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What is Imposter Syndrome and How to Get Over It

What is Imposter Syndrome and How to Get Over It

The book Presence – Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy, comes after her wildly successful 2012 TED Talk. Watching the video first prompted me to read her book. Cuddy spends a lot of time discussing what she calls “imposter syndrome.” This is where one feels like they don’t belong because they are not qualified, and are scared others will find out.

Imposter syndrome was what initially prompted her to write this book and do her research. What was interesting was her finding that men and women both have these fears. It is not isolated to women. She spends a lot of time discussing case studies and telling stories to prove the point she is making, which as a psychologist is necessary, but as a reader, it gets to be too redundant. Some of the real-life stories are interesting, but I skimmed over a lot of the case studies. Most people probably want to know two things. One, What is imposter syndrome? And two, How do I get over imposter syndrome? Here are the four most important takeaways.

back of a woman imposter syndrome

1. Be fully present. Bring your best self and enjoy the moment.

Presence offers valuable insights that anyone can use. Everyone has had to step out of their comfort zone, whether it is a job interview, giving a speech, or the time you needed to work up the courage to discuss a problem with another person. Cuddy discusses the habit of positive self-talk. We often do that to pump ourselves up, but it can also be detrimental. We can talk ourselves out of anything. “I am not good enough or smart enough to do this.” “Why would anyone want to listen to me? What do I have to offer anyone?” This talk is self-defeating. We have all over thought a situation, but once we bit the bullet and faced it, we realized it wasn’t so bad. Cuddy advises that when you start to hear that negative self-talk, to focus on being fully present, pushing that imposter feeling out of your mind to be your best self, and enjoy the moment.

2. Leave your ego at the door.

Our worries often stem from our insecurities. “Am I wearing the right thing? Do I look ok?” We spend so much time thinking about ourselves, where in reality, people are thinking only of themselves. It is our ego that thinks everyone is thinking about us, but they really aren’t, and she has studies to prove this! While you may be thinking everyone is staring at the small guacamole stain on your shirt and judging you for it, the truth is 99% of the people around you probably haven’t even noticed. Stop focusing on yourself, and focus on those around you instead. Get out of your head (and away from your ego) and ask yourself “How can I best help these people? What are their fears and insecurities?”

3. Pose like Wonder Woman.

The body can change what the mind thinks. It is this Wonder Woman pose, standing tall, hands on the hips, with head and chest up, that brings you confidence. This stance not only feels powerful but it also projects confidence. She suggests doing these poses in private to boost yourself up before entering that job interview, giving that speech, or taking that exam. She speaks of several studies, where people who physically take up space in the room are perceived as more positive and confident. This is the case for men more than women.

The book has illustrations of poses that show how to take up more space in a room. One standing pose is leaning forward with both hands on a table. Another is while sitting, lean back in a chair, hands behind the head, and feet up on a desk or table. Spread yourself out.

Practice these poses in private first, so you become comfortable with them and they feel more natural to you. Keep in mind as well that some “power poses” may be gendered in nature. A pose that may show confidence for a man may be misunderstood when used by a woman. Nevertheless, take up more space, you will feel more confident, and therefore project a more confident persona.

4. Fake it until you become it.

This last take away from Cuddy’s book is the most important. We all have heard the expression “Fake it until you make it.” She says, “Fake it until you become it.” You need to continue faking it until you internalize that you belong. Cuddy’s talk started more research into whether this power posing really works. Studies have shown that power posing does reduce cortisol levels and new neural connections are made. I believe this to be similar to the reasons why we are told to meditate and repeat positive affirmations. This is all in an effort to train ourselves to think differently. Brendon Burchard has found in his book High Performance Habits that all high achievers practice meditation daily. I think there are similarities here with repetition and practice.

Get over imposter syndrome and start living life to the fullest.

Imposter syndrome, in a nutshell, is when you feel inadequate for the job at hand. This can lead to paralysis concerning taking action, which can be deadly for a business owner. Four of the most important aspects of imposter syndrome are negative self-talk, being insecure, your body language and the power in power posing. So how do you get over it?

Amy Cuddy’s book Presence gives you concrete ideas for negating each of those symptoms of imposter syndrome. By being fully present to what is going on around you, and also to the thoughts in your head, you can monitor for negative self-talk before it starts. Checking your ego at the door (or before you hit “record” on the video) and realizing that whatever small insecurities you may have, the audience most likely is completely clueless to them, will allow you to focus on the people you’re speaking to and how to best help them. Your body language does influence your thoughts. Being conscious of your body language and posture, and deliberately using “power poses” will not only make you look more confident but feel more confident as well!

And finally, faking it until you become it uses your body language and power posing to change the chemical makeup of your brain. You go from posing like Wonder Woman to thinking like Wonder Woman. All of these tools are instrumental to get over imposter syndrome and need to be kept in our personal confidence “toolkit”, to be brought out and used when needed.

Further reading.

Recognizing, understanding and addressing the symptoms and effects of imposter syndrome in your life (and business) can have an immensely positive impact on your life. Once you begin feeling like you belong right where you are, that feeling can spread to other areas of your life as well. Once you’re organized, organizing your business is easy! Take a look at How I Apply Minimalism to My Online Business, which goes over how I’ve applied minimalism to the physical and digital aspects of my business, including overcoming “shiny object syndrome” and bringing a solid plan of action to my work.

Once you’ve minimized the distractions and unnecessaries from your business, learn how to organize your business using helpful online tools. Read how I turn Chaos into Organization, and how having a fully organized online business can be a great asset when looking to hire a virtual assistant.

You can watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk below.

 

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