Ever have the feeling that things can’t be this good?
You’re doing a job (and crushing it!); yet, you don’t feel “legit” or that you’ve earned it. There’s a little voice in the back of your mind that’s saying, “you’re a fake; you’re a phone. You shouldn’t be here!”
Rest assured you’re not alone.
What you’re experiencing is something referred to as the “imposter experience” or “impostor phenomenon.” Yes, you may have heard of something called “impostor syndrome,” but there is no such medical or clinical definition/condition as “impostor syndrome.”
Truth be told, “impostor phenomenon” was first coined by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus at Georgia State University, and her colleagues in 1978. At the time, Dr. Clance and friends wrote that the impostor phenomenon is “...a phenomenon experienced by many, and remembering that can help normalize it.”
In their landmark paper, the researchers note that, “...symptoms most frequently reported are generalized anxiety, lack of self-confidence, depression, and frustration related to the inability to meet self-imposed standards of achievement.”
Quite simply, you are a prisoner of your own mind (and its insecurities). The outside world isn’t telling you that you’re unworthy, inadequate, or fraudulent…it’s you. In other words, you are your own worst enemy. In some cases, there may be some external factors at play (work environment, family members, friends, etc.) but generally speaking, feeling like an impostor largely boils down to what’s percolating inside of you.
Fear not, what follows are several effective strategies to help you overcome the impostor phenomenon and realize your true power!
#1 Understand You’re Not Perfect
This pointer may be especially difficult to handle, especially if you were raised by high-achieving parents (who have just as high, if not higher, expectations for you). On one hand, having high goals is admirable as we should all aspire to improve each and every day. On the flip side, if your goals are so high that they lead to unrelenting bouts of mental gymnastics that prohibit you from actually taking action for fear of making even a minor mistake, then those goals and aspirations are running counter to your mental and physical performance and well-being.
Nobody likes making a mistake, especially your friendly neighborhood author.
Regardless, we’re all human, and humans are fallible. Get comfortable with the idea that at some point or another you will mess up. Maybe it’s a small snafu or a major FUBAR. Either way, every mistake is an opportunity. You can choose to either wallow in your mistake (“sink”) or learn from it and apply it to future scenarios (“swim”).
The choice is yours.
#2 Journal & Reflect
When dealing with impostor feelings, write down the negative thoughts that enter your mind when they happen as well as what you were doing when those thoughts popped up. At the end of the day (or even a few days later), go back through your journal and try to understand why those feelings of insecurity occurred.
Over time, you may be able to identify certain instigating situations (“triggers”) that bring about impostor feelings, and then you can start to take steps to prevent or combat the negative self-talk, which brings us to the next tip to help beat impostor syndrome.
#3 Change Your Tone
The impostor in all of us has popped up and whispered things like “I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never be able to get in shape.” “You’re not making progress.”
Negative self-talk is one of the biggest adversaries when it comes to getting in shape and living a healthy, fit life. If you’re always telling yourself you’re not good enough, or that you’ll always be stuck in a certain pattern, then you’ll never feel worthy or capable of achieving anything in life -- professional success, lasting relationships, weight loss, etc.
Every thought that enters your mind is a direct reflection of how you perceive yourself, which impacts how you think, act, and feel going forward.
As corny as it may sound (and uncomfortable to do in the beginning), speaking positively to yourself will do wonders to defeat the impostor lurking in the back of your mind and set you on the path to mental, physical and emotional health. Writing down these positive affirmations as well as saying them out loud is often more powerful than simply thinking about them.
When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself, “I will crush today’s workout.” “I am going to stay on track with my nutrition.” etc.
#4 Realize You’re Not Alone
Each one of us has had moments of insecurity in life where we feel unworthy or that a measure of success was “dumb luck,” including world-renowned artists, scientists, writers, and scholars. What this means is that you are not alone in the struggle to stay positive, defeat self-doubt, and stand in your power.
Instead of constantly trying to tackle impostor feelings by yourself, reach out to family, friends and loved ones who really know you. They will provide the honest feedback and encouragement you need to beat back your internal naysayer and stay on track to realize your fitness and physique goals.
Joining a community of like-minded, goal-oriented individuals can also be tremendously helpful in defeating impostor syndrome. When you sign up for 1UP Fitness App, you’ll gain access to our exclusive community where you can interact, ask advice and receive encouragement from other fitness enthusiasts, coaches, and trainers to stay motivated on your fitness journey.
#5 Reflect on Your Progress & Accomplishments
Bouts of impostor syndrome can lead us to feel that we didn’t earn our success and/or deserve the feelings of accomplishment. However, that's simply not true.
You put in the time and effort to meal prep, track your macros, log your workouts, and show up each and every day. Taking time to review your progress pictures, training journals, and nutrition logs will help you to understand and appreciate that it wasn’t “just luck” that got you to where you are today, and luck won’t be the reason you keep crushing it in the future. It was your hard work, dedication, consistency, and attitude.
The impostor experience isn’t anything new. It’s something that we’ve all dealt with before. Take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Use the tips discussed above to stay upbeat, motivated, and on track. And, if you want extra support, we’re always here for you!
- Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241–247.https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006