Imposter Syndrome: The silent killer of joy
“Oh my God! These koftas are absolutely heavenly.” My husband said, finishing off his second helping of the Malai Kofta that I had made for dinner. “Darling, you are such an amazing cook!” he said lovingly to me.
How did I react to the compliment?
“Thank you” I said,”But I am not an amazing cook or anything…just God’s grace that this dish came out well.”
- * * * * * * *
I was meeting my tenth grade school teacher after ages. I told her about my journey from being a homemaker and a mother of two, to co-founding a successful business with my husband, starting from scratch to getting India’s Iconic Businesswoman of the year award in 2019.
I could see that she was mighty impressed and genuinely proud of me.
“Wow Mukta!” she complimented me,”this is a phenomenal achievement, I must say. Congratulations. I am sure you must be an inspiration to other women around you.”
Now, I know I should’ve been gushing with pride and joy at this praise. But was I?
I was squirming inside with embarrassment.
“All God’s grace, ma’am. I did nothing. Anybody in my place would’ve done the same.”
* * * * * * * *
“What an absolutely beautiful sari you are wearing, Mukta!” My cousin looked at me in open admiration. “You look gorgeous,”she said.
“Thank you. All God’s grace,” was my reply.
* * * * * * *
These are just a couple of glimpses of my life, which had become one big case-study in self- effacement.
I did my level best to accomplish all my tasks in an exceptionally good way. Almost perfect way.
If no one noticed them, I got upset.
If someone noticed them and praised me, I would feel embarrassed. I would feel that I actually didn’t deserve all that praise. God did!
“I am not worthy of all this appreciation. It’s because God is very kind to me. Soon, someone will catch me for the fraud that I am.” – is how I would think inside my head.
* * * * * * * *
One thing was clear to me – It felt like living with two people within the same body; and both of them, at loggerheads with one another. One part basking in the praise and appreciation and the other part brushing it off, giving all of it to God; keeping none for the self. “I am not worthy of all that praise” I thought to myself. “God is.”
This mind-numbing tussle between the two parts of me was robbing me of life’s joie de vivre. This was not normal. And it had to stop.
I was determined to get to the bottom of my problem. And solve it.
After a particularly harrowing period of time which I call my ‘dark night of the soul’ during which, I persistently did a lot of Shadow Work (about which I shall write later on), I identified and unearthed, not one but several open and gaping soul wounds that needed healing.
My journey from ‘Struggling with Imposter Syndrome’ to ‘Overcoming Imposter Syndrome.’
My inner transformation journey started first and foremost with self-observance.
And I’ll be honest; what I found, knocked my socks off!
Apparently, I had found a clever way of refusing to accept any praise: Just pass it on to The Almighty!
Gratitude to The Divine does not mean self-effacement. The logical side of me knew this already. But still, I was doing it unawares. What I had convinced myself was, I was being humble. Whereas, in reality, a part of me did not consider myself worthy of praise. As harsh as it sounds, I was being cruel and heartless to my own self.
All creation in this universe is a tango between the soul and The Divine.
It is a sinuous twirl between the Self and The Nature.
For the purpose of the expansion of this universe, together, the self and Nature, perform a synchronous dance. The two, holding each other’s hands, sow the seed of energetic desire. In time, the seed of desire sprouts into tiny actions which, further in time, build into a massive flow. This energetic flow of movement and action ripples across the universe, thus expanding it. Enhancing it.
Without either of the two components of co-creation: the self & The Nature, the universe would not exist. Or at least, not in the form that we know of, today.
So, to think that my ‘self’ deserves no appreciation in the co-creation of my ‘small’ world, is nothing but being unfair to my ‘self’. It’s akin to denying that I ever existed!
No wonder then, I was so unhappy within. Our soul knows everything. Even the things that are hidden from our own conscious mind. Soul knows.
This blatant self-denial is never hidden from our soul – also called our Higher Self. And does major damage to us. Quietly.
Psychologists have given this problem a name – The Imposter Syndrome.
Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome
- Feeling unworthy.
- Suffering from Self-doubt even though they may be established authorities in their chosen field.
- Feeling guilty of one’s own success and feeling like a fraud/ imposter who might be caught at some point by others. Therefore, living in terror inwardly.
- These people hold Luck responsible for their success. Or, like in my case, they consider their own contribution and efforts zero while crediting everything to God’s grace only.
- Extreme lack of self-confidence.
- Constant comparison to other people.
- Absolute lack of self-compassion: Such people indulge in harsh and negative self-talk and much self-flogging. Sometimes, even other people’s mistakes also, are taken upon their own selves.
- Dwelling too much in the past.
- Baseless anxiety and fear regarding their future.
- Non-acceptance/ Brushing off of praise and appreciation.
- At work, such people are paranoid about each and every tiny detail being right.
- Ironically, these people can be huge procrastinators as well, sitting on projects, not moving ahead either because of lack of confidence or their perceived lack of full details regarding the project.
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome?
After a long period of rigorous and in-depth healing of my soul, have I got rid of The Imposter Syndrome totally?
Imposter syndrome still gets on my nerves at times. Its intensity is much less now. Its power on me is almost gone. But it lingers. It never goes away completely. But it can be managed.
For beginners, I have listed below 3 major ways to get you started on your journey.
- First and foremost comes knowledge – which comes with self-observation. Watch your own behaviour and thoughts as if looking at a different person – not critically, but simply non-judgmentally.
Start a Daily Journal – a notebook in which you pen your thoughts. In your daily journal, write what you observed about yourself that day, what thoughts crossed your mind during a particular happening of the day. Make sure never to criticise yourself in it. Simply pen down your inner feelings and thoughts.
2. Change your Mindset – Stop living on auto-pilot. Stop thinking like a victim – as if you have zero control over your life. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and commit to doing something to get you out of the morass.
Read the book ‘Change your Thoughts, Change your Life’ written by Wayne Dyer.
This is a life-changing book that helped me immensely in my fight against Imposter Syndrome.
3. Practice Self-Compassion – Speak kindly to yourself. Even if you feel like you’ve made a mistake, talk to yourself like you would, to a three year old. You wouldn’t yell and shout and say harsh, hurting words to a 3 year old. Would you? Then why say that your own inner child? You owe as much love and compassion to your own self as you give to others.
In my life, one person who swooped in like a God-sent angel and whose words caressed my wounded heart like a loving mother, was – Louise Hay. She is long gone and merged with The Divine but her words, through her books and videos, continue to carry on her work and her legacy. She has written several books on Self-love and Self-compassion. Below is a link of one of her videos on Self-love Affirmations. Listen to this everyday. Multiple times if possible. Definitely before sleeping. And with headphones on.
Louise Hay-Affirmations for Self Love and Self Esteem
Ten years ago, when hypothyroidism was diagnosed in me, the good doctor had said – This will never go away. At best, you can manage it well with lifestyle changes and medicine.
I’ve managed it fairly well all these years. With diet, exercise and medicine.
What if I hadn’t?
It would’ve surely gone out of control and put a stop to all the activities that I love doing in life.
The same goes for our spiritual ailments. We owe it to ourselves to keep us holistically healthy – mind, body and spirit.
It’s not a video game you are in, where you get two more lives after one gets over! This is real life. This is your one and only shot at happiness and true joy. So why not do everything that you can to make it work?
Because you are worth it.
I wish you love, light & joy.