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Part One – The Inner Battle – Overcoming Imposter Syndrome And Embracing Your Authentic Self

Written by: Mahji Quadir, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Mahji Quadir

Have you ever achieved something remarkable, only to be haunted by self-doubt? How about talking yourself out of something because you don’t feel ‘good enough’?

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Despite your triumphs and successes, you might find yourself in an inner battle with a nagging sense of unworthiness. But here's the truth: you have the power to rewrite this narrative.


In this first part, we explore the intricate and often silent struggle of imposter syndrome shedding light on six thinking errors that contribute to it. We will provide tips and practises to improve yourself self-awareness and break away from thoughts which hinder your personal growth.


While imposter syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis or something we are born with, extensive research shows its widespread impact on individuals from all walks of life. From students to professionals, from artists to CEOs – a reminder that we’re not alone.


My invitation to you as you read this is to “Embrace the journey of unmasking your imposter syndrome, for within the depths of self-discovery lies the key to unlocking your authentic greatness."


Your journey towards self-empowerment begins here.


1. Conquering self-doubt


In the journey of life, we all face hidden battles. One of the most challenging ones is imposter syndrome. Regardless of our achievements or abilities, a whispering doubt can creep in, making us question our own worthiness.

  • The student's dilemma: Imagine a student who consistently achieves top grades and praise from teachers. Yet, deep down, they can't help but think, "What if I'm just lucky this time?" They might feel anxious about upcoming exams, worried they won't meet their own standards or that of their parents. Their parents want a career for them, they don’t want. This student is grappling with imposter syndrome, doubting their abilities despite their proven track record.

  • The rising star at work: Visualise a professional who climbs the career ladder, receiving promotions and recognition. However, every achievement is met with a nagging thought: "Do I really deserve this? What if they find out I'm not as skilled as they think?" This individual's journey is tainted by imposter syndrome, dimming their excitement and preventing them from fully embracing their success.

Imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon, makes us feel like we're posing as something we're not. It tricks us into believing we're less skilled, less intelligent, or less deserving than others think or even how we think about ourselves. It's a fear that chips away at us – a fear of falling short, a fear of the unknown, or even a fear of our own greatness.


2. Unmasking imposter syndrome


Research reveals that imposter syndrome affects approximately 70% of individuals at some point in their lives, transcending boundaries and impacting everyone. This silent and pervasive struggle casts a shadow over our self-perception, leading us to doubt our abilities and question our inherent worth.


The inner critic, a hallmark of imposter syndrome, waits in the shadows of our thoughts, ready to strike whenever we begin to feel self-assured. It sows seeds of uncertainty and inadequacy, regardless of our track record of accomplishments and successes.

  • The supportive friend's inner turmoil: Envision a supportive friend who's always there for others, offering a listening ear and wise advice. Yet, imposter syndrome gnaws at their self-esteem. They doubt their ability to truly help, fearing that their contributions are insignificant compared to others.

  • The new parent: Imagine a new parent navigating the challenges of raising a child. Despite their efforts and the joy they bring to their child's life, imposter syndrome creeps in. They wonder, "Am I doing this right?" and worry that they're not living up to the ideal image of a perfect parent.

As imposter syndrome takes hold, we inadvertently shy away from promising opportunities and downplay our achievements. Our pursuit of external approval traps us in a cycle, eroding our confidence and self-belief.


3. The emotional toll of feeling like a fraud


The emotional impact of imposter syndrome is far-reaching, taking a toll on our mental well-being. Studies have linked imposter syndrome to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. It's a cycle that traps us in negative self-talk, gradually rewriting the narrative of our lives to echo the belief – perhaps we aren't deserving of the life we've built.

  • The empathetic volunteer: Imagine an empathetic volunteer who tirelessly contributes to community projects. Yet, imposter syndrome shadows their efforts. They fear that they’re not making a significant impact, worrying that their actions are superficial and won’t bring about meaningful change.

Beyond the workplace, imposter syndrome can affect our personal relationships, casting doubt on even the most loving and genuine connections.


Meet Emily and James, a couple deeply in love and seemingly perfect for each other. They share dreams, support each other's goals, and enjoy a warm connection that friends often envy. However, beneath the surface, imposter syndrome has woven its threads into their relationship. How?


Emily, a talented marketing executive, whenever she received praise finds herself plagued by self-doubt despite her remarkable achievements. This doubt seeps into her romantic life, making her question why someone as accomplished as James would love her. As their relationship deepens, her imposter syndrome casts a shadow over their intimate moments, making it challenging for her to fully accept the love and admiration James freely offers.


On the other side, James, an accomplished writer, battles his own version of imposter syndrome. Despite his published works and critical acclaim, he can't shake the feeling that people are overestimating his talents. This self-doubt seeps into his interactions with Emily. He becomes hesitant to share his writing drafts or discuss his creative process, fearing it will expose him as a fraud.


The emotional toll of imposter syndrome on their relationship becomes evident. Their communication starts to falter as each of them holds back their true feelings. Intimacy becomes tinged with uncertainty, and their deep connection begins to fray under the weight of self-doubt.


Emily and James are not alone. Imposter syndrome can quietly infiltrate even the most loving relationships, making partners doubt their worthiness of each other's love and causing them to withhold their true selves. Yet, by shedding light on this emotional struggle and working together to navigate its complexities, Emily and James can break free from its grip. They can create a space where vulnerability is celebrated, achievements are acknowledged, and love can flourish without the looming shadows of self-doubt.


