Most of my executive coaching clients have some gradation of Imposter Syndrome. These are brilliant, successful, accomplished people, doubting whether they belong in the successful Titan realms they have worked hard to land in.
The fundamental crux of it revolves around recurring thoughts that are variations on a theme: "I am not good enough...I don't deserve this success...those around me are better."
Originally coined for a feeling that women have, it's reach is far beyond. I've noticed that all genders have it. There are 5 types:
1. Perfectionist - trouble delegating, pressure to be 100% perfect 100% time
2. Superman - push yourself harder and harder to measure up
3. Natural Genius - feel shame when mastery is not fast and easy
4. The Soloist - trouble asking for help; an absence of trust in interdependence
5. The Expert - fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable
When our thoughts become hooked on our unworthiness, our "default mode network" kicks into gear, and we may slip into a rabbithole of rumination: "I am not worthy (or insert variation)." Lather, rinse, repeat.
There are theories about how evolutionary biology gave us the gift of Imposter Syndrome to keep us on our toes; to make sure we check ourselves, behave, and thereby belong to the tribe. But we don't need it anymore, and for many, it just feeds anxiety and/or depression.
There are many antidotes for Imposter Syndrome. You can read about a few in my recent post here. Two of my favorite antidotes are: 1) embodiment and 2) realizing that these repetitive thoughts are BORING!
1) Embodiment: whenever we are "in our heads" --with spinning, repetitive, useless thoughts--GETTING INTO THE BODY will help.
Suddenly it's not just the default mode network repeatedly being stimulated with the same repetitive thought. When we exercise or do any embodiment work (somatic therapeutics like Hakomi or Esse, Positive Intelligence techniques like rubbing our thumbprint with another thumbprint, yoga, pilates, running, etc etc etc)--suddently MORE PARTS OF OUR BRAIN are stimulated. We aren't only subject to the default mode network's repetition. If you were to look at a brainscan, as soon as we start breathing and moving, more parts of our brain light up, essentially redirecting our thoughts to make space for other brain activity.
2. Recognize that Imposter Syndrome is a form of self attack, and that SELF ATTACK IS BORING! Yes, thinking these thoughts about being unworthy and inadequate, over and over, probably for the one bazillionth time, is straight up boring. If we can step away from being IN the thought loop and develop the "witness consciousness" required to recognize this, we are more likely to redirect our thoughts to something more novel and interesting. Perhaps "How do I serve the world?" or even, "What will I have for lunch today?"
I don't have it--just my lived experience and earned insight! The sweet relief of realizing that these thoughts are boring, useless, and I'd prefer to think about toppings for my pizza, or designing my next LinkedIn graphic.
I imagine the science relates to mindfulness and the skill of PERSPECTIVE TAKING--which is ultimately what so much leadership skills training comes down to.
Try it out, let me know how it works (or doesn't!) for you!