The Imposter Syndrome

Linda Sollars | July 24, 2018

We all hear them. Those thoughts that batter us with doubt, questioning our ability, integrity, purpose. These thoughts can stifle our creativity, poison our potential, and freeze our ability to move forward.

Often, we presume that we are the only ones hearing these nasty negative thoughts. Other people certainly don’t beat themselves up like this. We must have something wrong, which feeds into more thoughts of insecurity and doubt. Many high school and college students deny they hear anything for fear they may be considered mentally unstable. But every single person hears them.

In fact, some research has indicated that the average person may hear these questioning thoughts 200 times an HOUR!  Yes, it is true that some of these thoughts keep us from walking into traffic or saying something we would regret or questioning the honesty of an advertising claim…or a potential date. In fact, these thoughts are actually meant to keep us safe but, since we are not in danger of being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger, these thoughts have become debilitating.

Doctors and others in positions of high stress and responsibility hear these doubting thoughts more time than most. So we tend to build up more of these as we become more accountable. Trying to avoid or ignore these messages only puts more stress on us. Pretending they don’t exist can appear to make them louder. You really don’t want to get rid of them entirely.

There is a way to manage these thoughts, however. Every time you hear one, try saying “Thanks” to yourself. This is not “Thanks, you are right”, just “Thanks, I heard it”. You don’t own it nor are you required to do anything with the thought. In fact, acknowledging you heard it and are moving on allows you to manage these thoughts much better.

Let’s say you are going to speak in front of a group. Public speaking is one of the most terrifying things for many people. So, you may stand in the wings and hear things in your head like,  “What if I can’t talk?”, What if the PowerPoint doesn’t work?” “I don’t even know what I am talking about.” “Who would even believe what I say.”  Yes, we all hear these and more. So you might say “Thanks” 200 times while waiting to talk. And…you are managing these thoughts rather than the thoughts managing you.

Try it!