Impostor syndrome: How to live with it and thrive

by Carlii Lyon

Mamas like Natalie Portman, Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep have all admitted they have it. So what exactly is impostor syndrome? It’s that little voice inside your head that tells you you’re not good enough regardless of what you achieve. Researchers have linked it to perfectionism and it’s especially popular among high-achieving women. It seems no matter how much success you might achieve, it never goes away. For the sake of this article, I will call it your ‘inner fraud’.

After over a decade working in the PR industry, I have observed first-hand that we all have that little voice. When it comes to trying something new, exploring a new business venture or putting yourself out there to be seen and heard, that little voice may turn into a scream. Question is, do you let it make you or break you?

Here are some helpful ways to make your ‘inner fraud’ work for you and manage it along the way.

The benefits of impostor syndrome

First of all, let’s address the benefits of impostor syndrome. Yes, mama, believe it or not I have come up with some. 

1 // It keeps us grounded

Chances are we would all be egomaniacs if we didn’t have some sort of force within us seeking balance. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground”. We’re all human and we each have our gifts to share with the world. The minute you start believing you are better than everyone else is the minute you lose sight of that truth and connection with others.

2 // It provides drive for constant improvement

What would we strive for if we did not have the ability to question, and even doubt, what we create. While perfectionism may be extreme, aiming to be the best you can possibly be and do the best you can possibly do is commendable. Academy Award winning Actress, Helen Mirren, summed it up perfectly when she said, “It would be wrong to think that you’re always right and correct and perfect and brilliant. Self-doubt is the thing that drives you to try to improve yourself”.

3 // It inspires us to learn more

Over-confidence and a general sense of knowing-it-all, does not create space for growth. Your ‘inner fraud’ reminds you that there’s always more to learn and room to find better ways to get things done. Mike Cannon-Brookes, self-made billionaire and Founder of Atlassian, wrote in his blog about harnessing impostor syndrome, “The most successful people I know don’t question themselves – but they do question their knowledge. They see asking for advice as a way of testing their ideas, which makes those ideas better and helps them learn”.

Tips for thriving with impostor syndrome

So now that we have reason to believe that overprotective advisor inside our heads may be there for a reason, here are some ways to live your best life with it in your company.

1 // Talk back

No meaningful conversation is ever one-way. You have the ability to talk back, aloud (no shame in it!) or in your head. You have the power to set the record straight and if anything it’s a great opportunity to invite positive affirmations into your life.

2 // Be grateful for it

It seems counterintuitive, but the moment you are grateful you take away its power over you. You embrace it for what it is and you accept its presence in your life. It’s not going anywhere so why not focus on its benefits.

3 // Meditate

Meditation not only quiets the mind (and the little voice), it reminds us we are all connected to something greater than anyone of us can comprehend. It offers perspective and relief if you are ever feeling lost, discouraged or overwhelmed. 

In short, do not seek to disown your ‘inner fraud’, instead live your best life and be the best version of yourself in partnership with it. Life can go by in the blink of an eye. Whether we like it or not there will come a moment when our time is up. All we can really hope for at that point, is that we were brave enough to live out our dreams, grateful enough to recognise the purpose of the hard times and aware enough to appreciate in the end it was all a gift.

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