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Who is This Imposter in My Mind?

My whole career has been one giant experiment in Imposter Syndrome. I am trained and schooled in Respiratory Therapy. As my career progressed and I moved out of clinical care, the same themes would ring in my ears.” I am just a Respiratory Therapist. Why do they think I can be a …. fill in the blank”. United Way Loaned Executive, IT Director, Project Management Director, Operational Excellence executive, CEO of my own company, and so on.

It was such a known pattern that I started to be able to predict the sabotage my mind would play on me. As I got further up the ladder, the voices became louder: I don’t belong in this room, I don’t have what they are looking for, they picked the wrong person.

Research conducted by finds that 70% of the population will experience imposter syndrome at some time in their lives. Psychologist, Valerie Young, identified five types of imposter syndrome:

  • The Perfectionist - you set very high goals and get disappointed at the smallest mistake

  • The Superhero - you push yourself harder than everyone else

  • The Expert - you constantly go on courses because you feel you don't know enough

  • The Natural Genius - you feel like a failure when you don't succeed on the first go

  • The Soloist - you prefer to work alone because asking for help is a sign of weakness

So how can we rise above this sabotaging self-talk to build our own self confidence? Here are some confidence- building thoughts to remember:

  • You deserve to be in this role: there is a reason you were selected, and it’s so important that YOU believe it

  • You are not alone: almost everyone has experienced this at one point

  • Know your worth: you are more than your title, education, and past. Knowing your true potential helps you know your value

  • Don’t make perfection your goal, rather progress and acceptance

  • Don’t go it alone- the power of your community and network of confidants is powerful to help you see yourself differently

The ability to self-coach is one of the most effective ways to rise above imposter syndrome. Sitting in a quiet space for 20 minutes and asking yourself specific questions can help you. You will see the thoughts that are not serving you, sabotaging you, and can help you turn those thoughts into positive helpful phrases. Write them down so you can reflect. Ask yourself:

  • What are you making this mean?

  • What is the worst thing that could happen?

  • What are the facts of your story?

  • What are you creating in your life when you think this?

  • What would this look like if it were easy?

  • What am I afraid of?

Next, challenge your thoughts and create new thoughts to practice in the moment and build your confidence:

  • What have I achieved to prove that I belong?

  • What if this is all happening as it should?

  • What positive impact have I helped create?

  • How can I be an example of what’s possible?

  • What positive feedback have I received from people I respect?

  • How do you WANT to show up in this situation?

Throughout this journey, the most important thing you can do is give yourself grace and compassion. Feeling this way is normal and can be turned around. I believe in you and your success, and I hope you will too!

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