Hands up if you’ve felt like a fraud at some point in your entrepreneurial journey? That feeling that you’ve only got this far by winging it and you’re going to be found out soon has a name: Impostor Syndrome. And according to Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, 70% of professional women have it.
Imposter Syndrome was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance in the 1970s, who found that it occurred among high achievers who weren’t able to internalise and accept their success. And if that sounds familiar to you, maybe you’ve also put it all down to luck, and you worry that at some point the other shoe is going to drop and you’ll be exposed for what you really are… a fraud.
It can happen to anyone
Underlying imposter syndrome is usually a subconscious belief such as: “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not smart enough”, or “I’m not talented enough”. Do they sound familiar? Or perhaps you ask yourself: “Who do I think I am to be running this business? What gives me the right to be here? Someone else would do this much better than I can.”
Imposter thoughts like these can happen to anyone. They are more prevalent, however, among people who are embarking on a new endeavour that is outside their comfort zone, such as starting a business. And it doesn’t matter how talented you are, how gifted or successful you are, you can still have that feeling of not really being good enough. In fact, if you experience imposter syndrome, then you are in very impressive company. Michelle Obama, Lady GaGa, Rihanna, Nigella Lawson, and Lily Allen have all publicly talked about their own experiences of imposter syndrome.
Part of the problem
Unsurprisingly, social media has a big part to play in fostering Imposter Syndrome in founders and business owners. With easy access to a multitude of fake images of perfection, where you see perfect looking people living in their perfect homes, running their perfect businesses while having a perfect relationship and perfect family, it’s no surprise that you can end up feeling inadequate. Even if we rationally know they’re presenting only the highlights, and that we don’t see the setbacks, the rejections, and the other takes that didn’t make the cut – subconsciously it stings.
And when we do start to see some success in our own enterprises, we then feel terrified that we won’t be able to keep it up. That it was a fluke or a one off and we won’t be able to pull it off again. This can trigger perfectionism as well as procrastination, where we end up taking no action in the fear that any action we do take will be the thing that finally exposes us.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
So how can we tackle Imposter Syndrome? Well, as it has its roots in the subconscious mind where all our beliefs – empowering or limiting – reside, it makes sense that resolving it begins in the subconscious too.
If you want to stop feeling like an imposter, then you have to stop thinking like an imposter. You have to catch your unhelpful thoughts, and learn how to reframe them so that you can bounce back quickly. Maybe you’re not brilliant at everything, and that’s ok. Maybe you’re not the best copywriter, or the most photogenic, or the best with numbers or strategy. But you know what? That’s ok. We are all flawed. In short, pay attention to the conversation you are having with yourself in your head. And if what’s going on up there isn’t good, then you’ve got to change the conversation. And a great tool for that is self-hypnosis.
The Self-Hypnosis solution
There are two things that are important to know about hypnosis. One: All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. And two: Hypnosis is a verb not a noun. This means that everything is going on inside your mind and body, and it is something you are doing, rather than some magical state a hypnotist puts you into. In fact, the hypnotherapist is only a guide, and in self-hypnosis you are guiding yourself. All you have to do is follow your own instructions!
Another way of thinking about self-hypnosis, is that it is meditation with a goal. You get all the same amazing benefits of meditation, while using your mind to influence your subconscious in the direction of your chosen goal. And the added bonus is that you don’t have to do that tricky task of stopping your internal chatter which puts many people off meditation early on.
When you give this exercise a go, do it with the expectation for it to work. It’s not magic, it’s a process. Don’t try to second guess what hypnosis ‘feels’ like. Sometimes you might feel quite zoned out, sometimes you’ll feel very aware and conscious that you’re talking to yourself. Self-hypnosis is something to practice, and the more you practice the easier it becomes to stop analysing and doubting yourself about whether you’re ‘doing it right’. If in doubt, simply pretend you’re hypnotised. It’ll have the same effect. Trust me.
A Simple Self Hypnosis process for Impostor Syndrome
Before beginning your session, you can prepare some hypnotic suggestions that you will repeat to yourself in hypnosis. These should be expressed positively and feel empowering. Here are five suggestions for impostor syndrome, but you can make your own that feel congruent to you:
“I deserve to be here”
“I know what I am doing”
“I trust myself to make good decisions”
“I am not perfect but I am perfectly me and that is all I need to be”
“I have earned all that I have”
Then simply follow these instructions. You might want to read them through a few times before you begin.
- Close your eyes and take a deep breath. As you exhale slowly, say to yourself slowly: “I am going into hypnosis.” Repeat this four times.
- Very slowly, count from ten down to one, saying to yourself “I am going deeper and deeper” after each number. You can imagine you are going down ten steps, or ten floors in a lift.
- Breathing calmly, tell yourself: “I am calm. I am relaxed. I choose to be here.” Repeat this four times. (Or however many times feels right to you.)
- Now repeat your hypnotic suggestions to yourself, assertively and with conviction. As you say each one, imagine that you fully believe it and agree with it. Repeat this ten times, or as many times as you enjoy.
- When you are ready to come out of your self-hypnosis session, take a deep breath and simply open your eyes.
And you are done. I recommend you do this practice every day for the next two weeks, and see what a difference it makes to the way you think and feel about yourself.
Where to find me
About your author
Victoria Ward is a Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Mindset Consultant. With more than 10 years’ experience in hypnosis, Victoria works with business owners, founders and entrepreneurs to change their subconscious patterns of sabotage to patterns of success. She works one-to-one and teaches self-hypnosis workshops.
You can find out more about Victoria here.
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