By: Dr. Grace Lee
Want to know a secret?
I have often felt like a fraud. It’s hard to shake that feeling.
If you’re like most high-achievers, chances are you’ve felt like a fraud, too. And maybe it seems like your accomplishments were born out of sheer luck, or being at the right place at the right time.
The truth is, the reason why you have these thoughts is because the more primitive “caveman-like” part of your brain, the amygdala, is sending out a split-second response to certain perceptions you have about yourself, your environment, and people around you. The rest of your body also receives this communication at a deeply primal level.
This is impostor syndrome — that nagging feeling of self-doubt, unworthiness, or the constant feeling like you’re intellectually inferior.
So you might be asking, what has poker got to do with overcoming imposter syndrome?
Outside of probability and chance, poker is a game of emotional intelligence. The game takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of winning and losing money, and the best players learn to manage their emotions effectively.
One strategy is to inject logic while playing. Players deliberately make statements to inject logic into their thinking, which calms the emotions in the amygdala, helps them get past negative emotions, and reduces emotion-driven decisions.
For example, the statement “I can’t believe I lost to the inexperienced guy” is an emotional, split-second response to a perception of yourself and your opponent. An effective logic statement to combat this could be, “Bad players have to win, it’s just variance. Just keep playing well.”
Taking a cue from poker, if you want to overcome impostor syndrome, you have to inject logic into your emotions and separate the facts from your feelings. The facts will set you free.
This means that you have to begin to live at a level of truth with yourself. Precisely what have you achieved? These are the facts, not your feelings towards them. If you look at your achievements and say “that wasn’t good enough,” it’s editorial – that’s a feeling.
When you look at the facts of your achievements, you begin to see the fruit. And when you separate the feelings of imposter syndrome and own the facts, you also start to own the real feelings associated with those achievements.
Here are four questions that you can ask yourself to inject logic and overcome impostor syndrome.
1) What are the facts today?
Be brutally honest with yourself and look at your fruits. What did you accomplish? What did you achieve? You also want to get feedback from other people on how they see you, and how they view your accomplishments. “What do you see that I have achieved?”
This is especially important if you’ve been in a long-time pattern of being sensitive to criticism and skeptical of praise. As you’re getting that feedback, as you’re collecting the facts on what’s true today, separate your feelings from that and answer the question, “What is true about my achievements today?”
2) What are my feelings today?
This question is important because when you look at your feelings today, that’s where you really take ownership of them.
For example, if it’s self-doubt or unworthiness, this is an opportunity for you to check in with yourself about why you’re feeling that way. Acknowledge the emotions that you are feeling. Write them down, because this is your body’s way of bringing it to your awareness that something is wrong.
Why are you feeling self-doubt? Why are you feeling unworthy? And then you go back to the fact and ask yourself, “Is it true? Am I unworthy? Is that really true? What else is true?”
This is a way to use your feelings as a guidepost. It’s an opportunity for you to investigate what’s working and not working.
[Related: Squash the Impostor in You]
3) What are the facts about my career?
This question is vital because it ties the imposter syndrome back to your career, your accomplishments, and what’s really important to you.
What is true about my career? Are these feelings about my career actually about my career, or is it something deeper than that? Is it related to a factual event in my career now? Or is it linked to something in my past that I haven’t dealt with yet?
More often than not, the issues we have in our careers are a reflection of the problems we have in our personal lives.
4) What are the stories that I’ve been believing?
This is a crucial question because it allows you to be vulnerable with yourself. You need to be honest about your facts, your feelings, the connection to your career, and the stories that you’ve been believing. Are those stories really true, or are they merely conditions?
The problem is if you continue to believe in those stories, even when the reality is not a reflection of what you’ve been believing, then the trajectory will go that direction. The story that you’re focused on will expand and come true.
So, bring yourself back to the facts. If you realize that you’ve believed in many stories that you’ve been telling yourself, it is time for a belief overhaul. It’s time to uproot and overcome your imposter syndrome.
Take a page from proven poker strategies and inject logic. Rewrite the stories that you’ve been believing, so you can unleash your greatness in the world and make a difference.
[Related: Secrets to Confidence for Every Woman Leader]
Dr. Grace Lee, neuroscience expert and CEO of career coaching firm Mastery Insights, helps professionals joyfully maximize their impact and potential through brain-based coaching that integrates career and life. She discusses fulfillment, meaningful purpose, and other career topics on her Career Revisionist Podcast and YouTube Channel. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out her website.