17 Spiritual Principles To Help You Overcome Impostor Syndrome
I met my spiritual teacher in Nepal on my 27th birthday. In the midst of a 30-day meditation retreat, I was one of five attendees granted the honor of meeting this lama. As I sat in his waiting chamber, my excitement was buried under overwhelming sensations of fear and self-doubt. All I could think about was how he would see me as a fraud. How I wasn’t worthy of his attention. How he would sense my brokenness and send me off.
I met with him three more times in the coming month, and thoughts of unworthiness met me during each one. But in the end, everything ended up being just fine—better than fine, actually.
I wish I could say this moment of unworthiness was an isolated incident, spurred by the overwhelming experience of meeting a spiritual leader. But through so many big opportunities in my life, my feelings of awe and gratitude have been buried by a massive, steaming pile of self-criticism. Instead of enjoying the ride, my mind instantly lists all the evidence it can muster to show I'm not good enough. And if it can't find any evidence, it makes it up!
Does this sound familiar? If you’ve been making a habit of embracing new experiences head-on, chances are you are intimately familiar with impostor syndrome. So how can we take this energy and try to use it for good? Here are 17 spiritual principles I've been using to sashay away the impostor syndrome when it comes to visit:
- Out the impostor with your journal: Impostor syndrome often shows up as feelings of unworthiness, doubt, or a general feeling of unease. A great way of getting clear on these feelings is to write out the negative self-talk as it comes to you and see how ridiculous it actually is.
- Acknowledge your various parts: When we get swept away in anxiety, it’s hard to remember that there’s only a part of us that is experiencing these emotions. By conducting self-inquiry, you’ll be able to tease away the part of you that feels fake or nervous and identify that there are other parts of you that are excited and feeling capable. Our anxiety is never our only experience.
- Know you are not alone: Impostor syndrome is a universal experience among mega-bosses. We all experience it, so welcome to the club!
- Collect evidence to the contrary: Everyone has accomplished something amazing. Make a list of your accomplishments to reference so you can remind yourself that your impostor story is fabricated.
- Understand how you are actually perceived: Write out a list of things you appreciate about yourself. If you’re having a hard time writing this list, call a friend and say, "I’m having impostor syndrome. Can you tell me the things you appreciate about me?"
- Reframe doubt as positivity: Instead of "I don’t know anything," you can say, "I know enough" and "I am enough." Your thoughts shape your reality, after all.
- Your feelings are real but not true: Although your impostor syndrome may feel like a true depiction of reality, it is not. Remember that sometimes our feelings lead us to more abundance and trust, but sometimes they lead us backward.
- Practice daily meditation and breathwork: When we meditate, we create space between our inherent qualities and the lies that we tell ourselves. And practicing breathwork, belly breathing in particular, can be helpful in creating space and slowing down racing thoughts.
- Don't underestimate your bravery: When you move forward, even when you are scared, it gives everyone else permission to move forward too. All it takes is one step
- Take a tough-love approach: I've been known to tell myself things like, "Sorry, honey, you’re going to die someday anyway, so we might as well do the work. What’s the worst that could happen?"
- You’re always changing: The fact that things are always changing is not optional; it is totally out of our control. It’s the direction that you're heading that you can control.
- Don’t wait for permission: Don’t let credentials hold you back. Success is more than just a diploma.
- Smile: Who knows—it could make a huge difference.
- Look outside of yourself: Helping others is often the best way to get out of a negative thought spiral. Help someone genuinely, and you’ll feel your inner critic quiet down.
- Record positive interactions: Studies show that the brain is more likely to remember negative interactions than positive ones. So keep a file of all the good things people have said about you. I'll take screenshots of all the nice messages and comments that have touched my heart over the years.
- Know that comparison is death: Stop comparing and competing. These narratives will keep you trapped in impostor syndrome.
- Kill the ego: When we cling to ideas about who we are, we restrict ourselves to labels and behavior patterns. Let yourself be free.
Here's some more advice on how to drop your ego and live from a place of spirit.