When I first qualified as a Clinical Hypnotherapist and had some business cards made, I felt like an impostor – what did I know, really, after all? What if someone asked me a difficult question about hypnotherapy and I couldn’t answer? Then when I launched my own practice, again I felt like someone would find out that I really didn’t know what I was talking about. I’ve just recently set up this blog – after putting off doing it for ages because I didn’t think I could do it – and now I think someone will point out that I’m doing it all wrong and I’m a fake.
This is known as Impostor Syndrome and it’s surprisingly common. Even the wonderful, qualified, experienced, knowledgeable and totally amazing hypnotherapy tutor I trained under admitted to feeling like this from time to time, and that’s just crazy! Apparently lots of famous people feel this way too. Actors, writers, TV presenters and more.
The famous writer Maya Angelou suffers from it and said:
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'"
Other sufferers include Tom Hanks, Tommy Cooper and Neil Gaiman: all incredibly talented and successful people you would think would have tons of self-confidence and self-belief. But apparently being successful really doesn’t stop you feeling that way.
Psychological research done in the early 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds and other studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.
Everyone can suffer from it from time to time. It’s when you’re trying something new, or thinking about trying something, and the voice in your head says “Whoa there, wait a minute! Who are YOU to think you can do that? Who are YOU kidding?” You’re feeling vulnerable, you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and you feel that fear, that doubt overwhelm you. Maybe you’re worried about how others will react to you trying this new thing, maybe you’re afraid they’ll laugh at you. Maybe, you think, you really ARE fooling yourself…?
But you know what? You CAN do this. You ARE good enough. You ARE NOT ALONE.
Ways to Handle It
So what you can you do to combat it, when the feeling strikes? Here are a few ideas that will help:
Recognise it and use it as a way to learn, a way to remind you that we’re all only human and it’s OK to feel this way.
Own up to it with friends and colleagues, and you’ll be surprised how many other people will admit they feel exactly the same! Like my amazing tutor – who would have guessed she felt like that?
Don’t compare yourself unfavourably to other people. Just work at being the best version of you that you can be. Who wants to be a copy of someone else? No-one else can be you, you’re unique!
Write down and keep any positive feedback you get from other people. We are very good at remembering the negatives we tell ourselves but forgetting or dismissing the good comments we get from others. Believe them!
When you try new things, sometimes you will fail. That’s how it works. If you never fail, it’s because you haven’t tried anything. But getting something wrong or being less than perfect is just you learning something, something that you can take away and improve and come back stronger and better. What IS perfect anyway? We are all imperfect and unique and we all have something to offer. Don’t let fear of “failure” stop you trying anyway. You’ll probably surprise yourself.
Recognize that no-one has all the answers. We are all learning and growing and that’s exactly how it should be. You are improving all the time and that’s always worthwhile.
Get out there and be YOU!
My name is Tina Taylor and I run Life Hypnotherapy 1-2-1, a hypnotherapy practice in Hull.