free, flawless, and beat to perfection in order to meet your mark. Remember, there’s more than one way to reach the top. Make your way work for you. Now would be a good time to acknowledge how far you’ve come. You are one step closer to your destination. Keep placing one foot in front of the other. Some days progress looks like stillness, other days progress is a fast forward jolt, but all days progress is reflected in the way you show up for yourself. Show up as the rock-star that you are. Positive headspace breeds positive spirits.

If after reading this post you realize you don’t in fact relate to this Imposter Syndrome mentality, but know someone who does, please pass this piece along. Remember to be the supportive companion to others in their process of transformation. Be patient. Remind them that they are not alone in this feeling and do so by sharing your own stories. Help them redirect negative thought patterns by affirming all the positive things instead. Handle it all with humor and grace, after all, life is far too serious as it is. And, in the words of authors W. Brad Johnson and David G. Smith, “Do not let them give you all the credit!”

For a more in-depth look at Arlin Cuncic’s contribution in his piece “What is Imposter Syndrome?” Visit the following link:

As always, I hope this message has encouraged you. To live your life to the best of your ability. To shine brighter each day and be your best self.  Yours truly. – Lin Green

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