Articles, Mind & Body

On Presence & Overcoming The Impostor Syndrome


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#MUNIonThis: When we think of presence, we may often attribute this to mindfulness in the moment. However, the downside of trying to be “mindful”, is that we oftentimes overthink things to the point of analysis paralysis or psyching ourselves out of otherwise meaningful pursuits.

But true presence is recognizing moments of strength in the everyday. It is not a big end goal to which we work towards. It’s about finding these moments in daily life that can help you overcome your biggest challenges and owning them.

The fear of being “found out”

In my own line of work, I am so convinced about my pursuit for a more conscious and compassionate world. Many times though, I feel unworthy of recognition for what we do, or when pushed to the limelight, I falter and feel that I don’t represent the cause as well as I should because I’m too stuck in my own head, thinking that I haven’t done enough and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

But as social psychologist, famed TED talk speaker and author of Presence, Amy Cuddy says that we convince others with our presence, and to convince others, we must convince ourselves. And in the words from her famed TED talk on body language, “Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Fake it ’til you become it.”

“The general feeling that we don’t belong—that we’ve fooled people into thinking we’re more competent and talented than we actually are—is not so unusual. Most of us have experienced it, at least to some degree. It’s not simple stage fright or performance anxiety; rather, it’s the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief that we have been given something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve and that at some point we’ll be exposed. Psychologists refer to it as impostor syndrome, the impostor phenomenon, impostor fears, and impostorism.”

– Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges 

The irony about the impostor syndrome is that those who feel it the most are actually those who have already achieved something. And for these individuals, accolades and awards just increase the disparity between the perception of outsiders, and what they truly feel on the inside, further increasing their feelings of being a fraud.

However, when we read and interpret what others may be thinking too much (although it is likely they weren’t thinking of your “faults” or “errors” nearly as much as you were, because after all, we are our worst critics), we lose the connection to we really think and value for ourselves. We worry too much that people are scrutinizing us at every moment that we forget to be truly present and bring our best selves to these moments where we can leave impactful impressions on others.

So what can we do?

According to Cuddy, impostorism pays you hush money. It makes you think, no one needs to know, and again pushing you further into that hole of hiding behind what you truly feel out of fear of exposing your vulnerability, weakness or uncertainty.

“But the more we are aware of our anxieties, the more we communicate about them, and the smarter we are about how they operate, the easier they’ll be to shrug off the next time they pop up.”

– Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self To Your Biggest Challenges 

I come across many people doing lots of great work and pursuing so many worthy causes, and I would hate to have them feeling this way, because I know that if unmanaged, this feeling could lead one to just go into hiding completely and cease pursuing valuable work.

Presence.jpgWe think that we aren’t good enough, that we’re not creating enough of an impact, or that we’re always still figuring shit out even after putting in a good amount of time and energy in our endeavor. But as award-winning author Neil Gaiman shared with Cuddy, a conversation with his friend Gene Wolfe revealed to him that, “You never figure out how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you’re on”.

Even highly accomplished people struggle to put out good work, even when they’ve accomplished much in the past already. We just don’t hear these stories. We only hear the successes, but perhaps when we create a space where experimentation, failure and learning is not just accepted but admired, where vulnerability and honesty is recognized as courage, then we can better overcome the feelings of being a fraud, and focus on being truly present to deliver our best work, and recognizing that you deserve to be here.

Did this article hit a nerve? What are the biggest blocks you have in facing challenges? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or…

Join us for the next MUNI Meetup : motivation on June 9, 2016, 6-9PM at A Space Makati, and we’ll take you through some things to muni on to motivate you, hook you up with others who share your cause, have a discussion with handpicked group heads, and encourage an open exchange of thoughts and feelings.:) Pre-register for your slot here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jen Horn is a wanderer, writer, and founder of MUNI, a community for mindful living.

She empowers people to think critically, to ask questions about how they shop, eat and travel, to live more socially and environmentally mindful lives. She writes about psychology, wellness and the environment, and loves diving and bike-commuting.

Follow her at @nomadmanager.