How To Befriend Your Inner Impostor to Build Confidence
I remember the day I decided to resign from my secure corporate gig to follow my passion. I’d spent countless hours visualizing my future if I continued on the path I was on and countless hours visualizing the path less traveled: pursuing my dream of being a full-time coach.
“I don’t know enough, I don’t have enough experience, how on earth will you ever make money?” These thoughts were like a horrible ride that I couldn’t escape. If I was going to be a coach to others, how would I be able to get myself off this ride? There was no way this chatter would allow me to be effective in my work.
Simultaneously, there was another voice. “No one ever looked back on their life saying ‘I’m really glad I made that safe decision’… Go for it, Cait!” Ultimately, this story has a happy ending, but that wasn’t without the constant inner dialogue, judgment and feelings of inadequacy. My inner impostor was the biggest thing standing between me and my confidence.
We all experience inner dialogue or “chatter”, and it’s become more commonly known on the internet today as “Impostor Syndrome”. While we hope that our inner coach will lift us up, more often than not the voice of our inner critic is much louder. The inner critic keeps us safe, but they don’t always get it right. Our inner critic holds the microphone for our deepest fears, doubts, and judgements, which can actually cloud our judgment more often than not and keep us in a cycle of feeling stuck.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Impostor syndrome is defined as doubting your accomplishments, skills, or talents, and feeling like you don’t deserve to be where you are. This idea of being an impostor comes directly from the inner dialogue of our inner critic. Ultimately, impostor syndrome is fear. The inner critic tries to keep us safe from fear, but it can prevent us from taking the necessary steps to living a fulfilled life. In order to get to where we want to go, we must address this inner dialogue and befriend our inner critic by acknowledging them as our inner impostor. Through doing so, we build the muscle of confidence and learn to get out of our way.
6 Tools to Befriending Your Inner Impostor:
There are countless ways to build confidence by befriending your inner impostor. Not every tool will work for everyone. The key here is to experiment and find what works best for you. These techniques will help you befriend your inner impostor instead of allowing them to hold you back.
Tip 1: Give Your Impostor a Name
When it comes to Impostor syndrome, a helpful tool can be to name your impostor. There are five different types of “impostors”: The Super Person, The Soloist, The Expert, The Natural Genius, and The Perfectionist. By taking the time to identify which persona your inner impostor takes on and giving them a name, you’ll humanize them and release their control over your every move.
Tip 2: Use Their Voice as a Motivator
The next time you hear your inner impostor doubting you, try treating their voice as a motivating factor to drive you to do the opposite of what they are telling you. Think of your nerves as a reminder that you are growing. Deliberately embrace experiences that your inner impostor encourages you to shy away from. It’s through getting out of your comfort zone that you grow.
Tip 3: Reframe
Our inner impostor is often the loudest when we interpret a situation to be a threat or something we believe we can’t manage. Reframing means reinterpreting the situation as a challenge that you can handle. Instead of letting fear, doubt and judgment overwhelm you, remind yourself of how you’ve successfully overcome challenges in the past. By reframing what our inner impostor is telling us, we can begin to realize and reach our potential.
Tip 4: Give Your Friend Advice
Ask yourself, “What would you say to a friend experiencing the same problem.” Think of this advice thoughtfully and then apply it to your situation. Studies show that by using distanced self-talk and referring to ourselves in the second-person, we are less activated. By playing this game with your inner impostor, you’ll improve your performance under stress.
Tip 5: It’s Okay to Not Know The Answer
Instead of obsessing over not knowing enough or having the answers, remind yourself that it’s okay to not have the answers. And the truth is if you have a question about something, chances are that someone else is thinking the same thing. Remember, everyone has an inner impostor. By saying “I don’t know the answer, but I’ll find out” makes you appear more confident in your abilities. It shows you have the courage to say what you didn’t know and the humility to admit you don’t have all the answers.
Tip 6: Ask Your Inner Impostor Why You’re Afraid
When your inner impostor is making you fearful, ask them, “why are you afraid?”. Is it that you are worried about failing? If so, it’s probably a good sign that you should take action because our inner critic might be inhibiting us from having a tremendous growth opportunity. But the key with this one is to not go overboard. Prioritize experiences that will stretch you while also helping you get closer to your goals.
Normalizing Your Experience
This list of tips is by no means exhaustive. The biggest takeaway I’ve learned through coaching is that the majority of people have an inner impostor and are walking around wondering, “Am I good enough?”. Knowing that you’re not alone in your experience can be the most effective way to befriend your own inner impostor. Despite how awful our inner impostor can make us feel, our mind is a muscle that can be strengthened. By befriending your inner impostor, you can train it to speak to you with your patience, compassion and self-love. Remember, your inner impostor is a natural part of being human. Above all, we are all doing our best and figuring it out as we go. You’re not alone.