When has imposter syndrome crept up on your doorstep and barged through your front door?
An “imposter” is a person who pretends to be someone else to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain. A “syndrome” is a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions or behavior. “Imposter syndrome” is our inability to believe that we deserve what we receive. Our insecurities create toxic thoughts, and we feel like a phony.
I unexpectedly encountered imposter syndrome as a new mother and wife. This issue didn’t show symptoms until after my wedding day and the birth of my children.
When I said “yes” to my husband’s marriage proposal, I thought I could successfully become his wife immediately on the wedding day. The same was true when I found out I was pregnant. The child would be born, and I would instinctually know what to do as his mother. My parents are great role models, so I would follow their lead.
Little did I know that these two duties would be the hardest for me to figure out and conquer. It was years that I felt inadequate and underqualified. I started to believe that I was messing up my husband’s and children’s lives. They deserve better.
When you google the words “imposter syndrome,” you will find details defining this disorder, its causes, how it feels, different types of the syndrome and what to do when it challenges you. As I research more, I find that this is a belief issue.
Scientists have proven the “thought cycle” where thoughts cycle through our brain. Our thoughts create our emotions. Emotions create our actions, and our actions create our results. These results then, in turn, generate more thoughts.
According to this cycle, if we do not like the results of something, we can trace it to our thoughts. We need to change our thoughts or beliefs if we want to change our results. This is exactly where we need to focus to conquer our imposter syndrome.
When imposter syndrome sets in, my thoughts are negative and insecure. “Who am I to think I can be a perfect wife and patient mother?” My emotions become doubtful, scared and nervous, which creates pessimistic actions. No one enjoys this type of relationship, so my correspondence with my husband and children is strained.
What could happen if I choose my thoughts differently? When imposter thoughts entertain my mind, I could think, “I can do this. I can seek guidance, ask questions and learn what my family needs from me.” This thought makes me nervous because of the unknown, but it also leaves me excited to see what victory could occur. My posture and demeanor are immediately more empowering. My shoulders are back, and I am smiling. My family, in turn, reacts positively and wants to connect with me.
Do you see the power we have in our heads? One little flip of the switch, and we create experiences that eventually will demolish any imposter syndrome.
No one is immune from this temporary disorder. I have coached professionals who have admitted to feeling like a phony. This fear has manifested in executives, medical professionals, fitness trainers, police officers, accountants, salespeople and military men and women. These people have been trained and are considered experts in their field, and their insecure thoughts continue to overpower them.
The next time this disorder knocks on your front door and you wonder, “Who am I to be given this opportunity?” I want to challenge you with a different question. “Why not you?”
Kathie Rotz is a leadership consultant and John Maxwell certified speaker, trainer and coach with Unity Consulting in Dubuque.