Imposter Syndrome is a joke.

Scholars studying Imposter Syndrome in the United States for decades identified that people from marginalized communities experience self-doubt, perfectionism, and feelings of fraudulence when they break through a structural barrier.  The feelings that a person does not belong or that they will be outed as an imposter increase when that person identifies with multiple marginalized identities in the workplace or social setting, for example.  These real experiences stem from social systems that operate in an unequal society like the United States which is founded on structures of white supremacy culture, patriarchy, and ableism, to name a few.  It is not surprising that we all internalized beliefs about what is possible for us that we see reflected in the world around us.  

If you are 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 years old, you carry beliefs from the messages you were exposed to 20, 30, 40, 50, or 60 years ago, even if you no longer believe them to be true intellectually.  We carry old limiting messages that can pop up “out of the blue” creating fear and doubt.  That’s how the human brain operates.

Here’s the funny thing about the Imposter Syndrome mindset.  

We believe that we are smart enough to trick everyone around us into believing that we are competent, but we do not believe that we are smart enough to do our jobs.  That way of thinking called cognitive dissonance doesn’t make much sense, does it?  While we are sitting in the discomfort between these two concepts, let’s push it a bit by looking at the evidence.  If we believe that we are a failure or a fraud, we will find evidence to prove that point.  What if we look for evidence to poke holes in the mountain of Imposter Syndrome evidence?  Brainstorm a list of questions that asks for contradictory information and watch the disruption unfold. 

When did you succeed?
When did you reach a goal?
When did you feel proud of yourself?
When did you create something new?
When did you feel happy?
When did you do well at work?  
When did you speak up?
What were some of your best ideas?

Try approaching your Imposter Syndrome with playfulness this week and see what happens.  When your inner critic chimes in and whispers (or yells!) that you are not qualified for your job or that no one at the social event will like you, look for contradictory evidence.  Your brain is stubborn and that’s ok.  Adding playfulness and a little laughter is one of the best ways to throw a wrench in the cycle of limiting beliefs that we inherited.

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