Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome That Holds You Back
Published on: 11th April, 2022
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[00:38] - Differentiation between imposter syndrome and faking it; why imposter syndrome is important to discuss in the context of the Great Resignation
[02:09] - It’s normal to have the types of feelings related to imposter syndrome. But feelings are not necessarily a reflection of truth.
[03:29] - A lot of advice on controlling imposter syndrome focuses on looking back at past accomplishments, but because emotions are even more foundational than rational thought, you have to get control of those first and then lay the cognitive groundwork on top.
[04:30] - Imposter syndrome can continue to influence anyone regardless of title or level.
[04:59] - When Peter saw the miracle of the fish, he felt like an imposter.
[05:57] - Jesus didn’t encourage Peter by asking him to look back. He encouraged Peter by having him focus on the future, on his calling.
[06:58] - Paul’s words serve as a reminder that, by admitting our own flaws, we can give greater glory to God.
[07:33] - Getting control over imposter syndrome is about accepting the peace and awe of God, not checklisting your way to confidence.
[08:33] - There’s merit to confronting people who trigger your imposter syndrome. By teaching others how to treat you, you can contribute to a healthier collective work culture.
[09:52] - Physical activities can help you reconnect with what it feels like to feel safe and secure in the peace and awe of God.
Imposter syndrome is different than faking it. Faking it is more of a strategy based on getting people to perceive you a certain way, whereas imposter syndrome is about your inability to perceive yourself as worthy or skilled enough.
Imposter syndrome likely will be a bigger problem as more and more people explore different jobs through the Great Resignation.
It’s natural to fear being alone. Imposter syndrome is simply a more contextualized version of this fear. But it’s just a feeling, and feelings aren’t necessarily reflective of the truth.
Typical advice on beating imposter syndrome centers around looking back on past accomplishments for a sense of validation. But the fact emotions process faster than logic can get in the way of this working. Cognitively knowing something doesn’t necessarily stop you from feeling something, even though there is a connection between thought, emotion, and behavior.
Imposter syndrome can continue to be problematic even for well-accomplished people, which is further evidence that reflecting on what you’ve achieved isn’t a guaranteed “cure”.
The story of Peter in Luke 5 is a good example of someone suddenly facing feelings of unworthiness. Jesus’ future-centric response demonstrates that we can move forward bravely because our faith gives us access to the incredible power of God.
Paul wrote that he would boast of his weaknesses to put God’s power and authority in the proper perspective for others. His words are a good reminder that we don’t have to hide our faults or deficiencies.
Getting control over imposter syndrome is about accepting in your heart that you’re not on this Earth by accident and that God’s ensured through Jesus that your mistakes and flaws don’t have to get in the way of doing great things. It is allowing yourself to replace the fear of isolation with the peace that God gifts to you as a believer. It’s just sitting in awe.
Culture makes it hard to sit and rest in the peace and awe of God. You might need to reconnect to how it feels to do it. Doing something physical can provide an emotional “reset” so you relearn that you’re safe and create a new baseline of normal feeling.
Find one or more physical activities that help you confront your emotions and get a new sense of safety and calm.
What’s coming up next:
As the world gets increasingly global in the way it does business, specialized professionals and businesses are in high demand. But are there benefits to exploring and getting information outside of your own organization or industry? Episode 38 of the Faithful on the Clock podcast investigates.
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There you are, my mighty listener! I’m Wanda Thibodeaux, and thank you for joining me again for this 37th episode of the Faithful on the Clock podcast. My mission with the show as always is to get your work and faith aligned. So today, it’s all about imposter syndrome. Why is it such a pain and why is it so important to send it packing? Let’s explore it all together.
So imposter syndrome. It’s this feeling like you have to kind of hide the reality of who you are, like you’re totally flawed or incompetent or whatever else and other people just don’t know it. You know, it’s this feeling like somebody’s gonna throw the curtain back at any moment and discover that you’re not supposed to be where you’re at. And I want to make a distinction between imposter syndrome and faking it, which I’ve talked about in Episode 4 of the show. Faking it, I think that’s a consequence of imposter syndrome. It’s kind of just a strategy where you intentionally act a certain way to give other people a certain impression of you. But imposter syndrome itself, it’s not about getting people to perceive you a certain way. It’s about your inability to perceive yourself as skilled or competent or valuable. And whereas faking it potentially could open some doors for you, imposter syndrome, guaranteed, all it’s going to do is hold you back. It creates a voice inside of you that tells you not to speak up or go after more things you’re actually qualified to do. And I want to talk about it today because, you know, the Great Resignation, as more and more people leave their jobs to try something else, I think as people get into environments and roles they haven’t had before, we’re really gonna see an uptick in people feeling like they’re not cut out for their new jobs. So I want to address it head-on.
