breaking free from imposter syndrome

I Was Burned by a Star
March 23, 2018
electric correspondence
March 24, 2018

Imposter syndrome is something I’ve heard mentioned quite a bit lately. It’s that feeling that you’re faking it to make it (and not being totally okay with that). It’s your integrity face-palming multiple times a day when you don’t feel truly confident or integrated with what you’re giving out to the world. And yet, there’s pressure to act this way. Just git’er done. Who cares if it’s not totally accurate or you haven’t really spent much time with the information you’re spitting out. Lying to people to get your job done is normal. Nobody cares. That’s how the world works.


The over-culture is operating from a post-truth perspective. The information highway is a traffic jam of sound bytes, hearsay, bad stats, conflicts of interest, greenwashing, whitewashing, over-spiritualization, reductionism, and all of the online or professional personas and ‘brands of selfness’ that many of us feel pressured to create in order to succeed. With that comes some inevitable compromises of character and integrity if one gives into the pressure to compete, impress, and push and shove our way to some indistinguishable ‘top’.

Imposter Syndrome doesn’t feel good. It suggests that you are incomplete, lacking, unqualified, and needing to lie in order to HIDE the truth. Imposter Syndrome is a symptom and a response to something very specific – shame. It’s a shame that causes us to act in defensive and self-protective ways in order to prevent being seen for who and what we really are. And, oh sweet child, that is no way to live. That is no way to feel. That is a whole bunch of NOOOOOO.

I have been confronting this in myself, in my own life and work and creativity. I sometimes feel that sense of not being qualified enough, and then feel the temptation to create a defensive and protective bubble around that fact. Shhhh! Don’t let them see. Prove yourself. Be awesome. Stay on top of things. But then it struck me – imposter syndrome cannot exist when we tell the truth and are authentic even in situations where we are expected to have the answers but don’t. What does that look like for me?

In yoga class when I know the advanced pose is not within my physical capabilities (yet), I lean into the space between where I am and where I want to be, and…relax. Take the modified position. Don’t overdo it and pull a muscle. Don’t compare myself to anyone else in the room. Breathe into my authentic heart and take comfort there.

In the job that requires me to learn and do things above my education and experience level, I research as much as I can, ask others for advice and support, and admit that I am, you know, still learning (gasp!). I also remind myself that I am a perfectly capable and astute learner – once I know something, I really KNOW it. Breathe into my authentic heart and take comfort there.

When conversations with friends, colleagues or acquaintances tend towards trendy topics (or what feel like qualifications for ‘winning’ at life) that I am not integrated with, I simply admit – I don’t know. Hasn’t struck a chord with me. No, I’ve never seen that show. Have no idea what mercury in retrograde really does, and feel like it would take years of dedicated study to speak to it. Never even heard of that hike. Only climb really easy stuff. Nope, don’t like moving fast. Never heard of that particular spiritual guru or leader. Haven’t been following what the NDP has been up to lately. Um, actually, I don’t have any academic degrees. Plain and simple – “I don’t know” or “that’s not my bag” is my permission slip to authenticity and perpetuating *real* knowing within myself and others. This honesty paves the way for deeper appreciation and celebration of the differences between us in terms of chosen lifestyles, preferences, achievements, and an increase of uniqueness as well. It also makes me a better friend, colleague, and acquaintance. You can trust me to NOT bullshit you. Honestly you can. Breathe into my authentic heart and take comfort there.

So, in essence, to transform imposter syndrome we have to become more authentic and full of truth than ever before, even if that means having some hard conversations or opening ourselves up to judgment. We have to confront the tendency within us to contort, compromise, or project a false self in order to ‘measure up’ to the (often toxic) standards of the over-culture. No more faking it to make it. It’s time to stay true and live as the real you.

May we all artfully, thoughtfully and wisely create our own standards and values and commit to living by them wholeheartedly. Let’s do that – all of us. Occupy your life. Curate your own consciousness!