You ever have a big idea? You know one that gets you fired up, inspired, feeling good about yourself and where your idea can take you? Then two seconds later you get the carpet yanked from under you by your very own thoughts. “Who do you think you are?” “You are not smart enough to do that” “You will make a fool of yourself” and so on and so on. That, my friend, is Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
I recently became aware of my very own imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head. I have worked hard in my life to obtain the education that I have. I have a B.A, a Masters, and a graduate certificate. I love to learn. I mean I LOVE It—I love to explore new ideas and learn about AND from all sorts of teachers and guides. For the past few years I have been going back and forth with my imposter syndrome about pursuing my PhD. I have always been a strong student with decent grades, got help when needed but strong. Research is not my favorite thing and that is ok, I have powered through it and lived to fight another day. I get goosebumps at the thought of Alexis McClain, M.A. PhD. WHATTTT. All those letters after my name look pretty great. I also hear, “Really?” “You are not smart enough for that” “Remember–you hate research so you’ll fail”.
In all honesty I have done this dance with Imposter Syndrome most of my life. Many people do, it does not discriminate. It can stop the most capable dead in their tracks. It can render the most outspoken silent and it can bring dreams to a total halt.
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think ‘Oh no, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out” – Maya Angelou
When I was younger I didn’t know what this annoying little nagging voice was. It gave me pause, but I would push it away and keep it moving, either not pursuing whatever it was that caused this voice to come up or doing it anyway. I didn’t know that other people felt this way, or that this was a pretty common thing. Now I am armed with a name, a tangible title to this, and I have learned the following: Imposter Syndrome is essentially your ego. Your ego is there to try to protect you. Like your mother who says “Are you going to wear that?” or “Oh you like that?” Much like your mother, Imposter Syndrome is well meaning, but more often than not it’s misplaced and misguided.
Imposter Syndrome doesn’t care if you’re an accomplished author, teacher, guide, artist or any of those things. This fact in itself is enough to realize it can be defeated. Maya Angelou is one of the greatest authors of this generation, and she fought the good fight with Imposter Syndrome. So, I thought that it was time to sit with this issue and try to find a way to get beyond it to reach my goals and here is what I found helps me:
- Journaling: I journal a ton. I do morning pages, 3 pages fresh after waking up, before your ego can jump in and screw with the day. 3 pages, front only, dreams and whatever comes to mind. Then I journal again at the end of the day, when I am home and made it through my daily challenges. I journal about my goals and my fears so that I can see it, touch it, and move on.
- Grace: I give myself grace. I am human and I am messy. We all are. There will be times that Imposter syndrome/fear/ego will win. We will fight another day. Fear is there for a reason and it is valid.
- Dive in: Finally, I close my eyes and jump in. Full throttle because I know no other way. I do it scared, shaky, and second guessing, but I do it.
You win some, you learn from some. There is no lose here. You learn from everything you do and that alone is a win. You learn what needs to be changed, what went right, what went wrong and you change the strategy and TRY again. I tell myself this as I sit, PhD application in hand and Imposter Syndrome sitting next to me. I fill out the application, I sit, I recognize the voice that is creeping up. I pay the fees, and I wait. I also just made you all my accountability squad! I multi-task like a boss! Get a team to support your dreams for the days that voice of doubt is so loud you start to believe it. You got this, we got this!