“What the heck do I know? I’m a fraud”, the voice in my head emphasized.
When I was 26 years old, I started and incorporated a residential Real Estate company. I had been a realtor since I was 24 and had a novel idea for a different kind of real estate that provided a unique fee structure setting us apart from the standard 6 or 7% other realtors charged. I got the idea from a guy who was a discount broker but didn’t offer full service to his clients. I believed I could do both, so I got my brokers license and I set out to prove it.
Starting a real estate company at my young age sounded crazy to some people but I had ambition and believed I could pull it off. Even in those days, you needed thousands of dollars to get a business like this off the ground. So, I collaborated with a friend who also was a realtor and we recruited two more brokers and incorporated in Minnesota. We opened an office in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul.
I remember setting up the office furniture in our Minneapolis office and hearing the voice in my head saying, “you’re not ready to run a business. Who do you think you are?” Those thoughts and feelings continued to create self-doubt. I began thinking I’m a fake, a fraud. Even when the business started to take off, I still felt like I wasn’t qualified and was fooling people. In those years you would say I lacked confidence, which was true, but now we have a name for it… Imposter Syndrome.
Despite early success, despite my skills and abilities, and the affirmation from trusted friends, in my mind I believed it’s only a matter of time before everyone discovers that I’m “faking it.”
For a couple years we did really well. We hired a couple more realtors and sold a lot of homes. About 2 years later, the economy went into a serious recession and interest rates went skyrocketing. It became very difficult to sell homes. These were things out of my control, but the Imposter Syndrome kicked in. I felt like a failure and never should have had the crazy idea to start a company that I wasn’t good enough to run. Who the heck did I think I was to start a company, the critical self talk repeated in my head.
For years after, I continued to question in my mind, my abilities, and qualifications to pursue another serious venture. I’ve had other careers since, including the pastor of several churches, and the owner of a successful LLC. In each venture I struggled with feeling like an imposter, even though I was accomplished and successful.
I never shared these thoughts with anyone, but deep down I felt like an imposter. But, in 2007 I began researching ways to eliminate limiting beliefs. I definitely had limiting beliefs which help feed Imposter Syndrome. Over time, with enough evidence that I could logically prove to myself that I wasn’t an imposter, but rather, I was well trained and accomplished in my field.
I have found that this syndrome affects many successful people. Cornell University did a series of experiments called the Dunning – Kruger effect. They found hypothetically that people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability. They found the opposite with people who were genuinely good at their jobs, but felt they were inadequate. They were the ones to have the most self doubt and undervalue their abilities and talents. In fact, people who are swindlers and boldly claim fake qualifications and use their charm to move up the ladder, rarely feel any self doubt. They often have a sense of entitlement.
So how did I overcome this syndrome? As I stated before, some just from confidence acquired from practice and positive results. My research also led me to clinical hypnotherapy and other methods of reprogramming the subconscious, such as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). When I thought about hypnosis, I imagined the entertaining kind of stage hypnosis, which I didn’t want any part of. I started taking courses in hypnotherapy through an accredited college of hypnotherapy. I also practiced with other students and my instructor. I was encouraged to continue, but again the Imposter popped up in my head. But this time I decided to try hypnotherapy for eliminating the subconscious blocks that were causing me to feel like an Imposter. The hypnotherapist helped me to write a new script in my subconscious mind. A well-trained hypnotherapist can guide you into a hyper suggestible state, where you are acutely focused on the presenting issue, in my case, limiting beliefs and self-doubt. After a couple sessions and continuing self-hypnosis (more on this later) I began to feel more and more inner confidence and less and less self-doubt. I still on occasion feel the Imposter trying to creep in, but I now have the inner confidence and self-respect to observe when that is happening and look at it, but not let it take over.
If you’re not ready to try one on one hypnotherapy with a professional, you might want to try self-hypnosis using professionally recorded audio downloads that are available in many categories and hundreds of titles. I personally still listen to them to remain confident and calm without lingering anxiety.
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Here is a link to a download for Imposter Syndrome