173. What you can learn from imposter syndrome (inquiring into the doubt and fears with these journalling questions)

Everyone has doubts and fears, but sometimes these doubts can manifest into something stronger and more potent, Imposter Syndrome. Today I go through a list of questions to help you inquire about the Imposter Syndrome within you, and how to act on what you find. 


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Questions on how to inquire into the Imposter Syndrome within. Use these questions for self-inquiry, journalling is a great option. 

    • How does imposter syndrome impact me? 
      • When I doubt, what changes? How do I act? 
      • When I have fear, what changes? How do I act from this place of fear?
    • Where in my life does imposter syndrome show up?
    • How long have I felt imposter syndrome? Is it long-standing? What seems to bring it on?
    • How do I try to manage the part of me that feels imposter syndrome? How do I respond to that part of me?
    • How does the ‘part of me that doubts’ think it is helping me? Protecting me?
    • What does that ‘part of me that doubts’ need to feel safe
    • When confidence is not available to me, what other feelings can help me with the doubt?
    • How does the ‘part of me that is afraid of being found out’ think it is helping me?
    • Who specifically am I afraid of ‘finding me out?’


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Woman with hand on forehead, question marks around her. Text overlay reads "imposter syndrome and what is has to teach you"



Hey friends, it’s Shawna here at girlfriend counselor from simple on purpose.ca. 

So I am a mom of three I live in a small town in Canada, I have three kids, they are 11,10, and eight. And about eight years ago, seven or eight years ago, I was reading a book about decluttering. It’s called The Joy of less by Francine J. And it was around Christmas time, and I was reading this book, and it suddenly hit me that I didn’t need to keep all of the stuff I had in my house. So I went down to the basement, the basement of shame, there was like a walkway amongst some boxes that I could get from one door to another. And I started decluttering.

And I was really hit with this awareness that I had been living my life, very complacently on autopilot. And going through that physical clutter of complacency. It really brought me to a place where I didn’t want that in my life. I didn’t want that in all areas of my life, I could just see suddenly, all of the ways I had been complacent in my life, living on autopilot. And that really prompted me to say, No, I’m going to put myself in the driver’s seat, I’m going to take some action, I’m going to be intentional. And that was really what founded simple on purpose. It started with simplifying and it moved into living intentionally living on purpose.

So around here, we keep this conversation going. Of course, I’ve gone through life coach training, I’ve gone through counselor training. And so I am bringing in all of these different aspects of the approaches that I’ve taken the conversations I’ve had over the years with women, with moms with clients. And I want to just this be a place where you can stop for a minute. And really start to think about ways you can simplify your home, your heart, your life in ways that you want to start showing up on purpose, living with more purpose, with more peace with more presence and more passion. I really believe we can all have a little bit more passion and enjoy our lives a little bit more. That’s a whole other episode though.

Let’s talk about today’s episode. So in the summer, I asked for episode topic requests, and I’m still working through those. And today I’m going to talk about the topic of imposter syndrome.

So the person who requested this, this mama, she is a PhD graduate. And in the email that she sent me, she shared about how much hard work she had to put into even getting her doctorate. Well, having a new baby, this is no joke guys. She’s got a new baby, and she’s working on her doctorate. But despite all of that research, and that work and effort and years of learning years of becoming a doctor, an expert in the field, she still struggles with impostor syndrome, she shares I know I can do hard things. And I know I can do them well, but I still have this sense that I will get found out as an impostor. I particularly feel these in academics feel this in academic settings, but it does carry over to other areas of life and motherhood.

And first of all, I just have so much compassion for this mom, because for all of those achievements that she has, it must be really hard to still be doubting and living with that impostor syndrome. And impostor syndrome is something that there’s so much information on the web about this. So I’m going to just take this from a different angle, I want to take it from the angle of how to inquire into the imposter syndrome within. So hang on with me here. We’re not going to get super meta, of course, we’re gonna get meta, but it’s gonna be fun, you’ll like it.

So let’s open up with the word inquiry. Inquiry is something that Byron Katie teaches, I’ve learned a lot from her about inquiry, and I’ll link her in the show notes because her work has really changed my life. And her whole notion behind this approach to inquiry to this questioning, is to be opening up to what is true, stepping back from our biases of it, stepping out of your head, and just noticing your thoughts.

