The Creative Benefits of Imposter Syndrome
Wrapped inside a cold sweat, face flushed, unsure whether to puke on your shoes or run for the hills, you find yourself thinking one thought, “Who do I think I am to (insert a job position or anything you believe you’re not good enough to do here)?” And just like that, Imposter Syndrome strikes again. However, we have a choice — believe that nonsense or turn it on its head.
Imposter syndrome is like failure, we don’t give it enough credit for what it has to teach us nor do we celebrate the creative freedom it brings to our lives.
Children create stories and experiences without question. Though it may not seem like it at first, imposter syndrome invites us to do the same. It asks that you step back into your childhood and harness the gorgeous magic of your imagination but sometimes, instead embracing your imagination, you discover a blockage. You may suddenly find yourself reminded of the way someone didn’t see or support you or worse, the way someone did see you and how they criticized you for not being perfect or who they wanted you to be as a child. Stuck inside an old story and paralyzed by fear, you waste your creative energy on thinking you’re simply not good enough, when in reality, the situation has appeared in your life because you are exactly what is needed.
The good news? This is your opportunity to re-frame old stories, create your current reality and remember that anyone’s comments — past or present, good or bad — are merely a reflection of them and not you. You have creative control.
Now that we’ve gotten beyond that hurdle, how do you turn this seemingly negative feeling into something that might serve you? Here are three ways to make it happen but I warn you — these might require that you have a little bit of fun.
Celebrate Your Awesomeness
Imposter Syndrome is an invitation to remember the things you’ve accomplished in your life — things you believed you had no business doing but you did them anyway and succeeded. Try it now — think of three things you were almost convinced you could never do but you did them and you did them with style. Write them down. Note the things that stand out.
You believed in yourself during those times and all this current situation is doing is asking you to do that one more time. Remember you are magnificent. You make magic happen. So keep what you wrote down with you as you stand tall, hands on hips like a Superhero, and go for it!
Allow Curiosity to be Your North Star
When you were a child, curiosity was your North Star. At some point, that changed. You were sold a bill of goods that said you needed to know it all and stop asking so many questions. However, the moment we stop asking questions, we stunt our growth and end up feeling lost. We forget our awesomeness. So let’s infuse our lives with some curiosity again. Start by asking yourself:
1. Instead of feeling like an imposter, how could I be all I’ve ever wanted to be — fully, authentically me — in this role, situation, etc.?
2. Trusting that I possess an amazing skill-set, how might I celebrate the value I bring and the potential for learning instead of worrying that I don’t know enough?
3. Just like starting at a new school, stepping into an unknown situation allows me to think about how I’d like to shine rather than hide. So how might I best honor and share who I am?
Open the Door to Connection
Author Neil Gaiman had been invited to a party with artists, scientists, writers and others. As he tells it on his blog, “And I felt that at any moment they would realise that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.” He goes on to talk about how he connected with a nice, older gentleman who was standing at the back of the hall and feeling the same way. The man said to Neil, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.” Turns out that man was Neil Armstrong, the man who walked on the moon. If these gentleman can experience imposter syndrome, it’s safe to say that it can happen to any of us at any time. So, know that you are in good company.
Knowing that others go through this might allow you to talk to those in your life about the experience. Sharing our truth — the things that we sometimes find embarrassing — are the very things that often bring us together. So allow yourself to talk about the imposter with another and welcome the connection that brings you.
Perhaps the next time you find yourself in a new situation and that imposter comes knocking on the door, you will open it wide, invite it in like a long lost, imaginary friend and receive the gifts it has for you. Remember, this is your life and you can turn anything into something beneficial to create your story.