Often when I sit down at my desk to prepare for a big interview, write an outline for a speaking engagement, or work on a new article, whispers of self-doubt swirl through my mind.
Before I even begin, the fear can start to get to me. "You know nothing," a little voice says. "Who are you to deserve this opportunity? No one wants to hear what you have to say." I know I'm not the only one. How many of you have heard those exact words echo through your mind—maybe after a promotion, an invitation, or being asked to pioneer a new project? Why, hello there, impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome was first named by a pair of clinical psychologists in the 1970s, who identified the near-universal experience of feeling like a fraud, feeling like an accidental high-achiever, and feeling unworthy in the face of your own accomplishments. When success arrives at our doorstep, we convince ourselves that it was meant for someone else—because there’s no way that we deserve it. We’re too inadequate, too incompetent, too small.
The irony is that we believe we’re the only ones. We fall for the lie that everyone else is confident, worthy, and deserving. And that’s when we start to listen to the damaging voice in our head: "I'm the only fraud in the room." Of course we all have an inner critic, a voice that makes us question our worth and our experience. This voice tells us the same, worn-out story: You’re not good enough. And interestingly, this voice is often triggered by external approval, opportunities, or compliments.
I see this scenario play out in my clients’ lives all the time. One day they’re telling me that they have been asked to speak at a prestigious event, photographed for a campaign, or asked to spearhead the next team project. And the next day, they’re telling me that maybe it’s not the right fit, and maybe they should back out, and maybe it’s not meant for them. Too many times, I’ve experienced this same swinging pendulum of emotions—in one moment, fiercely grateful for new opportunities and in the next moment, completely trapped by the triggered voice of the inner critic.
Thankfully, through all my years of self-work, I’ve learned how to meet impostor syndrome head-on and move through it with mindfulness and intention. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t rear its ugly head every now and again, but I am able to come back to reality quickly and get myself into a different state of mind. The mind of someone who thinks that they're not only capable of doing what they are being asked but who believes it is their responsibility to do so. We all have talents and skills, and we are doing a disservice to ourselves if we don't let them shine.
Next time you’re battling self-doubt, I encourage you to implement one or more of these practices—and always remember this: You're in charge of your feelings.