Does it ever feel like you’re afraid to make any noise out of fear someone will discover you and call you out for being a total and complete fraud? Like, imposter syndrome on steroids just jumps out and yells at you to go away? Not fun, especially when you know you’re good at what you do, you’re qualified to do what you do, you work hard to do what you do, and you just want to do what you do.
Yup. Been there. Still am there on occasion (sometimes Google Maps gets drunk and steers me there then leaves me for dead).
That’s when I like to refer to my list of magic spells (in Molly Mahar‘s words). It’s a road map you set up that says, “When I feel like this, I’ll do that instead.” It’s so handy to have this ahead of time so you can get yourself out of the woods faster and not rely on shitty cell reception and Google Maps to play nice again.
Here are a couple things you can add to your list of magic spells to get you on your way to feeling like a rockstar wonder woman again instead of wallowing around hoping Google Maps will re-route itself.
Focus on Something Further Away
Does anyone remember the movie “Dr. Dolittle” with Eddie Murphy? When I was a kid, my dad took me to see it and one of the scenes became a running joke for us. In it, Murphy is driving with a guinea pig, Rodney, who keeps saying “line” each time he sees a dashed line on the highway. It understandably is annoying, so Murphy yells at him to focus on something further away.
Whenever I get too caught up in the details of what’s going on and how I’ll be a complete business failure because I should be doing these big projects, but I’m not even keeping up with emails and group Pinterest boards, I know I need to focus on something further away.
Write down that big project, then break it down into smaller, more actionable steps. See, you’re focusing on something further away, but making a move to get it to happen. Then you can add deadlines and goal checkpoints. All because you focused on the abstract big picture further away.
Break the Pattern
Lots of times, you fall into a routine and conditioned thinking takes over. It could look something like:
- Checks bank account
- Sees a low number
- Starts to freak out about financial security, paying bills, or the like
- Falls down the well of thinking, “I’m always going to be struggling for money, who would pay me for what I do anyway, I really suck”
- Doesn’t actually do any work for the rest of the day thanks to crushing doubt and fear that it will suck regardless
This could also look like checking an ex’s Facebook page and then thinking you’ll be alone forever, wanting to lose weight but constantly relying on takeout burgers and fries and then guilt tripping and comfort-eating an entire cake by yourself…anything where you just automatically fall into that behavior. That’s your If/Then, except in a bad way.
But when you notice the pattern ahead of time, you can identify and isolate the trigger. Then you can break it.
How do you break it? Physically get up and do something different. Paint your nails (you can’t properly enjoy a juicy burger with wet nails). Clean the bathroom. Organize your DVDs. Anything that occupies your mind for at least 15 minutes.
I learned this from Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before. She says that any craving can be squashed if you distract yourself for 15 minutes. That’s it.
Similar to “focus on something further away,” when you notice you’re starting that one little dangerous thing, have a plan in place to break the pattern before it’s too late and you’re automatically in the bathtub drinking wine from the bottle. Forget what Fleetwood Mac says, we’re breaking the chain!
I know, it’s the dead of winter, but going outside if only for a minute is invigorating (albeit frost-bite inducing). A study by Stanford University found that walking has been proven to increase creativity by 60%. I don’t know about you, but I’m cool with being cold for a few minutes and be that much more confident and excited (and therefore focused and not thinking about the imposter feelings).
As Emily says on the Being Boss podcast, “Habits and routines allow you to do the work without thinking about the work.” So when you have a list of things to do, you focus on what you’re doing, not how you feel about what you’re doing. So get some fresh air and create a task list or work through a problem, then come back to your desk and do it instead of thinking about how you’d fail if you even tried.
How do you break yourself out of imposter thinking?