The Imposter Syndrome and Its Antidote

Trophy next to a Volley Ball Net - The Imposter Syndrome and Its Antidote

“Angie, when I get a sense of the Imposter Syndrome, I get motivated.  This drives me to prove that I’m exactly in the place I need to be.”

When my friend shared this with me, I thought, “Huh, that’s new.  Because when I feel like I’m not enough, I retreat to my mental cave of sadness and despair, then have my Stuart Smalley moment to boost my confidence.*

In other words, the Imposter Syndrome rocks my foundation, but I work my way back to neutral. Very different than using the Imposter Syndrome as a launch pad for a new level of success.

My friend revealed something important, though – another response, a different approach, when we feel like we’re frauds in the moments we find ourselves in.

And my friend’s response, feeling motivated, isn’t like a light switch, one that we can flip on in an instant.  It’s a mindset we can transition into as long as we focus on the right belief – the belief that we’re deserving.

Yes, deserving – that what you have is rightfully yours because you earned it.

This belief is challenging for many of us to adopt because …

  • We’ve got perfectionist expectations, and nothing is ever good enough … therefore we’re never enough. This is a big one.  Our success never matches our own unrealistic standards for ourselves, so we can never fully feel like we’ve achieved anything that is “deserving-worthy.”  So, rather than enjoy moments of our success, we’re disappointed because we could’ve done better, we could’ve done more.
  • We don’t want to feel entitled.  None of us want to run the risk of being arrogant, so we don’t want success to get to our head.  So rather than say to ourselves, “Yes, I did that!” we shrug our shoulders and say “Eh, it’s no big deal.”
  • We’re concerned about the upset in the force.  If something good happens, we expect something bad to happen – like the other shoe to drop, as if success and failure are striving for constant harmony.  Success makes us suspicious, so we don’t want to relish it for too long because we’re tempting the fate of failure.  

This is kind of b.s., isn’t it?  That our success makes us anxious, insecure, and paranoid?

Can you pause for a moment, think of all the good things in your life right now, and say to yourself “I deserve all of this.”  Try this.  I dare you.  And put a period at the end of that sentence because it’s a complete thought.

I want to feel more deserving of my success – don’t you want to feel the same way about yours? Here are a few strategies we can all adopt.

  • Don’t shortcut success – do the work.  When our success comes from true, random luck, it’s really hard to feel deserving … like winning the lotto, or being a new-join on a team that just won a hard-earned proposal.  So, do the work.  Put in the hours.  So when you get a compliment on a project, or get that major win,you can say, sincerely, “Thank you.”  You earned it.  You deserve that moment.
  • Measure success in the process, not the trophy.  Your effort, your skills, your attitude, your talents – those are all things you have 100% control over and those accomplishments are enduring, which allow us to feel successful every day.  The trophies, the promotions, the bonuses – all things you have little control over?  Don’t build your sense of deserving around fleeting moments that often aren’t determined by you. Remind yourself that you deserve to be in the arena … as for as the prize belt? If it happens, awesome … if not, lick your wounds, learn your lessons, and appreciate the wisdom gained from the experience.
  • Have a mantra.  Yes, for real – the words you tell yourself make a huge difference.  Tell yourself that you’re deserving of the good things that happen to you.  And for those bad things?  If someone cuts you off, if your boss loses their cool, or the barista gets your order wrong?  That’s not about you – that’s about them.  You’re not deserving of the things beyond your control, so hold yourself accountable to the things you can.

You know what I’d love?  I’d love to get an email inbox full of all the things you feel you deserve in life.  Would you do that for me?  I think I deserve that.  Send me that email by clicking here.  

My best, Angie

PS There’s still a lot to explore with this topic, in particular the relationship between “deserving” and the negative aspects of our life – unhappy relationships, missed expectations at work, getting laid off.  As an example, you don’t deserve getting laid off – but you are accountable for your workplace performance, your attitude, your effort, and your ability to look for other employment when you sense your current situation isn’t optimal or secure.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  

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