So the first thing I want to say about this is, it’s really natural for people on a basic psychology level to be scared of not being good enough. On some level, we all equate that with being treated badly or cut off from people. And none of us really want that, even introverts, I think, even they still need to feel connected to others. And imposter syndrome in the work environment just gives that fear a specific context. You know, we can be more specific and say, “Oh, well, I’m don’t have x or y skill that I need,” or “They don’t know how long I had to work to get that answer compared to everybody else.” And it’s hard, I know. Every time I do an episode of the show, even, I have to push that junk aside. But the thing I’ve learned about it over many years is that, just like so many other emotions, the feelings behind imposter syndrome, that fear or shame, they’re just feelings. And feelings aren’t necessarily a reflection of truth. I’ll say that one more time. Imposter syndrome is just a feeling, and a feeling isn’t necessarily a reflection of truth.
So why am I stressing this point? Because there’s so much advice out there that just tells you, you know, focus on what you’ve accomplished, look at your wins over time. I’ve probably shouted that same advice myself at some point for certain situations. But I’ve learned that emotions, they can shut down that logic side of your brain, you know what I mean? They fire faster than your reasoning. And Bessel van der Kolk, he’s a psychologist who wrote a book called The Body Keeps the Score, and he does a fantastic job of explaining that just cognitively knowing something isn’t necessarily going to make feelings go away. That’s not to say our thoughts don’t have power. They do. We have a powerful reminder in 2 Corinthians 10:5 that we can take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It’s just to say that God built us so we have to be operating well emotionally first, that that’s on a more foundational, almost survival level. You regulate that foundation and then the cognitive stuff can sit nicely on top of it and start having some good interplay.
So understanding that you can’t necessarily just think this feeling away, you can be the most decorated, most famous–you could be somebody who totally changed your industry, and you can know all the stuff you’ve done, and you still can walk into a room and be nervous. It happens all the time, big CEOs, they get invited to a talk or whatever or they have a meeting with somebody with clout, and they’ll still be like, “Wait, what? You want me to do this? But I’m nobody.”
As an example of this, let’s take the story of Peter in Luke 5. So Peter, he’s been fishing all night, he hasn’t caught anything. Then Jesus comes along, and all of a sudden, Peter’s nets are totally bursting with fish. And Peter suddenly realizes what a sinner he is. He feels totally exposed and unworthy. And now, Jesus, he could have said, “There, there, Peter, you’re fine, just think about all the other times you caught fish.” But Jesus doesn’t do that. He tells Peter not to be afraid and that, from now on, Peter’s gonna be fishing for people.
So I want you to catch that. The way Jesus encouraged Peter wasn’t to have him look back. It was to have him focus on the future, on his calling. He basically said, “Kick that gross feeling you’ve got away, because I know exactly what you’re supposed to do and you need to get up and do it.” And there’s a reason for that. Psalm 46:10, you might know this one. It says, “Be still and know that I am God.” And everybody likes to point to this verse as a call to just rest and let God take the wheel. But this is really, it’s in the context of war, OK? And the idea is that God is so mighty that we need to be in awe of what He’s capable of doing. And Jesus wanted us to understand that, as believers, we’re heirs to that. Matthew 17:20 says, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” So when He commands Peter to fish for people, He’s basing the command on that. He knows exactly what God’s capable of and that anybody who has faith is going to be a conduit for that power.
So when you get that urge to hide like Peter, another verse I want you to remember is 2 Corinthians 12:9. In that verse, the apostle Paul says, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He realized that he wasn’t perfect and that admitting that imperfection gave him the chance to point to God. I mean, that is the very opposite of saying, “Oh, my gosh, I’d better not give them any reason to doubt me, I’ve gotta hide all my flaws!”
So if you look at Peter and Paul together, getting control over this emotion of imposter syndrome, it’s not about making a checklist that can puff your chest out, OK? It’s about accepting in your heart that you’re not on this Earth by accident and that God’s ensured through Jesus that your mistakes and flaws don’t have to get in the way of doing great things. It is allowing yourself to replace the fear of isolation with the peace that God gifts to you as a believer. It’s just sitting in awe. And once you accept that peace, you accept the power you can tap through Him, you’ve got that emotional foundation laid down, then you can let your mind take over a little more. You can start asking God what the next steps are and take really concrete actions toward getting those things done, and you can start thinking intentionally about how to imitate Jesus in your life.
