I have recently been doing some training around Imposter Syndrome. What’s Imposter Syndrome you ask? Well it’s a term that is relatively new but basically describes the feeling that some people get when they are in a role that they are very well qualified for but inside they feel they are an imposter. That at any point someone will discover that they are really “winging it”, that they do not deserve the position they hold. As I said it’s a relatively new term and really is what is also known as having a low self-esteem.
Self-esteem in general, or lack of it, is something that is now talked about more and more. We are encouraged to talk about our accomplishments and achievements. There have been numerous campaigns encouraging us to be real and be proud of our triumphs, many of these campaigns have hashtags and encourage people to post them on social media. One thing that shocked me while studying this subject was that the rise in self-esteem campaigns has also led to a rise is narcissism. For those who don’t know narcissism is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as Selfishness, a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy and a need for admiration. Now narcissism is the enemy of anyone who has low self-esteem as life with a narcissist is all about them. Narcissists often make your achievements into their achievements, often living out their need for admiration in a role where they appear to be helping others to achieve.
The information I viewed suggests that instead of engaging in a quest for self-esteem we should maybe aim for self-compassion. Unlike some of the self-esteem campaigns which encourage public, external acknowledgement of achievements, Self-compassion encourages internal acknowledgement of our achievements. To note them to ourselves, to become our own cheer leader. It can also include a selected group of friends or close colleagues, but it asks us to celebrate our achievements with empathy. It is always good to build a healthy self-esteem but maybe before we post on social media or publicly celebrate an achievement ask the question “Am I doing this at the expense of someone else?” “Will my positive effect someone else in a negative way?”. This isn’t to minimise your achievement which is amazing, and you should celebrate it but by choosing to do so privately, or within a small group, you are not risking a negative effect on others.
Interestingly this internal acknowledgement is also more likely to build your own self esteem in a solid way. Exploring the root cause of your low self-esteem, where it originates from. Exploring what negative beliefs you hold and where these beliefs come from can help you to discard them and replace with new positive, and most importantly correct ones. Many of the negative beliefs we hold have come from much earlier in life and have ceased to become truthful or helpful a long while ago. By noting our accomplishments maybe in a journal or in private messages to a close group of friends we can catch the negative feelings that are evoked when we talk positively about ourselves. It is by noting and examining these negative beliefs that allows us to move forward. To work from a place of good self-esteem which is anchored within us. We no longer need the world of social media to like our posts or tell us we are awesome as we know it within.
Internal validation is magic because once you have it the need for external validation and acceptance begins to disappear and we become comfortable in our own skin. Aware of our own values and beliefs and able to stand by them, whilst also having empathy and respect for others who may hold values which differ from ours. Much of the work I do with clients is around exploring the negative messages we have taken on about ourselves and exploring if these negative beliefs are correct. These messages can come from a variety of sources, partners, friends, relatives, teachers the list is almost endless. Clients often describe it as another part of them or even a mini person sitting on their shoulder constantly whispering negatives in their ear.
These negative messages can affect our life in many areas from our work to the way we are in relationships. If these messages originally came from someone we love, trust or respect it can be hard to rewrite the script. If Imposter Syndrome is something you recognise in yourself or if you struggle with hearing your own inner dialogue amongst the endless opinions of others then get in touch as this is something I can help you to explore.