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  • Olia Kerzhner

How to treat Imposter Syndrome

Hello Friends!

Let’s talk about Imposter Syndrome, and a simple practical way to treat it.

If you suffer from this painful condition, you might have done some reading about it, perhaps even worked with a therapist or a coach to figure out where and how it originated for you.  Perhaps you traced your Imposter Syndrome back to a stern parent, an unsupportive teacher, a harsh boss; and understood the mechanics of your inner critic who abuses you so relentlessly.

Understanding can be very helpful and give you a great foundation from which to work, but understanding alone rarely cures Imposter Syndrome.  It’s like debugging – understanding how the code works, finding out who wrote it and why is very helpful, but you still need to actually write different code if you want different functionality.

The good news is that there is a very simple 5 minute exercise that reliably and successfully treats Imposter Syndrome.

The bad news is that for it to be effective it’s not enough that you read this article, understand it, agree, and imagine how helpful the exercise is.  You actually have to DO it daily.

Much like brushing your teeth only works when you actually do it, so does this exercise only works when you do it, rather than simply think about it.

Ok, ready?  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Pick a time in the evening when you can be alone with your thoughts for 5 minutes or so, uninterrupted.  Say, 8pm.

  1. Set the alarm on your phone for a daily reminder at that time.

  2. When your alarm goes off, your job is to think about at least one thing that you have done well that day, something you are pleased about, something you feel proud of.  Now, this doesn’t have to be something big, like winning the Nobel Prize or getting promoted to an SVP.  This can be as small as having a productive conversation; or writing a helpful email; or taking 30 minutes to go for a walk at lunch.  Or getting up and going to work even though you wanted to keep sleeping.  Or staying home and taking care of yourself because you were not feeling well.  Or even doing this exercise.  No one else has to know what you think you did well today, you don’t have to be better than anyone else, you’re just reflecting on an action of yours that you, personally, approve of.Pick a phrase that means approval to you, something like “good job”, “well done”, “I’m proud of you”, whatever resonates with you.  Say that phrase to yourself about that thing that you did well today.

  3. Repeat step #3 daily.

That’s it!  As simple as that.  Some things to keep in mind:

  • It has to be something you did that day.  You can repeat, in other words you can be proud of the same thing every day, as long as you keep doing it every day.  Don’t pick something you did yesterday or the week before.

  • You don’t need to be super proud of the thing you pick, the “call my parents and tell them” kind of proud.  Just something you did that you approve of.

  • As you progress and practice, start shooting for 2 things, then 3.

  • As you progress and practice, and you see more and more things you’re proud of, you can start playing by choosing only work-related things; or things specifically in the area you are most prone to Imposter Syndrome.  If that is still hard, no worries, go back to finding whatever things you can.

If you do this sincerely and with an open mind, resistance and shame might come up.  You might feel that it’s wrong to find things to be proud of, that they are not significant enough, or whatever other arguments your Inner Critic might come up with.

This is perfectly normal!  Do it anyway.  Just ask your Inner Critic to give you these few minutes to do your exercise, and it can resume beating you up afterwards 🙂

This is all you really need, just do this daily, and notice if anything changes for you as you practice.

For those of you who love theory, I can offer an explanation why this work is so powerful. See, our minds are “lazy”, they like to conserve energy, and it’s much easier and less energy-costly for our consciousness to run along well-worn neuro grooves.  

Much like water that will favor an already established rut, and will keep making it deeper, so do our minds like to think the same thoughts over and over again, and keep making these “thought grooves” deeper.

When you do this exercise, you are pouring thought-water onto new untraveled neuro territory in your brain.  By doing this daily, you’re establishing new thought-grooves, so your thought-water can easily run in this new direction.  You will notice that it will become easier and easier for you to find examples of things well done, and your view of yourself will naturally become more balanced and accurate.

Note that you are not deluding yourself, or lying to yourself, even though it might feel like it when you first start out.  It will only feel like a lie or delusion because your mind is not used to noticing things that you do well, so they lie outside the known, “truthful” world.

How do you know you’re not deluding or lying?  Easy.  Every evening when you do the exercise, simply be truthful.  You pick the thing that you actually did, and you pick the thing you actually approve of.  Only the truth.

Ok dear friends, go to it!  Imposter Syndrome can be a painful and crippling condition, and you’ve suffered enough.  And the world has suffered enough not having the full benefit of your awesomeness!  Do your practice, cure yourself, and feel free to reach out if you have questions or need help!


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