So I’m going to be giving you questions throughout this episode. And these are questions to inquire with, to sit with over the days and the weeks to have a slow, thoughtful exploration to uncover new layers to consider the question from different angles, all well, keeping in mind, it’s about removing the judgments and the arguments and the biases and the intensity of the feeling, and just listening to the different answers. Byron Katie says when the mind asks sincerely, the heart will respond.

Another big reason that I like inquiry is because it’s a form of paying attention to your inner narrative, and our inner narrative, the story we tell ourselves the story we operate from. This is what dictates how we feel, and how we feel dictates how we show up. So you’re going to kind of see this mapped out as we go through these questions.

So like I said, this episode will have a lot of questions that are good to sit with and pay attention to maybe journal them all. Don’t worry about writing them down or grabbing them as you’re listening to this episode. I’m going to put them all in the show notes as well. So you can just go take a screenshot or copy them from there.

impostor syndrome is a fairly new concept. It was coined in the late 70s. But it seems to include two things. One is a doubt a doubt of your skills or accomplishments, usually in the form of dismissing them or downplaying them. Which sidenote, I think for women, we are conditioned to operate from doubt, be humble, don’t break have some confidence, but not too much. Don’t think highly of yourself. Bla bla, bla bla be meek be mild. So I think that’s a natural cultural expectation we as women have.

The other part of impostor syndrome is the fear the fear of being exposed, like people will find out we don’t actually know as much as they think we do. Or we really aren’t that great. Or maybe they shouldn’t really trust us with this big project. I mean, it’s one thing to struggle with doubt, and constantly defeat or dismiss your own achievements. It’s another thing to add on this chronic fear that someone’s going to find a flaw in your armor.

So this leads me to the first question that we can ask ourselves, How does impostor syndrome affect me? When I doubt myself? What changes? Do I withhold? Do I devalue myself? Do I avoid speaking up or being brave? A note about this self doubt narrative? Is it really isn’t that nice to ourselves, the way we talk to ourselves, sometimes, we would never say to a best friend. So working on self doubt is also working on your relationship with yourself.

The other part of the question is the fear. How does this fear make you act when you’re afraid of being found out? What do you notice? Perfectionism? Probably right, make sure things are perfect. Or do you avoid people? Do you avoid getting too close? Do you avoid asking questions, so you won’t look incompetent? are you so concerned with hiding your flaws, that you actually start to believe it’s not okay to have any, I cover this a little bit more in the episode about hard and awesome, where it talks about not trying to always put on the front that we’re all awesome all the time. I’ll make sure to link that in the show notes.

Often when we look into how we are acting, how this doubt makes us stay quiet. How this fear makes us set even higher standards for ourselves. We find that in ways we keep the cycle spinning. It’s kind of like a self fulfilling prophecy. The solution to doubt and fear is not to motivate ourselves with even more doubt and set higher standards.

I think with all emotions we have I’ve said this before, there’s no bad emotions, they’re not entirely bad emotions are there for a reason. And on a whole, I think that impostor syndrome isn’t really a bad thing. It can be healthy to have some level of worry about your skills and worry about people seeing through you. Because I think that keeps us accountable to one another in society. Could you imagine if nobody ever had any impostor syndrome, and I’m sure we can all think of a few people who should have a little bit more impostor syndrome, you know, like there is one end of the spectrum where someone grossly overestimate their abilities and skills, not worried at all what people think about them, I’d say that end of the spectrum is not healthy. And neither is the other end where someone is chronically doubtful and fearful, despite it not really being helpful or necessary in their lives.

So a little bit of impostor syndrome can be a little bit helpful in keeping us accountable to one another, and maybe even to ourselves.

The next layer of inquiry here is exploring where impostor syndrome shows up for you. Ask yourself, Where do I feel impostor syndrome, in your relationships in your job and your parenting in your looks? I’ve been trying to think of the places that I might feel impostor syndrome and one that I’ve noticed, it’s kind of silly, but I feel like imposter syndrome when I go somewhere fancy. Like I didn’t grow up this way. I don’t deserve to be here. I don’t deserve to operate at this level of socio economic status. Someone’s going to see the duct tape patch hole on my suitcase and kick me out, someone’s going to find me or to actually be here.

