The true cost of impostor syndrome, defined as ‘the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills’, can be more significant than we realise.
Impostor syndrome is often accompanied by high levels of anxiety and feelings of self-doubt, impacting the person’s sense of their own worth, impeding their progress and preventing them from easily realising their full potential.
Impostor syndrome does not discriminate by profession, gender or age. Anyone can fall prey as it worms itself into the psyche, creating an internal narrative that questions one’s ability, experience and, eventually, one’s very existence. Thoughts take the form of ‘who do you think you are’ and present a less than humble view of ourselves, suggesting egotistical self importance and dishonesty.
Trying to rationalise impostor syndrome is like trying to talk down a tired toddler on a sugar rush; infuriating, exhausting and futile.
Impostor syndrome often occurs when a person embarks on a learning journey and wishes to share their knowledge and experience with others, reaching a stage where they know more than the average person in the street yet still with more to learn, to master the subject fully. Realising the impact the learning has had for them they take the courageous step to share it with others.
As a practitioner, instructor, teacher or sharer of information/knowledge/experience, we provide a safe space where students may explore different ideas and their own relationship with them, where questions can be asked and debated. It is no teachers job to be the font of all knowledge, but a guide imparting wisdom, stimulating the curiosity of those who wish to learn, wherever they may be on their journey.
Authenticity is the new rock ‘n roll
It is impossible for authenticity and impostor syndrome to co-exist. The authentic practitioner/teacher knows and works within the current limits of their own learning, seeking to continually deepen/broaden their knowledge and allowing themselves the space and time to grow.
Knowledge + Experience = wisdom
Human beings are effective recycling units, accumulating knowledge and experience and passing it on as wisdom, providing a foundation for the next generation to springboard from. The more we go through in life, the more we learn. Impostor syndrome makes us doubt our own wisdom and prevents us from sharing it with others. True, we may not yet know the answers but we know the combinations we have tried and can pass on the baton to give those that follow a running start.
Impostor syndrome prevents that baton from being passed on. The richness of your knowledge and experience is lost to history and subsequent endeavours must start from zero. Consider for a moment the impact of that on your own life. Quickly think of 10 things you know about because someone else shared their wisdom with you. From ironing a shirt to splitting the atom, all learning builds on the input and experience of others.
Impostor syndrome perpetuates the negative internal narrative that holds us back, reinforcing our lack of self worth and impeding our progress.
Just for today, consider what could happen if you shared your wisdom and it helped someone else have a better day. How would that be?
Tips to combat Impostor syndrome
- Acknowledge how far you’ve come / how much you’ve learned.
Reflect on where you were before you began studying your subject of interest. What have you learned? How have you changed?
- Seek feedback
Asking for feedback can feel terrifying but it serves a dual purpose. Feedback encourages your clients/students to reflect on their experience and learning, it also provides you with regular insights into your practice, what is working for people and how you might improve/refine your practice. Written feedback can be easier to process but, either way, ask your clients and students for feedback on 4 aspects:
- What did they learn
- What did they enjoy
- What didn’t they enjoy
- What changes could you make to improve their experience
- Make a record of ALL your achievements
From learning to walk to passing your last exam, from getting out of bed on a challenging day to working with your first client/student. Recording and reviewing personal achievements creates a firm foundation from which to build self confidence plus it’s a great tool to get you back on track on a difficult day.
- Talk about it
You will be amazed how many of the people you respect and admire have experienced impostor syndrome. Allow yourself to learn from them and stand on the shoulders of giants.
Impostor syndrome is one of the unhelpful belief systems I help people to acknowledge, address and change in my 1-2-1 kinesiology clinic sessions.
When you’re ready to step into your true self and realise your full potential, please get in touch to find out how.
I look forward to working with you
Claire Cutler-Casey is a professional Kinesiology Practitioner and Touch For Health instructor as well as delivering a variety of business and well-being workshops designed to help you navigate the process of change.
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