In recognizing the power of imposter syndrome within relationships, we empower ourselves to nurture connections that are authentic, supportive, and free from unwarranted self-criticism.


4. Breaking free from the chains of imposter syndrome – The 6 thinking errors


To rise above imposter syndrome's grip, we must confront and become aware of common thinking errors which fuel feelings of inadequacy:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: This trap pushes us into viewing ourselves as either flawless victors or complete failures, leaving no room for the shades of progress and growth that lie in between.

  2. Negative self-labelling: We unintentionally reinforce our insecurities by referring to ourselves as "frauds" or "incompetent," unknowingly engraving these labels into our self-concept.

  3. Unrealistic expectations: The weight of unrealistic expectations, marked by words like "should," "must," or "can't," fuels an unrelenting fear of failing, robbing us of our peace and spontaneity.

  4. Magnification and minimization: Through this lens, our errors balloon into oversized mistakes, while our accomplishments shrivel into mere coincidences, perpetuating the cycle of self-doubt.

  5. Predicting failure: We pull away from challenges, convinced that we're destined for failure before even attempting, limiting our potential within an ever-shrinking comfort zone.

  6. Discounting positive feedback: Compliments and acknowledgments are brushed aside as insignificant, making it nearly impossible for the light of our achievements to pierce self-doubt.


To break these chains, we must step into our own power, with self-compassion. Recognise that we are not defined by self-doubt. Soften the harsh judgments we place upon ourselves and challenge these negative thoughts, to reclaim our self-worth. I would ask you to consider whether the advice you may give your friends, colleagues is the same advice you take yourself.


The support of mentors, friends, or therapists can provide us with the support we need in this journey, offering perspectives that will change our path and build our courage.


As we rewrite the script that our inner critic has penned for us, we step into the light of self-belief and unleash the authentic brilliance that resides within - our inner champion.


Moment of reflection

  1. When do you notice the strongest feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy? Is there a pattern or specific situation that triggers these emotions?

  2. How do you typically respond to compliments or recognition for your achievements? Do you tend to downplay your accomplishments or dismiss positive feedback as insincere?

  3. Are there specific thinking patterns or negative self-talk that you consistently engage in when facing new challenges or opportunities? How might challenging and reframing these thoughts contribute to overcoming imposter syndrome?


A five-minute daily practise – A bank of brilliance


Break the Cycle! One powerful exercise for flipping the script on imposter syndrome is to create a “Bank of Brilliance” Book. This journal will serve as a source for your achievements, compliments, and moments of personal growth.

Bank of Brilliance Prompts table.

1. Get a notebook or journal dedicated solely to this exercise.

2. Set aside 10 minutes time each day to write in your journal.

  • It could be in the morning to set a positive tone for the day or

  • in the evening to reflect on your achievements.

3. Write down at least three things each day

  • that you are proud of, no matter how big or small.

  • It could be completing a task at work, receiving positive feedback, or overcoming a personal challenge.


4. Add any compliments or recognition you receive from others to the journal.

  • This will serve as a reminder of the impact you have on those around you.

At work you could have a folder where you keep emails of these moments, or on your mobile phone for photos or screenshots. As you build this habit of success and get better, use the prompts to start building your bank with more moments which matter.


Reflect on your past successes and strengths regularly. Whenever you start to doubt yourself take a look at this Bank of Brilliance.


Summary


Imposter syndrome is something many people feel, but it doesn't decide how valuable you are. It's like a mind game that fuels doubt yourself and stop yourself from growing.


But now that you know about it, you can rise above it. Imposter syndrome might make you question what you've done, but it can't change your real accomplishments. It’s like an old idea that doesn't fit anymore.


Let go of it and embrace who you're becoming. Accept your weaknesses, face your fears, and connect with others who've felt the same way. Change your story and truly be yourself. Remember, every good thing you achieve is something you really earned.


By understanding imposter syndrome better, you can change your life, feel better about yourself, and become more confident. It's a sign you're trying new things, even if you're scared. You might have limits to what you're used to, but you can achieve more than you imagined.


Don't forget, you control your thoughts. Think positive and build a strong self-image. Step by step, you'll quiet down that inner critic voice and turning up the inner champion in you.


Remember you're the author of your story and the creator of how you see yourself. Take your time to make yourself amazing and live the life you want.


Believe in your abilities.


In Part Two, get ready to learn about listening to your inner self. It's like your secret power to beat imposter syndrome and live confidently being true to yourself.


Affirmations

  1. I am deserving of my accomplishments and successes, and I acknowledge the effort and dedication that led me here.

  2. I trust in my abilities and embrace new challenges with confidence, knowing that I have the skills to overcome obstacles.

  3. I release the need for perfection and embrace the growth that comes from making mistakes and learning from them.

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Mahji Quadir Brainz Magazine
 

Mahji Quadir, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Mahji brings 20+ years of impactful Leadership and Transformational Change Experience. As a Certified Coach of Excellence, NLP practitioner, and Agile expert, she radiates empowerment, guiding individuals to break free from cycles, rewrite narratives, and reclaim personal power.

Fuelled by her own journey, Mahji's "Inspire to Empower" philosophy leads people towards an energized, fearless, and purposeful life, while her empathic and impactful coaching style, coupled with practical tools, achieves transformative positive change within weeks.

Through in-spirit teachings, she nurtures self-discovery, fostering growth, confidence, and resilience that balances your mindset, emotions, and overall existence. Whether navigating life's trials or seeking self-empowerment, Mahji's wisdom illuminates the path to personal liberation, authentic self-expression, and empowered living.

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