And it’s also good to know if impostor syndrome shows up in one area more than others. So as you’re noticing the places where you feel impostor syndrome, do you feel it most in motherhood or most in your job? start to notice that as well. A

nother good thing to notice about times you feel imposter syndrome is if it’s recent or long standing, how long have I felt this what seems to bring it on? Because I think we also need to normalize the natural doubt and fear that we are going to have a little bit of imposter syndrome. When we are doing something we haven’t done before, or with people we haven’t dealt before. We’ve dealt with before. Or in a situation that maybe we have some new respect and all like Oh, this is kind of like leveling me up. And I’m noticing some impostor syndrome here. Let’s expect it there.

But as you’re inquiring Do you notice it’s been a struggle all of your life in many areas? Does it quiet down with time and experience? Then it might be something that’s just generally holding you back in your life instead of the normal ebbs and flows of being new with things and being a nuisance. equations. The next question that I think is really helpful and understanding the feeling and action, kind of link with impostor syndrome is, how do I try to manage my imposter syndrome? What do you do when you feel it start to come up? Do you tough talk yourself? Do you ignore it? Do you let it take over? How are you treating this part of you that has doubts and fears, this is important because this part of you that worries and is afraid, it’s a real genuine part of who you are.

So instead of avoiding this part of you, instead of being mad, it’s there instead of maybe even agreeing with it, believing in it, and operating from it. Instead of all of these tactics. What if you simply acknowledged it, acknowledge that there is a part of me that doubts, I don’t deserve this, it was luck, it isn’t that big of a deal. There’s a part of me that stays small, there’s a part of me dismisses, there’s a part of me that resets this whole baseline, once I achieve something and starts me back at zero. Like if I’m constantly at zero, it will keep me constantly working on the next thing. Or maybe this is the culture I am operating in, where doubt is considered necessary.

Make space for that part of you, that part of you that doubts and fears, it’s been there in a way to protect you, there is a reason we do everything. Whether we like it or not, it often comes down to safety and approval. So get to know that part of you. It’s there for a reason. And we can dig deeper here, if you are ready, consider what does the part of you that worries you aren’t good enough? Or that someone will find out and you live in that fear of being found out? What does this part of you protect you from? An extreme way to say this is how does it keep you in line? Or how does it keep you safe or good or acceptable.

And this might be weird language to hear me talk about the parts of you, if you haven’t heard these concepts before. But there are different parts of us. This is rooted in internal family systems theory, where we acknowledge that there are different parts of us and how they interact. Because we do have different parts of us, you might even be talking with your friends in here yourself, you might catch yourself saying something like, I want to go out tonight, I want to meet everyone for dinner. But I also just kind of want to stay home alone. Or I want to put up my hand for that project. That opportunity. But also I really don’t want to, or a part of me is so angry with motherhood. And another part of me is just like, oh, I want to enjoy so much I want to be here I want to be in it. It’s really kind of normal, right?

There’s a comedian on Instagram, I think I’ve talked about her before. Her name is Hayley Morris. And she does the skits where she plays different body parts like the stomach, the brain, the heart, the liver, and they’re all like talking to one another and having these conversations and they’re all like trying to get their own needs met. And it’s really clever. I’m gonna link a couple of my favorite ones in the show notes. But it’s kind of like that we have these different parts of us with these different emotions and opinions. And a problem that we might have is that we just think we shouldn’t we shouldn’t have these conflicting parts or opinionated parts. But we do. And each of these parts of us has this mode of of keeping us safe protecting us, whether it’s safe from within from our own pain, our own emotions, or safe out there with other people.

As you get to know more about the parts of you that has doubts in the parts of you that has fears, the more you will know what you need to do about it. You can ask what does this part need to feel safe? What does doubt need to feel safe? And I think most of us will just flip that coin right over and say, well, the other part of this is confidence. Like, if we have doubt we need competence, confidence will solve this. But I think that many of us with time can say we’ve learned that confidence is actually the byproduct of the work, you aren’t confident going into it you grow confidence. As you learn the skills as you do the work like skating I am not confident in skating I’m I’m holding on to the board’s I’m going really slow. But I know if I practice it like I’ve watched my kids do over the years, I’d become confident. So we really set ourselves up to be in a tough spot. When we tell ourselves, we should have confidence going into it. We want to operate from competence. That feels good, right? I feel like I know what I’m doing. I feel all good here.

