70% of us feel like impostors at one time or another according to Wikipedia. Most of what I have researched on the interwebs regarding this topic deals with the symptoms and not the cause, for most of our lives we only have time to use band-aids like affirmations and reminders as impending deadlines continuously call upon us to find a quick fix. However, I want to go deeper and address what I believe to be the cause and in so doing add more depth to what I believe causes Imposter Syndrome (IS).
You’re an imposter and that’s OK, you’re an imposter because you don’t know who you truly are, you have managed to cope your way to this moment, you have been wounded countless times and you survived by abandoning yourself. That’s why it feels empty and numb when you achieve the things that society says are meant to give you a sense of self-worth. What if we all took responsibility for our emotions and our self-worth, what if we could be more than our performance?
I have lived with lots of trauma, in the beginning I was not even conscious to it, its impact and effects on my behaviour and more importantly how I treated myself were all based on not being enough. My sob story includes everything from growing up with a lost and violent father to a controlling and anxious mother, everything from being bullied at school to being abused by my grandfather. Somehow though I thought I was OK, in retrospect it seemed I had numbed out and buried the pain deep, in order to cope and function in some manner, I had no time nor the tools to really know who I was without my inherited patterns, programming and trauma.
My favourite band-aid was staying busy and distracted. Getting married young was a way to get out of that environment and be distracted by a new love and a new life. Before I knew it, I was distracted with bringing up my children, building my career and sought some happiness by making sure everyone else was happy first and in most cases to get some approval, what I considered to be love.
I was caretaking at the cost of abandoning myself. Why? Because I was told I was bad, I was beaten to oblivion for being wrong, I was ridiculed and embarrassed for having a voice, I was a newly married husband with children and obligations and parents who were broken yet had to uphold an image that everything was all right and to have some semblance of control over my life, but this caused co-dependency and a false dynamic.
20 years later all the unconscious trauma finally blew up in my face but in between there were glimpses of who I could be without all this. I had achieved a lot regardless, outward success in my career and new business pursuits were there, I was loved by many and had built a loving family, yet I was still unhappy, lost and empty.
My view on IS is that if you are addicted to seeking approval in some way to feel enough, you will never fully achieve sustained joy and happiness and most importantly peace. My IS was anchored in an inner emptiness, one that either tried to control people to get my attention needs met or abandoned and surrendered myself time and time again to others that I thought were better than me.
I was addicted to seeking approval and thought my performance was the answer, so I tried harder - in order to feel something I acted out with drama or numbed out. Without inquiry into what’s true for me internally, I sought happiness and joy externally, from my results and your approval of them so when I finally became the CEO of an amazing startup that completed a successful exit within 4 years I thought I was done I should be happy now, I’m rich and have achieved the impossible.
After 3 months of checking in, I still felt no joy and no happiness in fact I felt even more empty and lost as I sought to understand how could this be, I had achieved the things society claim would bring me happiness and self-worth but this was not what I felt. I felt like an Imposter, I did not feel like a success and I still operated from fear.
In 2014, I was suicidal, after being so-called successful yet empty it all became too much for me, I had gone deeper in my practices to get underneath all the trauma but things got worse. Later that year I had a prolific shift thanks to my previous co-founder and spiritual brother, Frank Cuiuli that can only be described as the most magical thing that has ever happened to me. I surrendered to the pain, to the fear to the monster with Frank’s guidance. Within minutes I was a new person, I had given in to whatever I had been keeping down and with an immense purge became vulnerable and open to surrender. This collapse needed to happen it seemed before I could truly start my inner work. Although I had a life coach for almost 10 years prior, I needed to give into the things I feared the most before any enlightenment could take up the space.
With this newfound space and an urge to discover a new and better operating system I went on many discoveries, from retreats to global travels that included time with thought leaders in this space, it was there that I discovered a better way and with a deep commitment to disrupting my old patterns I now have a better way of being and in so doing overcome my Imposter Syndrome. I can honestly say that I am not longer an Imposter I am instead the fully realised Me.
This is how I operate now:
- Take full responsibility for my emotions - if you have emotional needs meet them yourself first before expecting others to meet them, this is the toughest step.
- Self Inquiry into what’s true about my beliefs and thoughts - Ask yourself “Who would I be without these limiting thoughts and beliefs?”
- Daily journaling for gratitude - Reward yourself for the lessons you are learning, the things you are gifted with and the achievements already gained.
- Fitness and Health - Commit to loving your body with nourishing food and movement – dance a little. What you feed yourself impacts your energy and clarity.
- Nourishing relationships - Discover how to improve your relationships by asking “Can we be open to learning how our relationship can improve?” Hang with friends who keep you honest and call you out on your faults in a nourishing way.
- Purposely pursuing Flow - Ask yourself “What gets me in flow or the zone?” and pursue it in your career and life.
- Learning to say a healthy No - A healthy No to others is a Yes to yourself, once you take responsibility for how you feel you let go of the need to please others and are better able to say “I understand, Thank you and No”
- Exposure to new ideas and people - read various different articles, attend new group meetings, take more risks in meeting new people, you never know what you might find.
Tending to our wounds makes us available to them, to not limit ourselves and to be available to others in a healthy giving way, not an unhealthy taking way. Its been an amazing journey and I would not change anything, this was the path for me, I am not fully healed but my commitment to the above process is helping me overcome my Imposter Syndrome from within.
To learn more keep an eye out for our future blog posts, I will dig deeper into the various toolkits I use. For more reading on this topic I recommend “I need your love, is that true?” by my favourite sage Byron Katie.