Skip to main content

Making Friends With Your Imposter Syndrome

By August 2, 2022No Comments
Whether it is starting a new job, taking a chance on investing in yourself, or trying to live up to expectations in a relationship, it can be all too easy to begin that journey by believing that you are an imposter. Second-guessing yourself is never fun, but what if I told you that imposter syndrome is actually just a way your brain is trying to look out for you?
A Mind Map Renovations follower recently suggested an entry dedicated to Imposter Syndrome – which is the guilt, worry and anxiety you might experience in a situation you feel unqualified or unprepared for. The official Oxford definition is, “The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
To tackle this topic, I will borrow from the concepts found in the book No Bad Parts by Dr. Richard Schwartz. In his book and his practice, Schwartz proposes that every part that makes up who you are is well intentioned. Everything they do, even if it doesn’t render the best results, is ‌to serve your best interests.
It turns out that many of us have parts that do more harm than good. For example, you may overeat as a form of comfort. The part of you that overeats just wants you to be happy and soothed. Food accomplishes that goal, so that part of you believes it is helping you by urging you to eat when you are uncomfortable. The temporary solution to your discomfort creates a longer-term challenge as obesity and health issues, as well as decreased energy and potentially a stigma that can further discomfort you.
Another example is becoming defensive, angry, or aggressive when you feel emotionally threatened. The part of you that drives these behaviors is trying to prevent you from being emotionally injured. This part has learned that if it behaves aggressively, whatever was threatening you goes away. Now, just because something goes away does not mean the situation is resolved, so this part of you may be unwittingly preventing you from having meaningful conversations with your partner, coworkers, children, or friends.
Regardless of how your parts express themselves, it is important to remember that they are trying to do you a favor.
Often, these parts formed when you were very young, and are not as keen to recognize the passage of time and changing context as you get older. As a result, the part of you that formed when stomping your foot and holding your breath actually rendered some kind of favorable result does not understand that this is no longer the most effective path to get what you want as an adult.
Until you make friends with these parts of yourself, they will not know or understand that their behavior is counterproductive. They will see it as a win every time they influence you to act in the way they think is best.

Imposter Syndrome as One of Your “Parts”

When you feel worried or anxious that you are not good enough, it is very possible that you have a part of you that is trying to protect you from being hurt out of failure or rejection. Many parts are formed as a coping mechanism to avoid pain, rejection, and insecurity – and become a driving force for something like imposter syndrome. When a part of you whispers, “You don’t know what you’re doing, just quit”, it is probably because that part believes it is better for you to not even try than risk failing. It is trying to protect you.
By convincing you to give up, you have effectively been protected from a potential vulnerability. Maybe the result is painful, but it is a familiar pain. The bottom line is, this part of you feels as if the worst possible outcome would be failing, and the solution is simply not to try.
You may consciously be okay with failing – you got yourself that job, or you pursued that relationship after all, didn’t you? But subconsciously you feel like a fraud.
This is the part you must make friends with.

How to make friends with your Imposter Syndrome

When learning how to make friends with your imposter syndrome, it is worth saying it again: the most important thing to remember in this process is that this part of you is trying to help! So, first things first: be grateful. When that intrusive thought comes in, or you feel bodily anxious or rigid, or however your Imposter Syndrome manifests, meet it with a statement of appreciation.

“Thank you for trying to protect me.” or “Thank you for trying to help me.” 

Take a deep breath, and continue:

“And I can take it from here.”

The ‘I can take it from here’ is what it means to possess self-leadership; another concept from Schwartz’s No Bad Parts book and practice. Self-Leadership means recognizing when there is a part of you trying to take over and live your life on your behalf, and stepping in to take that control back.
Schwartz encourages his readers to adopt a curious attitude towards their parts ‌to get to know them. Remember, they have been with you since you were a child, and they will not relinquish control unless they really believe you can handle the situation. In fact, most parts that are causing trouble in our lives don’t even know how old we are. It may sound strange, but a great way to help convince an Imposter Syndrome part of you to let you take control is to let them know how old you really are. 
It is important for you to ‌show your Imposter Syndrome part of ‌you that can handle the situation. Keep in mind that you may very well fail in whatever ‌you have set out to do. If that occurs, it is key for this part of you to see that you can handle failure. That you can see failure as a gift of learning, and move forward with confidence. Most importantly: it will see that failure is not an apocalyptic event, and will be more likely to allow you to take risks and lead on your own without the harsh criticism or encouragement to give up. 
The more this part sees you succeed – even in the face of failure and setbacks – the less it will whisper doubts in your ear. The less it will knot your stomach and absorb your focus like a shamwow in the most critical of times. 
While this part may quiet down as a result of your successful self-leadership, it will not go away entirely. Which is a good thing! This part will be freed to find other, more productive ways to protect and serve you. It will, in other words, become your partner, and more importantly your friend. 

Call to Action

Like all of the techniques represented at Mind Map Renovations, this practice requires a commitment to being in tune with yourself and being an active participant in the choices you make day-to-day. The good news is, the more you do it the easier it will become, and eventually you will be in this space as a default rather than the exception. What we are talking about as part of this process and framework is a lifestyle change – meaning the commitment and benefits are for life.
Keep in mind that any psychological work that might be rooted in deeper issues should be done under the supervision of a trained therapist. If self-talk and self-curiosity are not enough, that is okay – that is just one more piece of information you have available to you in order to figure out your next steps with a trained professional.
If you experience Imposter Syndrome, your call to action is to become curious about why this part of you doesn’t want to let you try something new or explore a different path. The part will have a reason, and it’s probably a good one. Once you find out what the fear is, you can address it more directly and display your self-leadership.
If you need help to engage your rational mind for this exercise, refer back to the “Techniques to buy yourself time to think” contained in the 3 Easy Steps to Interrupt Default Mode Behaviors entry. 
The key, as always, is to be curious and kind to yourself in this process. Be appreciative of all your parts in their effort to keep you safe, and good luck on your journey towards self-leadership!