Do you worship at the altar of imposter syndrome?
Have you talked about it with a friend? Posted about it on social? Spoken about it on stage?
If your answer is “yes,” I want to tell you something:
IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS NOT REAL.
Yep, I went there.
Imposter syndrome is not real. And our persistent attachment to the lie of imposter syndrome is keeping women stuck, powerless, and perpetually playing small.
We worship this false idol as though women “have” or “suffer from” some contagious condition. As though women need to be “fixed.”
We need to stop.
You are not an imposter. There is nothing wrong with you. You are a spiritual being having a human experience with a human mind and wiring that evolved to keep you safe.
Taking your normal human doubts and fears and labeling them as “imposter syndrome” actually believes it into being. In fact, labeling your experience as “imposter syndrome” has become this misery-loves-company, socially-reinforced justification women love to hate. We use it to avoid setting boundaries, making strong offers, letting go of people-pleasing, and taking our seat at the table — or making our own table.
WHERE DID “IMPOSTER SYNDROME” COME FROM?
How did we get here? Why do we worship at the altar of Imposter Syndrome?
The imposter syndrome lie grew out of a perfectly innocent 1978 paper, The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, by psychotherapist Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes. In it they identify a trend: despite excellent qualifications, some high-achieving women doubt their ability to live up to expectations and fear other people overestimate their skills.
I want to highlight a few key points here: what the researchers describe are beliefs or thoughts of fear and doubt. Remember that — we’re going to come back to it.
What started as interesting research has metastasized in the four decades since. Now it’s a syndrome. Now it’s an identity that women embrace and commiserate over in the entrepreneurial and personal development worlds.
The hypocrisy is staggering: We preach self-empowerment and “enoughness” in one Instagram post, then turn around and normalize imposter syndrome in the next as though there’s nothing wrong with that picture. Can you say MIXED MESSAGES?
Imposter syndrome is a detrimental construct and our perpetuation of it causes two massive problems. For one, our obsession with imposter syndrome is holding women back from making a massive impact, building wealth, and enjoying our lives right now. But that’s not it: it’s also blocking our ability to create the generational change we’re all here to make.
THE FUNDAMENTAL FALLACY OF IMPOSTER SYNDROME
Imposter syndrome is fundamentally a fallacy because you’re NOT an imposter. What you are is a human being with wiring that is intended to keep you the same.
Your wiring — AKA your brain and nervous system — evolved over millennia to keep you safe. And in the cavewoman era when human beings were prey of saber-tooth tigers, keeping you the same helped keep you safe.
I go into the whole enchilada here, but suffice to say: beliefs and thoughts of fear and doubt come from your mind and nervous system doing its job to keep you safe.
YOU. HAVE. AGENCY! (IMPOSTER SYNDROME CAN’T TOUCH YOU)
Here’s the amazing news: no one is making you believe your fears and doubts. You have agency! Embodying your agency is what it means to step into a higher consciousness where imposter syndrome becomes child’s play. Embracing your agency is how you realize the depth and breadth of your personal power.
(I know you’ve heard this before. Spiritual teachers from the Buddha to Byron Katie have been speaking this truth for centuries. If you don’t believe it yet… what’s holding you back?)
Let that sink in. Until you shove your beliefs and feelings into a bottle, label it Imposter Syndrome, and drink it like Kool-Aid, it doesn’t exist.
YOU are not your thoughts. You are the woman HAVING the thoughts. You are the consciousness that holds space for the thoughts. And every time you drink the Kool-Aid that you bottled and labeled in your own mind, you are denying and dishonoring your mind’s power to create the opposite reality.
I’m talking about the reality where you are exactly where you are showing up as the fullest expression of yourself, being held and supported by the Universe, generating the next level of your success into the physical world, again and again and again.
When you embrace your agency and do your inner work, you realize that your thoughts are yours to choose. So when low-level thinking strikes, they are never the reality you choose.
Most people aren’t awake to this truth. Most people spend their whole lives swimming in the Kool-Aid of low-level consciousness, drinking up their mind’s every fear and doubt as though it were incontrovertible truth.
Fearful and doubtful thoughts are part of your human experience, but it doesn’t mean they are true. It’s not pathological to feel these feelings — it’s normal — but again, it doesn’t mean they’re true. Suzanne Imes, one-half of the originators of imposter phenomenon, agrees:
“It is not a syndrome. It’s gotten woven into pop culture that way, but imposter phenomenon is not a disease. Experiencing imposter feelings doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you… what [women] have are feelings, beliefs. And those are subject to change.” (My emphasis.)
You can unblend from your fears and doubts. And when you do, that’s when you can’t help but laugh in the face of “imposter syndrome.” You realize that it’s a fallacy. You realize that the fear and doubt you have is connected to what you’re believing about yourself and the world — and it’s all optional.
One you see it, you can’t unsee it. That’s when you become unstoppable.
I have a two-part invitation for you.
Part one: stop claiming your doubts and fears as “imposter syndrome.” Don’t consent to give yourself that label.
The instant you identify as an imposter with a syndrome, you limit yourself.
Part two: lean into the work of unblending from your beliefs and thoughts, and watch yourself move to higher level conscious awareness.
Understand your human wiring, and see it for what it is: when you do something new you can expect your system to feed you defeating thoughts. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong — ironically (and counterintuitively) fact it’s the most reliable indicator that you’re succeeding.