Rising above self-doubt

Understanding imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that activates our innate threat detection system, causing us to question our competencies and achievements.

It’s important to understand that this is an evolved trait, the purpose of which has become highly distorted. In primate societies, it’s important to know who is dominant. Insubordination can lead to strict forms of punishment and potential ostracization. It pays to know your place and to act accordingly.

That mechanism is significantly less helpful to us in modern societies where we emphasize values like equality, fairness, and cooperation. It is also less helpful when one’s physical stature should have much less of an influence on social rank. 

Nonetheless, evolved strategies are hard to forget and so our brains are constantly carrying out calculations to determine where we fit in in a group or society. In fact, modern technology – with the ability to see and monitor the lives of people we would never have even heard of several decades ago – has arguably exacerbated this trait. 

The key to surmounting this phenomenon lies in understanding the origins of this feeling and knowing that they are not reflective of reality. Our brains are trying to helpful but they are using a maladapted system.

Owning your achievements

It is crucial to recognize and celebrate every victory on the path to overcoming imposter syndrome. Glossing over achievements or attributing them to luck perpetuates the cycle of self-doubt. Actively acknowledging your accomplishments can rewire your brain to recognize your worth. For instance, maintaining a journal to record milestones can serve as tangible proof of your abilities. This exercise can serve as a confidence booster when self-doubt tries to creep in.

Giving yourself grace

Being compassionate towards oneself is an essential step in combating imposter syndrome. Self-compassion involves understanding your emotional state and treating yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend. Strategies to enhance self-compassion include positive self-talk and taking breaks when feeling overwhelmed. Engaging in mindfulness exercises can also centre your thoughts and create a balanced perspective, reducing the room for self-critical views.

Setting realistic goals

It’s a cliche, but small and achievable goals are a proven way to help you progress towards a target. By breaking down a journey into small steps you will create consistent reminders of your progress, helping to give you a renewed morale boost. 

Question your thoughts

Identifying negative thought patterns associated with imposter syndrome is crucial for transformation. Techniques from cognitive-behavioral therapy can help in reframing these thoughts. Instead of being entangled in a web of self-doubt, questioning the validity of these thoughts can diminish their power. Practicing this consistently will lead to a healthier mindset, making it easier to ward off imposter tendencies.

Forgive yourself

The pursuit of perfection can become a vicious cycle that exacerbates imposter syndrome. It is essential to understand that imperfection is a part of the human experience and a stepping stone in the learning process. Accepting that making mistakes does not make you a fraud but rather provides an opportunity for growth can be liberating, breaking the chains of self-doubt.

Seek out supporters

A supportive network can be a powerful weapon against imposter syndrome. Relationships that are uplifting and affirming reinforce a positive self-image. Make a conscious effort to engage with people who nourish your soul and encourage your aspirations, as this can go a long way in replacing self-doubt with self-assurance.

Dorothy Watson is a Mental Health Consultant. You can find her website here: mentalwellnesscenter.info

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