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Right-Sizing Imposter Syndrome

“The only difference between someone who experiences Imposter Syndrome and someone who does not is how they respond to challenges.” – Amy Cuddy

While we’ve covered Imposter Syndrome in the past, this conversation gives us a fresh spin on the topic so that we can have strategies to manage it when it shows up for us. In this episode, Miriam Meima calls out that Imposter Syndrome lives in the gap between our perceived capacity and perceived expectations. This framing helps us play with ways to make the situations in which we feel the suffocating, anxiety-producing impact of imposter syndrome less intense and more manageable.

One of the big things we forget when imposter syndrome has us in its grip is that we have choice. We have a choice in how we want to respond when it has a hold on us.

When we’re able to sort the stories we’re telling ourselves about the situation, we can begin to navigate on solid ground (and from our core sense of self) and begin to see the issue, problem, or threat in a more right-sized way. In the case of a disproportionate perceived capacity and perceived expectations, we can unpack both of those more fully.

  • How can we bring clarity and confidence to our real capacity?
  • What part of our narrative might we need to update?
  • How can we own our strengths here?
  • On the flip side, how can we decrease the outsized expectations by getting clear about what’s really expected (vs. what we imagine might be expected)?
  • How can we break those expectations into smaller tasks?
  • What do we need in order to make clear agreements on delivery and execution?

Sometimes Imposter Syndrome is a sign that we may not truly be set up for success. Through this inquiry, you may discover that expectations are beyond what you can accomplish given available resources. In which case, you get to decide how you would like to proceed.

Another way Imposter Syndrome can show up is as a free-floating fear and too much inward focus. Have you ever been spun up in your head about something, and in the process a little paralyzed about moving forward or increasing the amount of self-doubt you carry? The antidote here is to move the energy and get back into your body. What are the best ways you know about getting back into your body? What practices help you connect back to yourself? For some, it’s yoga, boxing, or a long run. Others can get there with meditation, journaling, or being in nature.

In some instances, how might the presence of Imposter Syndrome be a good thing? Imposter Syndrome can be a sign we are outside of our comfort zone. For example, we may be doing something new or be at a growth edge and suddenly feel vulnerable or exposed. Naturally, when we feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, or exposed, we can begin to shrink down into the narrative of being an imposter. In these moments, how can you again lean on your strengths? How can you rely on your breath to keep you grounded and present?

Knowing the situational tones and flavor of the Imposter Syndrome feelings you’re working with can help you unpack what’s needed to navigate each situation with more clarity and grace.

We know imposter syndrome is linked to shame and our inner critic. “Shame has been called the great disconnector; the inner critic is its relentless messenger,” notes Linda Graham in her book, Resilience. “You can begin to counteract the effects of both shame and the inner critic by practicing self-awareness, self-compassion, self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-love.”


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