Self-Talk and Imposter Syndrome

What we say to ourselves and the beliefs we hold about our own abilities are often far worse than any feedback we may have been given by someone else. Many of us find ourselves dwelling for far too long when we’ve made a mistake or been given less than helpful feedback. This may result in us holding ourselves back and not making the most of opportunities that come our way. Whilst we are busy wondering whether we are good enough, the longed-for new job or promotion has gone to someone else. 

Imposter syndrome

When we have stretched ourselves to reach a new goal, or maybe have recently been promoted or started a new job, this is when imposter syndrome can strike. It’s that feeling that you don’t deserve the success joined by self-doubt and thoughts creeping in that you are not good enough and will get found out soon. Overcoming those negative judgements and building more positive self-talk is about calming your inner critic and changing your mindset about your own abilities.

Our Self-Talk

Our self-talk is a combination of conscious thoughts plus unconscious beliefs and biases. Our brains have evolved to focus on the negatives over the positives in order to keep us safe. If we can train it to look for the positives this goes a long way towards building confidence and gaining a balance between the negative and positive inner voice. When that inner voice becomes overwhelming and limiting, it can help to distance yourself from it by going outside for a walk and connecting to nature. By spending time slowing your pace your senses can really take in what is around you, your breathing will slow and you will find your attention is focused on the here and now. This gives you a chance to clear your mind and start looking at what is going on in your self-talk.

What you will start to notice is the feelings and thinking patterns that come up for you, it might be things like “I must not fail”, “I feel like a fake”, or downplaying the success you have had with thoughts like “I was just lucky”, or “it was no big deal”. It might help to find someone to walk with who will listen and possibly offer a different perspective to your thinking.

Tap into the Positive

Once you become aware of your negative thinking patterns, it is time to start treating yourself differently. One way could be to start looking for positive things around you and tap into your positive emotions. On a day-to-day basis we experience positives as well as negatives, however it is the negatives we tend to ruminate on. When you are out walking you can start looking for all the gifts nature provides such as the wonderful scenery and beautiful flowers around us at this time of year.

Alternatively, you might have a favourite piece of music to listen to or a film you love to watch that leaves you feeling good. As to those negative thinking patterns, you can start looking at what triggers them and how to reframe them in your mind to something more positive, for example instead of saying you’ve failed because you made a mistake or didn’t get a promotion, think of this as a learning opportunity or it wasn’t the right time for me. 

By building more positivity into our lives we can balance the negative emotions. Barbara Fredrickson, has researched emotions, particularly positive emotions for many years. Her theory, known as broaden and build says that we need to experience positive emotions to broaden our attention on the world around us, this enables us to build resources such as knowledge, skills, and social connections.  It is these skills and connections that will enable you to leave imposter syndrome behind, be kinder to yourself and find the success you deserve. 


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