I Feel Like A Fraud – What Is Imposter Syndrome Really?
“I so don’t belong on this team!” I think to myself swearing under my breath as I sit in a meeting with my colleagues analyzing a problem we are having. One of my colleagues has just described a technical concept in such beautiful depth that I feel completely out of place. When I compare myself to her, I find myself utterly lacking. I tell myself that I was supposed to know that. I feel like a fraud and I just want to hide. I feel myself retreating, less inclined to contribute and more likely to just go along with what’s being decided. Then I feel resentful. I feel really awful and this feels really familiar.
This Is Imposter Syndrome
Does what I just described sound familiar to you? It’s Imposter Syndrome, a persistent belief many of us carry where in spite of our success, we think that at any moment we will be exposed as a fraud. We live with this like a ticking time bomb inside ourselves. Any success we experience feels like luck rather than rather than skill or competence. We just don’t let in the good. Often with this set of beliefs comes a strong tendency to pressure ourselves to perform perfectly even when we have limited experience at what we are doing or we’re experimenting with something that’s never been done before. We believe there’s no room for error.
I know how awful this feels. You feel like an outsider even though you love your work and the people you work with. You frequently wonder if you need more training. You never let yourself catch your breath because you believe you can’t afford to rest.
Adverse Childhood Experiences
So what’s driving these relentlessly critical messages running through your head? Chances are the source comes from another time and place where it was dangerous to be different, unsafe to be visible, and better to be perfect. Where we were safer following along rather than leading and better off losing rather than winning. Maybe others often put you down. Does any of this fit for you? I wonder what you came to believe about yourself as a result? I decided I was unlovable and that I didn’t deserve praise. Maybe you decided that no matter what you do, you don’t deserve to be successful. There are many of flavors of this.
If as children we endured what are called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), we are more likely to develop these negative and very limiting beliefs about ourselves. ACEs include things like emotional, physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Why do ACEs matter to us as adults? Because when we grew up in a bad situation, we could only decide unconsciously that what happened was our fault and that there was something fundamentally wrong with us that caused those bad things to happen. Children don’t have the ability to rationalize that they are good people in bad situations. They blame themselves instead. The resulting patterns, like Imposter Syndrome, then limit us as adults until we address them by getting help from people skilled in addressing these leftovers from ACEs.
From Fraud To Freedom
So if Imposter Syndrome comes from ACEs, now what? I’m just scratching the surface here of a very complex pattern, so I created a free webinar called From Fraud To Freedom, designed for you to dive a little deeper into your experience with Imposter Syndrome. Intrigued? Please check it out. Then drop me a note and let me know what you learned. You are not stuck in this pattern. You can do something about this and I’m here to help.