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A Cure for Impostor Syndrome

Waking up from your nightmare guarantees symptom relief

By Janet G. Hudson

You were excited when you started your new venture, stepped up to lead, or received that longed-for promotion in recognition of your amazing work. Yet, now you’re working feverishly to level up your skills and over deliver because you don’t want others to know how incompetent you feel or believe you are.

Perhaps you’re dressing the part, showing up in all the right places, and dropping names continually as you desperately play your role as entrepreneur, business owner, leader or creator. Maybe you’re exhausted from frequently putting up a front, terrified of looking foolish, or being exposed as a fraud. Do you wake up at night analyzing all the things that are going wrong? Or envisioning all the people who don’t respect you?

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If these fears and self-doubts are all too familiar, you’re likely experiencing impostor syndrome, which disproportionally affects ambitious, compassionate, and hard-working women. The phrase might seem rather self-evident, but it doesn’t mean you ARE an impostor only that you IMAGINE you are.

Unfortunately, prior success, skills and experience don’t offer you immunity from this life-draining and debilitating obstacle. Impostor syndrome plagues women at all stages of life, all skill levels, and in all professions. But you’re most vulnerable when transitioning to something new or stepping up to play a bigger game.

What’s behind impostor syndrome?

The primary deficiency in impostor syndrome is lack of confidence. Unfortunately, the much-needed self-confidence can’t thrive because YOU created and are following a nightmare script that undermines your self-assurance. Crazy, right? The nightmare script includes Mental Scene A, which is what you’re imagining you “should” be doing in your new role, and Mental Scene B, which is your perception of what you’re actually doing.

These two mental scenes are in conflict, resulting in anxiety and stress. More importantly, Mental Scenes A and B live in your imagination and don’t align with reality. Freedom from impostor syndrome emerges once you (1) shed some daylight on Mental Scenes A and B; and (2) calibrate them with a more objective reality.

  1. Shedding daylight on nightmarish Mental Scenes A and B means describing them aloud to someone you trust and with whom you will be honest. Coaches are amazing at this. Write these scenes down. Seeing your mental images in the daylight might shed light on how irrational or even silly they seem. Without the daylight, nightmarish mental images continually run the show in your mind.
  2. Now, calibrate daylighted Mental Scene A (what you imagine you should be doing) with an agreed-upon, objective description of what you could be doing to fully become the woman who excels in her role and knows it. This calibration will factor in contexts of all kinds and include input from others who understand a range of variables about you and the specific challenge. Then calibrate daylighted Mental Scene B (your perception of how you’re currently performing) with your actual That means your perception of reality and reality might not be in sync. Get some objective feedback. The more objective your feedback and calibrating partner is the better.

The bottom line

Impostor syndrome is a nightmare from which you can awaken. Expose Mental Scenes A and B to daylight (out of your head) and calibrate them with some fully awake reality. A realistic assessment of how you’re performing and how you need to be performing, lets you know if there’s a gap to close. And you can determine how to tangibly close it, allowing newfound confidence to replace that otherwise unhelpful self-judgment that’s fueling the nightmare.

Janet HudsonAuthor bio: Janet G. Hudson, Ph.D. ACC is a certified professional coach supporting professionals, especially perfectionist leading ones who dream big, to Tame the Inner Chaos and make that valuable contribution.