Select Page

Can we, just for a minute, talk about the glorification of “busy”?

Can we be honest about how, when we feel disconnected from ourselves the more we rely on external validation and approval from others to feel “good enough” and we fill our time “being busy” to keep ourselves from acknowledging how empty we feel. 
Can we acknowledge that we have a belief that, what others say about our value and worth is more “valid” then what our intuition is telling us. And this belief is keeping us from personal success (and dare I say it…true happiness!).
The fact that we place our happiness outside of ourselves by trying to live up to other people’s expectations, is like choosing to not see our own capacity for success and happiness. Choosing to put everyone else’s happiness above our own is keeping us small, empty…blinded to our potential.

Brene Brown says that we exhibit much of this disconnection behavior because of shame.


So shame is a HUGE f’n topic…and we won’t be delving deeply into it here but I do want to clarify something that is really important to me, and that is the difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt is a feeling you get when you acknowledge that you’ve done something wrong or bad and you feel bad about what you’ve done.

Shame, on the other hand, is the feeling that you ARE bad and as a result you have behaved or done something wrong or bad…BIG difference!

Guilt can be managed through behaviour modification…learn new behavior, change behavior and voila no longer feel bad.

Shame is not so easily managed….once you decide that you are inherently a bad person it becomes difficult to see your behavior as a choice.

I mention this distinction because in response to the myriad of shame inducing environments we find ourselves in, along with the shame laden, limiting beliefs that we hold, we have developed patterns to disconnect from feeling bad about who we are. Which unfortunately usually manifest in ways where we end up feeling more shame…argh!

It becomes a vicious cycle, a self-fulfilling prophecy…

“I am bad so I do this and this and that to try to prove to everyone else that I am not and that I am worthy of love and attention. I feel compelled to prove this to them so that they won’t see my shame.”

Then from this behavior we feel more shame and we disconnect further from our most authentic Self. No amount of external validation or approval, will ever be enough to squelch the emptiness you feel inside. Read that again!

So what are some of these patterns and what can we do about them?

As I was digging into books and articles, getting ready to share my thoughts with you I quickly realized that there is so much more to discuss than this one post can handle…so I am splitting this into 2 parts.

Today I want to focus on the Impostor Syndrome…its a real doozy!

Next time we’ll turn our attention to the other Patterns of Disconnection – Leaky Boundaries, People Pleasing and Numbing…(these are HUGE for me)

Okay let’s dig in…

Dr. Valerie Young, a brilliant women, expert in the field of Impostor Syndrome and long time sufferer of it, has an amazing book. The Secret Thoughts Of Successful Women. I highly recommend it if you can hear and see yourself in this post.

Valerie describes some very in-depth strategies and reflective questions (and you know I do love reflective questions!!) that can be used to take on this beast of an issue. But to start us off lets get an idea of how impostor-like you might be…

Take the Quiz

1 – Do you chalk your success (at work or home) up to luck, timing, the “right” people or computer glitches?

2 – Do you believe “If I can do it, anyone can”?

3 – Do you agonize over the smallest flaws in your work?

4 – Are you crushed by even constructive criticism?

5 – When you do succeed, do you secretly feel like you fooled them?

6 – Do you worry that it’s just a matter of time before you’re found out?

If you answered YES to any of these questions then I don’t need to tell you that no matter what you’ve accomplished or what positive things people say or think about you, deep down you’re convinced that you’ve an impostor, a fake, a fraud.

Welcome to the club!

It has been documented that 70% of successful women report feeling like an impostor. And to be clear success here refers to any area at any level…the premise is that women who have accomplished something “significant” to them often feel undeserving or any acknowledgement or accolades.

We, the impostors, have become adept at explaining away or minimizing evidence of our success and hence we never really take ownership of our accomplishments. And we do this because we believe that we’ve fooled others into believing that we are brighter than we know that we are and this has resulted in us living in constant fear of being unmasked!

So now what?

Let’s explore the 5 “types” of Impostor Syndrome identified by Dr. Young. The following is a direct reference from an article in The Muse. (Click here to read the original article)

1. The Perfectionist

Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand. Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, feeling like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.

Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you ever been accused of being a micromanager?
  • Do you have great difficulty delegating? Even when you’re able to do so, do you feel frustrated and disappointed in the results?
  • When you miss the (insanely high) mark on something, do you accuse yourself of “not being cut out” for your job and ruminate on it for days?
  • Do you feel like your work must be 100% perfect, 100% of the time?

