Home » How I Learned to Cope with Impostor Syndrome

How I Learned to Cope with Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is the idea that you feel like you are not who everyone else thinks you are. You feel like a fraud or ‘impostor’ and grossly unqualified for the role you are playing at work or in some other creative endeavor.

For me, a music composer, it shows up every time I write music.
“You can’t write anything worth listening to.”
“You’re not a real composer.”
“You can’t share this because you’re not a professional.”
“If you share this everyone will know what a fraud you are.”

And every time I share content on social media.
“You aren’t qualified to discuss mental health.”
“You’re not even a real musician.”

Impostor Syndrome ran rampant in my academic endeavors as well.“You’re going to fail this exam.”
“You’re not going to graduate.”
“They will figure out that you’re not supposed to be here and kick you out.”
“You will get kicked out of this program for being a total fraud.”

It shows up at my day job, in my creative endeavors and just about any time I go to a doctors appointment of sorts, “You’re not even sick, why are you here?”

Ughhhhh

Solutions

So how do I manage this negative thought pattern and live my damn life? There are simple solutions I found that work for me – but notice I didn’t say easy – it took time for me to really get good at implementing them.

Negative Journaling

The first step towards coping with imposture syndrome is to recognize it. You have to observe your negative thought patterns and make the connection that these thoughts are negative, false, and not serving you.

For me, I developed the practice of negative journaling.

Negative journaling this the art of writing down all the thoughts in your head no matter how crazy, silly, harsh, laughable or mean they sound. Journaling allows you to name your thoughts, begin to make sense of them and understand patterns that emerge.

On any given day, my negative journaling might look something like this:

“My family hates me because I haven’t visited”
“I can’t practice keyboard harmony because I’m terrible at it”
“My dogs are alone all day and I’m a terrible dog mom”
“My friends are all mad at me”
“This blog post will be terrible”

Once I’ve identified what dumb thing impostor syndrome is telling me – I unpack the idea and work to a mental solution.

Next to each statement, I’ll write what is false about it or what is actually going on. This allows me to stop the spiraling thought pattern and instead replace it with my own narrative.

“My family hates me because I haven’t visited”

Becomes: “My family loves me and misses me and I haven’t visited to keep them safe from COVID.”

“I can’t practice keyboard harmony because I’m terrible at it”

Becomes: “That doesn’t even make sense! I improve every time I practice”

“My dogs are alone all day and I’m a terrible dog mom”

Becomes: “I am doing the best I can to give my dogs a happy and fulfilling life.”

“My friends are all mad at me”

Becomes: “W.t.f this doesn’t even make sense. Why don’t you reach out and call them to say hi.”

“This blog post will be terrible and I’m not qualified to discuss impostor syndrome.”

Becomes:“I’m sharing my experience in hopes of helping someone that relates to it.”

You get the idea.

Affirmations

Affirmations are short sayings that affirm your beliefs and/or inspire you with a positive message.

I find that writing your own affirmations can be a very therapeutic and rewarding experience. It gives you a chance to dive into what is bugging you and allow you to come up with the exact words you wish you could hear any time you are struggling.

However, in case you get stuck or feel the pressure is too high to write your own (trust me I’ve been there!) – The internet is loaded with affirmations and a quick search will usually do the trick.

Some of my affirmations include:

I love and honor myself.
I am enough.
My actions are enough.
I did enough today, I deserve rest and a chance to sleep.
I am a talented individual who is capable of this project.

By reminding myself of my qualities and worthiness, I can set the foundation for my day and chose my attitude towards an impostor-syndrome-inducing situation.

Qualifications

Have a panic inducing situation coming up or you’re in one now? Take a moment to write down all of your accomplishments and achievements that have prepared you for this project.

If this sounds like a nightmare to you (because you’re still caught in that negative thought pattern) ask a friend or loved one for help. Our friends and loved ones are usually excellent at recognizing our strengths and remembering all those little amazing things we’ve done over the years that we somehow forget.

Make a list and let it empower you in this moment. You have done hard things In the past and you are prepared to tackle the hard moments of the future. It takes strength and courage to tackle scary tasks. Remember what a badass you are and all of the amazing things you have done to get to this moment.

A word on Personal Development

Lastly, if you haven’t started personal development… what are you waiting for??

Personal development is the art of calling yourself out on your BS.

Ok, maybe it’s not that technically, but it is part of the process. Personal development is journey in which you reflect deeply on your life, mindset and beliefs, and welcome new ideas to shed old thought patterns which are no longer serving you. There are personal development books, websites, podcasts, blogs, and icons to guide you on this path – not to mention the fantastic work of mental health professionals that can help you from your own community!!

Personal development is largely how I developed my own techniques for coping with imposture syndrome. I found that my fears were largely the result of a narrative in my head that was hell bent of playing it small, diminishing my worth and trapping me from feeling joy. Once I was able to observe that I was able to research and developed a solution that worked for me.

That being said, my techniques might not work for you – but there is joy in knowing your solution might just be within reach if you dig deep enough and allow yourself room to grow.

I’m years into this journey – and I will never look back or stop challenging myself to grow.

There are so many amazing resources out there! You are worth the love and care of giving back to yourself!

Keep Calm,

Carry On,

And remember great things led to this moment –

You are exactly where you are meant to be.

3 comments

  1. Catherine says:

    Hillary, this is fantastic. And I have to also add that I actually cannot remember a time when I was mad at you. Truly.

    I will never forget your senior recital. I was brought to tears listening to you, because I had watched your growth from the beginning of the journey at UM. I knew how hard you had worked, and the progress was stunning. Your voice was stunning. You, on the stage, appearing confident and sharing your art with us was stunning. I am still moved when I think of it.

    There has never been a time when I thought you were an imposter. There were times when I saw you try new things and work to improve them. There were mistakes and adjustments along the way. But never an imposter. Always a solid musician. Always a woman who continued on, who worked to achieve what she believed she was called to do. Always a good friend.

    I love your FB posts and blog posts. I am a fan! Not creepy, of course, but here watching, appreciating that I get to be a distant part of your life. Keep writing music. Keep blogging. Keep sharing your fitness goals and jewelry. I love it and would miss it if you stopped.

  2. Kimberly James says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I hadn’t even thought about how imposter syndrome even does a number on our personal relationships! But that totally makes sense. One thing to add to the bit about affirmations – it’s my understanding that they become even more powerful when we read them out loud!!

    Love you for doing this work. It’s so helpful!!!

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