Heather Hansen

Imposter Syndrome Is a Lie

When my clients tell me that they suffer from “Imposter Syndrome”, I tell them Imposter Syndrome is a lie. And it quite literally is. My clients come to me because they want to learn to advocate for themselves, their dreams, their ideas and their needs. They want to learn to ask for what they want, in a way that they’re most likely to get it. And I can help, but we have no time for Imposter Syndrome.

If you haven’t heard of Imposter Syndrome, it’s  a psychological pattern where one is afraid of being exposed as a fraud. It shows itself as a fear of doing hard things, because the person who has to do those things is afraid. So she blames her failure to act on Imposter Syndrome and then goes on to feel even more like an imposter. Good stuff.

I teach people to advocate for themselves with the tools of an advocate, and one of those tools is words. Words have enormous power. They hold energy and their meanings matter. We have to know what they mean in order to use them well. Imposter means “a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain”. No wonder Imposter Syndrome is such a problem. Imposter Syndrome is a lie. In the basest terms, it’s lying. But when my clients get ready to advocate for what they want they aren’t lying–they’re aspiring.

My clients don’t have Imposter Syndrome–they have Aspiring Syndrome. Aspiring is directing one’s hopes or ambitions towards become a specified type of person. They aren’t pretending to be someone else. They’re hoping to become the best version of themselves. And that is a good thing. One of my favorite quotes is from Michelangelo, about his famous statue of David. He said that when carving that statue he “saw the angel in the marble and carved until he set him free”. You know there’s an angel in your marble. You know it, you see it, and you want to set her free. That’s Aspiring Syndrome. And it’s a good thing.

You have to aspire in order to advocate. In my book The Elegant Warrior I talk about the difference between faking it until you make it and showing it until you grow it. Faking it=Imposter. Showing it=Aspiring. When you are faking it you feel like a liar, and then it’s no wonder you think you’re an imposter. You sort of are. But when you’re showing what you want to be, you’re not an imposter. You’re simply on your way.

Stop telling yourself you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome. or that you’re trying to overcome Imposter Syndrome. That’s an excuse, it’s beneath you, and Imposter Syndrome is a lie. You’re not an imposter. You’re simply aspiring to be the best version of yourself. Aspiring Syndrome is not a lie. It’s the truth of who we are–always carving away at the marble, always trying to set the angel inside free.

Heather Hansen

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