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The Imposter

White half-mask laying on ground

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Have you ever felt like an imposter at work? Like you don’t deserve the accolades you receive or that your abilities don’t measure up? That you’re a fraud just moments away from being found out?

You’re not alone.

Imposters attribute their success to external factors while minimizing their own contribution to their achievements.

Gaining insight about how it happens helps us create strategies on what to do about it.

How it happens

Three ways The Imposter develops include evolution, saboteurs, and not living our values.

Evolution

Humans are hard-wired to seek external threats and neutralize them. It’s why we see 10 negative articles in the daily newspaper for every positive one.

Science shows how evolution genetically rewarded those who paid attention to the threat of a sabre-toothed tiger by passing on those genes to future generations. Our alert ancestors survived by recognizing the danger; those picking daisies didn’t.

3 parts of brain

While we don’t face those external physical threats regularly anymore, tell that to our reptilian brains, the oldest structure of the brain that controls our basic functions (breathing, heart rate etc.) including our survival instincts. I have often wondered if feeling like an imposter today can be considered a type of evolutionary response meant to keep us on our toes, i.e. “alert” to threats.

Saboteurs

Saboteurs emerge during times of change and under stress. While we each live with certain saboteurs that formed from our childhood experiences (perfectionism is one of mine), all of us share one saboteur in common: The Judge. We judge ourselves, we judge others, and we judge situations.

Seeing ourselves as imposters is a self-judgement. It’s interesting because most of the time, we don’t see others as imposters. It’s ourselves we judge harshly.

Not living our values

Imposters feel phony, the opposite of what we feel when we’re living in alignment with our values. Discomfort arises when we don’t feel authentic. As we evolve personally and professionally, I consistently see clients wanting their authentic selves to emerge.  Wearing a mask gets tiresome. Aligning your values with your actions lets your authentic self shine forth.

What to do about it

Addressing the imposter starts with identifying it. Unless we do so, we may engage in self-sabotaging behaviours without even recognizing them. Read the definition at the opening of this blog to familiarize yourself with what it looks like and how it feels.

Pinpoint when the imposter shows up for you. Is it when you:

  • need to present to an audience?
  • must convince a higher-up on the validity of your argument?
  • are surrounded by peers and feel like a number?

Knowing when it shows up helps you anticipate how you might respond to it.

Understand the role of the Judge saboteur when you feel like an imposter. We’ve talked about ways to counteract saboteurs in the past. Click here for an example. One practice that I’ve found helpful in addressing my Judge saboteur is asking, “What advice would I give my best friend when she tells me she’s a fraud?”  

Take your own advice.

Finally, know your values. Ultimately, we learn that our happiness comes from within not without. Feeling authentic, the opposite of phony, means living according to what matters to us not others. Once that transition occurs, external accolades aren’t so important. They become “nice-to-haves” versus a primary way of identifying ourselves.

Header Photo by Tamara Gak on Unsplash, Learning to Walk Photo by Jordan Christian on Unsplash

Feeling like an imposter isn’t the end of the world. Consider it as a developmental stage. We don’t judge babies for falling as they learn to walk. Practise kindness to yourself. I guarantee you’ll be pleased by the outcome.

Baby learning to walk

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MM

I think coaching is a great way to help you clear your mind when you get stuck with overwhelming situations or when stepping into changes in your life.

MO

Coaching is life changing. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and challenges your perspectives.  It is highly motivating and the exercises and techniques used are both fun and informative.  I think the main benefits of coaching are to see yourself, others and the world more clearly.  I think coaching is valuable to anyone regardless of where you are in your life or career.

LE

I honestly never thought I’d need a coach. I thought coaching was for CEOs and industry VIPs. I didn’t think it was for the “little guys” (i.e. me). Now, I’m of the belief that everyone – yes, EVERYONE – needs a coach. Coaching has really benefitted me and I’m so grateful to have had that time with Laura. It’s changed my life!

VB

Laura is very patient. She took the time to understand what was causing me to be stuck where I am today and help me build a better vision so I can continue to grow.

MM

I think Laura’s coaching was what I had been waiting for. Laura was so approachable, kind, and open. Her willingness to help and support made a difference for me. I found in her coaching new strategies, ideas, and perspectives that I could incorporate into my goals and objectives that I didn’t see before.

MO

Laura is an incredibly intuitive, positive and caring coach. Her techniques helped me recognize both my strengths and areas I might want to explore as I embark on the next chapter of my career. The exercises she employed were instrumental in providing self perspective and challenging my frames of reference.

LE

Laura is a natural coach. Her probing and compassionate questions helped me learn about myself: my value system, interests, goals and strengths.

LM

Coaching sessions with Laura gave me new perspectives on how to process specific feelings and situations in life.  She showed me how to sit with my emotions, acknowledge them, and then use visualization strategies to move through them.  I now feel more confident and in control of how I choose to walk through life.

CP

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AG

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VB

I engaged Laura for coaching as I took on an expanded role leading an asset management company in Canada. As a female, I knew I would be a role model and had high expectations of myself. I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

In our first few coaching sessions we worked through exercises that allowed me to reflect on my purpose, leadership style and what mattered most to me. I continue to be grounded by the clarity I achieve in my coaching sessions – allowing me to be resilient and confident when challenges came my way.

OS