Discovering the True Imposter in Imposter Syndrome

HomeBlogDiscovering the True Imposter in Imposter Syndrome

We all play the part of chief, in some way. To legitimize our sense of “rightfulness” within this and every “role” we personate in life, discovering our innate leadership model is essential. It starts with fully uncovering, defining and owning who we truly are and what our purpose and mission are within this lifetime.

Without doing this, it is far too easy to be rocketed off our chosen path by the conditioned values and expectations of others. This leaves us living a life that is far from genuine, and that, oftentimes, has us feeling like a fraud.

In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term imposter phenomenon to describe the belief that success comes by chance and is not due to talent or qualifications. People suffering from this condition experience feelings of not being good enough, despite merits and demonstrations of traditionally measured success. They undergo relentless episodes of self-doubt and question their abilities to the point of nullifying their actual achievements and capabilities.

Now commonly known as imposter syndrome, the current estimate is that, at some point, 70 percent of us experience a sense of complete disconnect from what we have come to understand as our abilities and competencies. This has us feeling a sense of “fakeness” and inadequacy.

My question is: What if, when we encounter the belief that we are not equal to our success and earnings, it is not about disqualifying who we actually are, but who and how we’ve been led to categorize and evaluate ourselves to be?

What if imposter syndrome is an awakening to our genuine value?

Could what we have been seeing as a “breakdown” of belief in self actually be a dissolution of the method and system by which we rate and appraise who and what we are? What if it is meant to help us “declutter” and sift out what is true and what is conditioning?

If I wanted to renovate and reorganize a space in my home that is jam-packed with stuff, I would first have to clear out the clutter. I would need to take out, sort through and question what stays and what goes. I would have to clear the space completely, so that I could see that with which I have to work – the true value of the space.

What if that is exactly what imposter syndrome is attempting to do for people experiencing it? Perhaps it’s a removal of what doesn’t belong to find what does.

We could also use the detox analogy. If you have ever done a body detox, you know you tend to feel much worse before you feel better. This is because, as the toxins you are expelling come up and out, you are meant to feel them, partially, so that you don’t want to put them back in. The experience makes you aware of what is “good” and what compromises the effective and sustained functioning of the body system.

The symptoms of imposter syndrome run the gamut, but I gather that none of them feel good. Here are some that have been cited:

  • Extreme lack of self-confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Constant comparison to other people
  • Anxiety
  • Self-doubt
  • Distrust of one’s own intuition and capabilities
  • Negative self-talk
  • Dwelling on the past
  • Irrational fears of the future

If you look closely at these and consider them in terms of how we are typically conditioned to think and behave, then you can see what I am saying.

Our world constantly feeds us messages about how we are to compare ourselves to a particular “scale” of success, that we need to learn from what has been done in the past, and that we should fear what is unknown in the future. On top of this, we are taught not to trust what we think, believe or sense ourselves, but instead, to follow, without question, what the “experts” and trusted studies and science say about what will help, support and be right for us.

Could it be that what we call symptoms of imposter syndrome are caused by the colliding of years of heavy influencing with that part of us, buried deep inside, that knows differently?

The simple fact that people experiencing imposter syndrome aren’t able to evaluate themselves by the classic definitions of recognition, accomplishment and advancement has me wondering if, perhaps, this “syndrome” is actually the undoing of the illusionary expectations that we have been acculturated to believe and adopt.

What if the feelings of being an “imposter” are a casting off, not of our true, innate Zone of Brilliance and value, but of the habituated way in which we have been taught to look at and determine our gifts and capacities, in addition to what constitutes the right way for us to “show up” in the world?

What if the true imposter is the traditional assessment of success and value – the visible “doings,” merits, achievements, credentials and certifications, as well as the need to regulate, with concrete proof, that which has been developed as a valuation by the outside world?

What I present for consideration is that, after centuries of focus on the wrong qualifications, imposter syndrome, like most afflictions, ailments, disorders, crises and imbalances, is an indication of something far deeper. In this case, it’s a sign of the improper evaluation of our true value and how we are to share it in this world.

Looking at imposter syndrome as the canary in the coal mine shows us that, perhaps, the condition is attempting to illuminate how misled and out of alignment we have been in our categorizations and appraisals. Seeing that it is possible people experiencing this syndrome are trying to free themselves from an antiquated analysis of and approach to recognizing and intentionally applying who they came to be and how they came to measure and deliver their talents and gifts allows us to view this issue in a whole new light.

If evolution is a way to bring about necessary change, balance and advancement, what if we are, collectively, in a time when the practice of judging ourselves based on a false measurement of success is being revealed? What if this indicates a contemporary pattern in civilization that reflects a readiness to align with our unique identities in order to allow ourselves to show up, fully, in sovereign self-expression and empowerment?

In this world, where we are quick to diagnose something as a malady, we might want to step back and look at imposter syndrome as a type of potential healing, instead.

Perhaps the driving force that shows up as anxiety in people with imposter syndrome is actually about wanting to be seen, heard, understood and valued, not for what they can produce and DO, but, in fact, for simply who they are.

I believe our culture suffers from a disconnect with ourselves. We are so quick to listen to the counsel of others that we have stopped listening to our own inner adviser.

At this current time, it is more important than ever to align with what is true for each of us and not allow outside measurements of what will bring success or failure impede us from creating our own lane in which to navigate life. None of us are here to be evaluated by our success or lack of it. Instead, we get to be measured by our ability to be congruent within ourselves and make an impact based on who we are and what we are meant to do based on this unique and special design.