Last week I talked about imposter syndrome, the feeling some of us get when we’re successful, but don’t really think we deserve it. I also said there’s a cure, but it isn’t an easy one.
Dr. Valerie Young, addressing three thousand writers at the Romance Writers of America convention in July, told us to first, recognize the moment those feelings are at the forefront. For me, negative voices in my head tell me I’m not good enough, I’ll never be a success, I should have started sooner, I should quit.
Next, learn to protect yourself. Ask yourself questions. What would happen if I never changed this pattern? What price would I pay, what opportunities and experiences would I miss? And the big question: what is this pattern of negative thought protecting me from or helping me avoid? If I weren’t getting something out of it, I wouldn’t do it. So what is it?
Then set a new course. What would you rather feel, what would positive voices say? What would you like to do differently? For example, when you get a complement, say, “Thank you. I worked very hard on it.” Don’t say, “Thank you, I know it’s not perfect…”
Share positive thoughts that normalize self-doubt. Reframe what competence, failure, mistakes, and critical feedback look like. Acknowledge that you don’t always have to feel confident to move ahead.
In my case I get frustrated when words won’t come. I tell myself I’m not a good writer. I should quit. Instead I should be saying, the more I write, the better I get. This is my new career and I own it. How far would I be if I never started? I can do this.
It doesn’t matter if you write books, reports, letters or journal entries. It doesn’t matter if you cook elegant meals, sing in a choir, paint landscapes, or knit sweaters. It doesn’t matter if you are working in an office or a coffee shop or volunteering. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
If you do fail at something, tell yourself its okay. Pick yourself up and forge ahead. And even more important for those of us with imposter syndrome, don’t be afraid of success. If you find yourself falling back into minimalizing your successes, talk about why you do it, normalize it, and reframe it.
Feelings are the last to change, so we must change our thinking and our actions. Feelings will catch up over time.