So maybe a mind shift that might help you hear that one that’s worked for me is being willing to operate without confidence without turning to confidence. Because I’ve learned I can’t rely on competence. It isn’t always easy, it isn’t readily available. So consider when confidence isn’t available to you. What else can you do with that doubt what other feeling can help you with that? Doubt? Your some ideas. Compassion. That’s a secret weapon. I have compassion for that part of me. I’m going to acknowledge it just have compassion, right? sounds so simple, but it does make a big difference to just validating yourself and being able to move forward. Another one is strength, determination. I’m determined to work on this thing. Another one is efficacy. I’m going to show up for myself when it’s tough. I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to have my own back I will tell you every podcast episode I release, I don’t really have confidence there is a part of me that’s like, oh, I don’t know, some doubt. And this is what I operate from. I’m going to just show up, I’m going to show up for the women who say, there is something helpful in here, I’m going to show up for them, I’m going to just believe that I can offer one little nugget that is going to help one person do one thing differently with more intention in their life.

And then how about the fear? What does that fear need? I think it’s even more helpful to understand what the fear is specifically afraid of when you are afraid that someone’s going to find you out. Imposter syndrome, they’re going to find out that I’m not this great and blah, blah, blah. Who are you afraid of finding out? Who comes to mind when you are afraid of being found out who comes to mind, someone will come to mind eventually, one specific person to specific people try to really get specific as you can, because then you will see there, there is some work for you to do.

So on a whole this is where I would start with inquiry when it comes to impostor syndrome. And it might sound not worth your time, it might sound ineffective. But I want to bring you back to this idea that the first step to change is awareness. We can just try to do ignore this all and take opposite actions and kind of read or try to redirect it all by forcing on these changes before our heart and mind really believe that before heart and mind have felt heard. And before we actually know, like the lay of the land. What’s the lay of the land here? What are we working with? What specifically needs to change? Where are the landmines? Where is the pain? How do we manage the pain? So really, the first step to change is awareness. It’s not just taking action, that’s going to feel like it solves a problem, we need to know the problem first.

I know this episode was a bit of a different approach than usual, usual and I hope this episode has been helpful. I hope that it gives you some powerful questions that help you inquire within and gain more insight, specifically insight into that personal inner narrative you have. Because that inner narrative is shaping how you approach life.

Remember, it matters what you think, what you think dictates how you feel, and how you feel dictates how you act and that cycle continues. I dig into this a little bit more in Episode 76. Why it matters what you think I’ll link that in the show notes as well.

As always, I’m going to say this until like 10 people are doing it. I’m going to say this every episode, I would love to hear any takeaways thoughts or ideas that you have on this episode, I would love if you are part of that Facebook group to go and share it there. Just pick up your phone and just go share one post in that Facebook group, that Facebook group is there for you. It’s a place for you to find community and just continue the conversation with other like minded women.

And as a reminder, I don’t know if you got it for the snow like we did this past week. But hey, Christmas is coming. It turns out, you can get the simple Christmas planner, it is a PDF planner for nine Canadian dollars. And it’s a planner that helps you work through setting intentions, understanding your values, having family conversations, for what you want, as a family going into Christmas. A lot of ideas are in there on traditions and gift giving and simplifying the gift giving. So it’s kind of like a whole bunch of ideas and then space to plan which ideas are going to work for you and uncover the Christmas that you want to have on purpose instead of just being really reactive and Christmas feels like it sweeps you away. I think a lot of moms can relate to this feeling like I did all the things I planned all the things I set up all the food and all the presents and then I didn’t even get to enjoy it. So this planner is to help you be really intentional about what you’re doing and why and making space and time for you to enjoy the Christmas you want to have.

Alright friends always head over to simple on purpose.ca to find the show notes for this episode. Click Listen, you’ll find everything there. Have a great week. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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