I just want to put something out there, upfront, bold and punchy – anyone who says they are 100% confident in everything they do is a liar.
There, done! Digest that for a minute if you will.
Confidence is the most fragile and fleeting thing we as humans have to deal with. What takes years to build up can be gone in a flash. One mistake, one cross word, one person “looking at you funny”, and *poof* you dissolve into your five-year-old self. Standing there feeling like the world thinks you are a failure, someone who can’t do it, who’s useless, who shouldn’t be there.
And while you’re having this mini crisis, everyone else is just carrying on as normal. All these lucky people who haven’t a care in the world. Look at them – confidently going about their daily lives. If only they knew the turmoil currently going on, would they stop and enquire how you are? Why aren’t they stopping and asking? Isn’t it obvious?! Surely everyone must know I’m useless, right? Maybe they feel sorry for me, don’t want to make a scene…
The thing is, from the outside looking in, everything’s normal, right? Take a minute to stop and consider the internal dialogue above – your “impostor self” telling you these things, making you feel these emotions. Do you honestly think you are the only person this happens to? Wrong!
Dealing with the little voice in your head
It’s important to remember that every single person out there has that little voice in their head chipping away at them. Everyone has their own struggles and insecurities. If someone tells you they haven’t then they are lying, either that or they are scared to admit what they perceive as a weakness.
If you think about that, it’s absurd. Everyone, literally everyone, has experienced that feeling of “oh my god, I can’t do this” at some point or another, and everyone has felt useless or overwhelmed at a task they simply don’t know how to approach. Everyone has an impostor self. Yet there is some kind of inbuilt pre-programmed shame attached to talking about it.
All of this impostor-syndrome stuff got me wondering: at what point does your inner impostor become a “thing”? When do we switch from the child who is accepting of failure, who tries and fails publicly with no shame or embarrassment, to the insecure impostor adult grappling with the pursuit of an impossible unattainable perfection? Who set those benchmarks? Who’s putting the pressure on? Usually, it’s a mix of us doing it to ourselves, and others doing it by continuing the illusion that all is well.
Find the positive perspective
I’m a firm believer that no matter how small, there is a positive that can be taken from each and every situation. The trick is to look at the situation through different eyes. Entire careers have been made out of “spin”, yet most of us are totally inept when it comes to putting positive spin on our thoughts, feelings and perceptions. But that’s all it is – perception. How we perceive things has a direct impact on how they turn out.
With that in mind, what can our impostor self teach us? What would happen if we listened, but instead of dissolving into our 5 year old self we found a positive in what was being said? Or a positive action we could take as a result of what was said?
Even simply admitting that your “impostor self” has got the better of you on a certain task or day takes the pressure off. But the main thing – say it out loud!! You would be amazed at the response you get from others. Everyone has to fake it until they make it; the difference is those who are comfortable with that position embrace it and use it to their advantage. You have to do something to become confident at it – fake it until you make it!
Remember, make sure to give yourself a break – you have permission to fail. Expect it, look for the positives, and learn from it. Be kind to yourself and others. If someone does vocalise that they are struggling, rally the troops and get behind them! Let them know how you perceive them and where they are at – it will likely be quite a contrast to where they are at that point in time.
Most importantly, learn to live with your imperfect self – there is nothing to hide. Admitting you don’t know something or need help to get a task over the line is a sign of strength, not weakness. Build yourself strong and humble foundations, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
After all, the biggest limiting factor in your life is, well, you!