All this said, I think there is incredible merit to confronting the people who make you feel bad or unworthy. You know, office or organizational culture is an everybody thing. Every employee has a part in building it. So if there’s somebody on your team that’s always making you doubt yourself, if you’ve got a boss who’s just kind of a jerk and never gives you kudos for anything you’re doing, do yourself the favor of talking to them about it. And you don’t need to go in guns blazing for this. You can be kind about it and love your neighbor. You can stress that you want to find a way to move forward together. You know, half the time, in my experience, they don’t even know they’re hurting anybody. But you do have to teach people how to treat you. I think it benefits you to draw clear boundaries and expectations that way, because otherwise, it’s just way too easy to become a doormat and have the hurt and imposter syndrome keep controlling your life. And in the same way, in my experience, if you’re in a good environment and still are struggling, maybe because of other experiences you’ve had in your life, then being open about feeling like an imposter, that awareness opens the door for them to more proactively encourage you and mentor you out of it.
Now, the last thing I want to say about this that kind of connects to the above point is, I think culture right now is very good at making it hard to rest in the peace and awe of God. Every day we can walk into the office or do a Zoom and get this counter-message that, you know, it’s dog eat dog, that you’ve gotta constantly be doing more than the next person. It’s all about earning your way and proving yourself. So I think all of that disconnects us from the reality that we’re already secure, you know, that we’re capable of being calm inside of ourselves. And I think the only way to reconnect to that reality without cognitively approaching it is just to do as many physical things as we can to send our brain a signal that we’re safe. You know, I’ll be totally upfront, if I’ve had a hard day, there are times, I go get ready for bed, I get all cozy under the blankets, and as soon as my body starts to chill out, I get really emotional really fast. Because then my body’s not in the way trying to protect me anymore, you know, I can finally kind of just process everything. But I’m there under the blankets, and that’s–nobody’s gonna hurt me there, right? And it’s a space where I can just kind of confront whatever baggage I’ve got. And you’ve got to do that, because if you don’t confront it, then you can’t learn to navigate past it, and you don’t learn that those emotions are just temporary stuff. You have to do that work so that at the end of it, you’re not afraid anymore and you’ve finally got some decent serenity as your new baseline of reference. And you can do different physical things to get this reset. You know, some people, they dance it out. Some people do yoga or deep breathing or get a massage. But intentionally doing something physical to tell your mind it doesn't have to freak out, it works.
So to wrap up the show, let me pray for you really quickly.
Lord, you made us to be social. So I know it’s natural for us to fear being alone. But I pray that, when we go to our jobs, that fear doesn’t take control and make us convinced that we’re not good enough. Tell us the physical things we personally need to do so we can relearn what sitting in peace feels like. Keep the stories of Peter and Paul in our minds as examples of why we don’t have to hold ourselves back, and let us be in constant awe of You and what you give us the power to do. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
That’s all I’ve got, everybody. Before I set you free, I want to encourage you to go into the show notes and click on the link to our Youtube channel. The more people I have subscribe there, the more options I have to do livestreams and connect things to Patreon and other places for you. I also want you to join us for our next Challenge Me Monday, we’ve got one every week now on Twitter @FaithfulOTC at 10:00 a.m. CST. That’s where I give you a simple challenge from scripture for the week, and then on Thursday, we do a Twitter space to talk about it. I’ll see you there, and until next time, be blessed.
Faithful on the Clock is a podcast dedicated to ensuring your faith and work align. You won’t find mantras or hacks here--just scripture-based insights to help you grow yourself, your company, and your relationship with God. If you want out of the worldly hamster wheel and want to work with purpose, then this is the show for you. Hosted by freelance business writer Wanda Thibodeaux.
Wanda Marie Thibodeaux is a freelance writer based in Eagan, MN. Since 2006, she has worked with a full range of clients to create website landing pages, product descriptions, articles, professional letters, and other content. She also served as a daily columnist at Inc.com for three years, where she specialized in content on business leadership, psychology, neuroscience, and behavior.
Currently, Thibodeaux accepts clients through her website, Takingdictation.com. She is especially interested in motivational psychology, self-development, and mental health.