For this type, success is rarely satisfying because they believe they could’ve done even better. But that’s neither productive nor healthy. Owning and celebrating achievements is essential if you want to avoid burnout, find contentment, and cultivate self-confidence.

Learn to take your mistakes in stride, viewing them as a natural part of the process. In addition, push yourself to act before you’re ready. Force yourself to start the project you’ve been planning for months. Truth is, there will never be the “perfect time” and your work will never be 100% flawless. The sooner you’re able to accept that, the better off you’ll be.

2. The Superwoman

Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health, but also their relationships with others.

Not sure if this applies to you?

  • Do you stay later at the office than the rest of your team, even past the point that you’ve completed that day’s necessary work?
  • Do you get stressed when you’re not working and find downtime completely wasteful?
  • Have you left your hobbies and passions fall by the wayside, sacrificed to work?
  • Do you feel like you haven’t truly earned your title (despite numerous degrees and achievements), so you feel pressed to work harder and longer than those around you to prove your worth?

Impostor workaholics (do-aholics) are actually addicted to the validation that comes from the do-ing, not to the work itself. Start training yourself to veer away from external validation. No one should have more power to make you feel good about yourself than you—even your boss when they give your project the stamp of approval. On the flip side, learn to take constructive criticism seriously, not personally.

As you become more attuned to internal validation and able to nurture your inner confidence that states you’re competent and skilled, you’ll be able to ease off the gas as you gauge how much work is reasonable. 

3. The Natural Genius

People who struggle with this, who are also natural “geniuses,” judge success based on their abilities as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it.

These types of impostors set their internal bar impossibly high, just like perfectionists. But natural genius types don’t just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations, they also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they’re not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.

Not sure if this applies to you?

  • Are you used to excelling without much effort?
  • Do you have a track record of getting “straight A’s” or “gold stars” in everything you do?
  • Were you told frequently as a child that you were the “smart one” in your family or peer group?
  • Do you dislike the idea of having a mentor, because you can handle things on your own?
  • When you’re faced with a setback, does your confidence tumble because not performing well provokes a feeling of shame?
  • Do you often avoid challenges because it’s so uncomfortable to try something you’re not great at?

To move past this, try seeing yourself as a work in progress. Accomplishing great things involves lifelong learning and skill-building—for everyone, even the most confident people. Rather than beating yourself up when you don’t reach your impossibly high standards, identify specific, changeable behaviors that you can improve over time.

For example, if you want to have more impact at the office it’s much more productive to focus on honing your presentation skills than swearing off speaking up in meetings as something you’re “just not good at.”

4. The Rugged Individualist

Sufferers who feel as though asking for help reveals their phoniness are what Young calls rugged individualists. It’s OK to be independent, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance so that you can prove your worth.

Not sure if this applies to you? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own?
  • “I don’t need anyone’s help.” Does that sound like you?
  • Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person?

5. The Expert

People who fall into this competence type may feel like they somehow tricked their employer into hiring them. They deeply fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

  • Do you shy away from applying to job postings unless you meet every single educational requirement?
  • Are you constantly seeking out trainings or certifications because you think you need to improve your skills in order to succeed?
  • Even if you’ve been in your role for some time, can you relate to feeling like you still don’t know “enough?”
  • Do you shudder when someone says you’re an expert?

It’s true that there’s always more to learn. Striving to bulk up your skill set can certainly help you make strides professionally and keep you competitive in the job market. But taken too far, the tendency to endlessly seek out more information can actually be a form of procrastination. Start practicing just-in-time learning. This means acquiring a skill when you need it–for example, if your responsibilities change–rather than hoarding knowledge for (false) comfort.

So what do we do now?

Well the first thing is to acknowledge what type(s) of Impostor you are and second is to show yourself some compassion. Treat your Self as you would your daughter or niece or best friend or someone you care deeply for who is feeling lost and alone. Treat yourself the way you so desperately want to be treated. Be kind to yourself and trust that by focusing your attention on positive mantras, reminders along with celebrating your successes and authentically connecting with others the feelings of shame will begin to subside and the patterns created to disconnect from the self, you at some point in your life identified as “bad”, will no longer be needed.

TRUST your Self!

Trust your Self Dionne Thomson In Her Element Coaching & Consulting

P.S. If it’s time to dig a little deeper into this pattern of disconnection and decide to Trust Your Self! Now is the time to ignite the Woman On Fire inside you that is just waiting to burn bright! Join the Woman On Fire Spark Sessions and move from procrastination (aka planning) to bold action with Clarity, Courage and Confidence!

All good things are rooted in love, laughter and learning!