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How to Defeat Imposter Syndrome and Bring Success Into Your Life

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My breath tightened in my chest, my stomach lurched, questions pummelled my entire being, I was about to step on stage. What was nagging at me like my old Yiddish grandmother? I love and believe in the message and I’m a good public speaker, yet the fear that trembled through my body ripped me apart. All I could think about was what if they see me for the fraud that I feel I am.

Now, I was no fraud. Having spent decades working, 1000s of hours training, and even more than that living out the very words I was about to share, I knew that I could stand there and be present articulating the message the audience had come to hear. 

So what was the problem?

Doubt. Doubt and fear were the problem. Those nagging thoughts, “What if I look foolish?” “Who am I to be sharing, anyway?”

How many times have those thoughts or a variation of them coursed through your body? Perhaps during a sales call, an important boardroom meeting, or an interview for your dream job, the echoes of doubt and fear stream across your consciousness creating anxiety and lack of assurance. 

Did you ever dream that the answer to defeating imposter syndrome would come from a child’s tale?

Let me remind you of the emperor who loved new clothes, and the swindlers who took the whole kingdom for a ride. What were the words that they used to reduce even the king’s most trusted counselors? They would say to each one, including the king, “If you don’t see the fabric, you are foolish and unfit for your position.” Each one so terrified of being “found out,” that none of them spoke up.

None of them except a child on the parade route. He was a game changer! I want to be like that kid. That child’s message has reverberated through my life, teaching me many things.

“Be humble – Not knowing something doesn’t make you a fraud, it makes you a student.” – Marie Forleo

What are they and how do they defeat imposter syndrome?

Know yourself

Remember how I began this article? Decades of work, 1000s of hours of training, a lifetime of living the talk, learn how to hold onto the effort and space you have taken to become that which you are. The child had nothing to lose, it wasn’t afraid of being “foolish” and “unfit.” The child just was, the child saw what was true. See what is true about you! 

Speak up

Amidst the crowd, the child raised its voice. I’ve learned to listen and discern the truth of those voices that come with the statements of self-doubt and fear. I have a strategy full of one liners. I say back, “Yup, I am afraid and I’m going to show up anyway.” “Perhaps, some of this confidence is a mask, that is okay, that gets to be here, too.” “I am anxious.” “I do want this job, life won’t end if I don’t get it.” 

Pause

Don’t get caught up in the noise and rucus of what is going on. Everyone of us needs to learn how to pause, take a deep breath, and step forward discerning out what is really happening. Don’t take the proverbial swindlers’ voices as truth. Pause!

“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are not.” – Denis Waitley

Beyond the message of the story, my work as a yoga therapist has taught me a few things, mainly getting into your body! What? Yes, get into your body. How? 

From a place of standing: Bring your feet a little bit further than hips distance apart. Press down through the soles of your feet. Not to the point of causing injury, but lock out your legs. Pressing down through the soles of your feet, lift through the top of your head. FEEL your body in space. TAKE a deep breath. Arms are by the side of your body, not just hanging there. Bring intention into your arms. Lower your shoulders away from your ears. Push tips of fingers to the ground. BREATHE! Inhale in from the nose, exhale with the sound of “ha” from your mouth. Repeat that a few times. Notice shift in your body, in your being. Take your meeting, phone call, or interview from that space.

From a place of sitting: Place your feet down on the floor, about hips distance apart. Place your body about half way in the seat, notice your sit bones in the base of the chair. Lift through the crown of your head, lower shoulders away from your ears. Place hands on your knees or thighs. Closing eyes or leaving them open, take some breaths that are longer both in the inhale and even longer upon the exhale. Take your meeting, phone call, or interview from that space.

Learning how to be in your body, showing up authentically, standing in the excellence and the training of you, taking deep and long breaths, being honest, speaking the truth, these are the tools that will defeat imposter syndrome and bring success into your life. 

Elle Miller is a trauma-informed C-IAYT yoga therapist and Body Advocate working to bring transformation into the workplace. Her speciality is  finding spaces that shift anxiety and burn out, zoom fatigue and disconnection. She created The Listening Project as a means to show  how subversive the very act of learning how to listen can become. Connect with her at Elle@LivingMangaliso.com to schedule your personal session or to find out more about our corporate offerings.

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