The imposter syndrome: a new perspective
I recently sat down with a friend and business partner, Christina Prokos, who is a spiritual and life coach. I have worked with her for the last three years, and what I find most impactful when it comes to her healing approach is the spiritual perspective that is rooted in reason, psychology and science. She helped me explore and become aware of new perspectives that opened up new ways to look at my traumas, and have a better understand of where it comes from, and most importantly, how to address it, so that healing, resolution and relief take place.
I wanted us to explore this concept of the Imposter Syndrome. As always, she had a lot to say, and challenged me to dive even deeper into this concept, past the Wikipedia definition of what Imposter Syndrome is and why it happens.
Here are my reflections on this conversation, which summarize Christina’s teachings and point of view on this issue. You can hear the full conversation on Christina’s podcast called Soul Thrive. Stay tuned for more episodes coming soon!
When do we experience the Imposter Syndrome?
It is fairly common to doubt our abilities in fear of being exposed as a “fraud’ - someone undeserving of success we want to achieve. Often times, when we want to create something new for ourselves (shift into a new career or start a new business), we feel as though we may not be good enough to rise to the occasion. We fear putting ourselves out there as the expert in a particular field, or stepping into a new role or promotion at work, because we lack confidence and think “Who am I to be doing this (thing)?” or “What gives me the right?”
While numerous studies exist as to why the Imposter Syndrome occurs or who is more likely to experience it (many studies show it’s more common among women), I’d like to approach this topic from a more spiritual perspective and alignment to purpose.
Belief Systems formed in childhood
Undoubtedly, lack of confidence plays a big role. Have you ever considered confidence to be linked to what our parents praised about us when we were younger, and what they deemed was right? Do you feel confident in areas of your life where you felt supported as a child? Owning our creativity and innate gifts is a challenge if we are supposed to do what’s right based on our parents belief systems. This is especially true in households where the child was not encouraged to follow their passion as a primary source of income. If our talents and desires were not deemed to be ‘practical’ or likely to earn enough money, and our parents didn’t praise or encourage that part of us, it will be hard to develop confidence in those areas later on in life.
I started to ask myself this question in order to uncover my belief system about ‘what’s right’ and determine whether these beliefs are my own, or if they are learned beliefs, coming from the outside. I started to look into areas I am confident in and areas where I lack confidence. If I grew up with other people telling me that my passion is just a hobby and that I would never make money doing it, I was less likely to try. If my parents were more risk averse and encouraged me to have a stable full time job, then I was less likely to grow up and be an entrepreneur. I realized I adopted my parents’ definition of happiness and how to go about achieving it. Everything that fell outside of it seemed scary.
This is just ONE perspective to consider. All I am saying is, let’s just ask ourselves the following question: “When I think about this thing I want to create but feel anxious and fearful creating, what belief do I hold? What was my family’s attitude towards it?” You may come out with more awareness about your feelings of inadequacy.
Alignment and Purpose
According to Christina, when experiencing the imposter syndrome, there are two scenarios at play:
1. You are in alignment to the thing you want, but you are scared to own your success. Ask yourself “is this something I like, am I good at it, does it bring me joy?” This thing often shows up as a hobby or a side hustle. What is the emotion surrounding this thing? For me, when I was looking to leave my 9-5 job and start my own business, I wanted to get out of the rat race. I was nervous and excited. I felt a pull towards this new direction. I was so tired of pushing in a direction I never wanted to go in the first place.
2. You are not in alignment to this thing you ‘want’; you are struggling and are in fact in complete resistance. You think you must do this thing because you are coming from the perspective of surviving vs. thriving. You think that you have to work really hard to achieve success, but at what cost? Often times the cost is depression, low energy levels, chronic pain, and constant need for approval. With each promotion in the past, I did not become happier. I felt that I needed to keep pushing because it’s just something you have to do if you want to succeed. The feeling of being an imposter was still there. It needed to be validated by an external source on a regular basis. It would never go away. There was always more money to be made, a higher title to go after. Deep down I knew I was being an imposter to myself, because I didn’t enjoy or look forward to my work, and yet I was getting promoted. Could the feeling of being an imposter be due to the fact that, on your current path, you are not honouring yourself?
When you feel the imposter syndrome, it is often a question of authenticity. Have you betrayed an aspect of yourself? Are you being honest with yourself? How are you going to live in that truth? If you are hiding who you truly are and going against yourself, then someone will call you out for being a fraud. Because you are not in the right vibrational space and you are denying an aspect of yourself. From that perspective, it makes sense to experience imposter syndrome.
On the other hand, if you are being authentic, then the feeling is excited and nervous. It’s ok to be nervous. You will always run into issues of confidence and nervousness because you will always want to do better for yourself. This will require you to try something new, to put yourself out of your comfort zone. And if someone calls you out, you will have the ability to communicate back and stand in your power. And to do that, you need to build a sense of self to get past feeling like an imposter. If you are in alignment to what you are creating, you will protect it like a child. How can you be a fraud when you are honoring all pieces of yourself? If you are speaking from the heart, and people are responding to you, regardless of how many other people are doing what you want to be doing, if you impact just one person, that’s all that matters.
Here is another perspective to consider - even when in alignment, you may be nervous to move forward because you could be too scared to shine and outshine others around you. You may fear that you will end up alone, that you will piss people off and that they will end up resenting you. For many of us, we are completely unaware of this until someone or something prompts us to dig deeper. You are going to piss people off, and that is OK. Haters are typically those exact people who don’t want to step into their truth, so they project their dissatisfaction onto those who do. And it doesn’t mean that you are cocky or pretentious. You are just showing people what you can do, and that they can do it too. And when you are wrong, you admit that you are wrong and you move on.
As you start to move into this new direction, don’t mimic other people. This approach may give you temporary success but unless it’s your own formula, it won’t be in alignment to who you truly are. When people go against themselves they experience resistance, they get tired, sick, and even attract accidents. They eventually come up to a block. Then they make it a story of who they are, and that story lives on. They live in this fabricated story instead of in their truth.
When the opposite is true, opportunities open up. You feel the pull. It’s not a constant push or struggle. And it’s ok if it doesn’t happen all at once. Often times I take a break from my business if I feel uninspired, but I always find myself coming back to it. And inch by inch it gets better. We need to be in touch with ourselves to know when we need to rest. And when we rest things amplify. All the things you asked for are being birthed in that period. And they will show up when the time is right and we have the right energy to receive it.
To conclude, I believe that we all need to have enough self awareness. As you think about this thing that has you feeling like an imposter, ask yourself:
Why do I want this thing?
Do I want it for myself or do I need it to impress others?
How is it making me feel?
Is it a push or pull?
What are my parents’ beliefs about this?
Did I adopt any of their beliefs? What do I really think about this thing?
Why do I care about what other people deem is right or wrong based on their perspectives?
When you think about this thing you want to create, do you enjoy doing it?
Did it have an impact on some people?
It is something that comes from the heart?
If it’s something that is innate in you, it cannot be taken away. Remember that nobody owns anything. We all have access to information that we interpret in our own way, and share it with the world. So go out there and share yourself. Be yourself, because everyone else is taken.