Shining a Light on Your Fears: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

by Gail Jankovski on April 25

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I’ve been dreaming about dead bodies again. Disposing of dead bodies…

Given that I have never actually killed anyone, it’s probably a little weird how often this crops up for me. I don’t have recurrent dreams per se, but I do get recurring dream themes. My dream metaphors tend to be blatant and graphic. I think my subconscious mind really wants me to pay attention to them.

Lately, my subconscious has been knocking me over the head with images around hiding things I don’t want others to see (thus the dead bodies) and frantically looking for things that I can’t find. Last night three people were impatiently waiting in expectation for me to produce a simple receipt—we all knew exactly where it was supposed to be—but damned if I could find it.

Fears, Doubts and Creativity

It’s no coincidence that these images are popping up at a time when I am involved in a creative project that is beginning to show the light of success. I know that these dreams are a reflection of my doubts and fears. Fears around exposing myself to judgment, even ridicule, have me spending my nights “burying” aspects of myself. Doubts around losing my creativity have me frantically “searching” for it as I sleep.

I read the book Fight Club years ago, and it quickly became one of my all time favorites. I love that book. So of course, I sought out and read a couple more by the same author—and I hated them. I decided that Chuck Palahniuk only had one good story in him. And that reflected, and cemented, my fears and doubts about my own creativity.

Maybe he has written good books in the meantime—and of course, my opinion about it is totally subjective anyway. But what if the well of creativity really is finite? What if I actually do become successful, and there is nothing left for me to give?

Imposter Syndrome

We think that failure is our biggest fear, and it can look that way. But in reality, the bigger fear is the fear of success. With success come expectations, not the least of which is the expectation that that success will continue. Small wins along the way can always be attributed to fluke or luck—but the fear that we will be “found out,” as unable to sustain greater success, often lurks beneath.

So the fear of obtaining a measure of success only to be exposed as unable to maintain whatever it took to get us there, or as unworthy to have obtained it at all, manifests as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome—the fear that people will find out that we have been bullshitting our way through life and really don’t know what the hell we are doing—is, if not universal, at least pervasive.

Nobel laureate Maya Angelou once said, “I have written eleven 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.’” While it is enlightening, and somewhat comforting, to realize that others (even Maya Angelou) experience similar fears, it is also a little frightening.

Invisibility

One might think that failure is the opposite of success, but in reality, it is invisibility. Invisibility is comfortable and safe, but it’s not particularly challenging or inspiring. There often comes a point, in a given situation, where comfortable just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Once the fear of remaining stuck, and invisible, outweighs our fear of success—or failure, exposure, embarrassment, and whatever else is waiting for us in the unknown—we push past and put ourselves “out there.” But still, our fears may be there, lurking in the background.

Bringing fears into our conscious awareness is key to lessening their power over us. For me, that often means paying attention to my dreams, especially those that give rise to uncomfortable feelings (as disposing of dead bodies tends to do). Delving into our uncomfortable feelings can be confronting, but there is power in it.

Shame and Worth

Imposter syndrome and fears that arise around success and failure are often manifestations of deep feelings of unworthiness. Gremlins picked up in childhood, still running in the background. So our innate and inherent worth is forgotten, and we can be plagued by vague feelings of shame.

Is it any wonder that many of us fear success? That we fear the exposure of our shame and unworthiness to the world? We sometimes decide that remaining invisible is the better choice and self-sabotage our efforts.

But what we fail to realize is that we are born worthy. There is nothing we have to achieve or prove in order to enjoy that worthiness, even if we have allowed our true worth to become buried under a lifetime of perceived mistakes, failures, and self-recrimination. We can start now, in this moment, remembering and reclaiming our inherent worth and value. And we can begin to shine our own unique light on the world.

Fears, doubts and limiting beliefs tend to thrive in the darkness. By shining a light on them, we begin to loosen their hold on us. The simple act of acknowledging our fears to ourselves is the first step to challenging them. Going a step further and acknowledging them here, for the world to see, is even more empowering.

There is freedom in that. If we have nothing to hide, then perhaps we have nothing to fear.

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Gail Jankovski

Gail is a certified hypnotist, life coach, and aspiring writer and poet. Her approach to personal development is pragmatic: baby steps are OK—and small changes can add up to big rewards. She also keeps busy as an admin assistant, wife, and mom to three grown children.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rhonda Swan April 25, 2016 at 9:47 pm

Really interesting what you have to say here lovely lady. Yes, fear absolutely keeps us from being successful..even the fear of being successful.

Great job here. Keep up the good work and live unstoppable!

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