Back in the 1970s researchers who were studying the ‘new’ subject of high achieving females identified a fascinating phenomenon. They called it the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and it was leading edge stuff for that decade. Even more fascinating is the fact that many, many people suffer from this syndrome, driven partly by the ever-growing anxiety epidemic. That nagging doubt when you are first given management responsibility in your job; that fear that they’ll soon spot you are bluffing and all will end in disgrace; the ever present self-doubt which can be debilitating if taken to extremes. For some, it is extremely difficult to accept their promotion or their recognition, and even those who are given awards can often feel as though they are really fakes. Somewhere deep inside is that feeling that you are not good enough and pretty soon somebody is going to spot it and you’ll be found out.
Any tool in the right hands can be very useful, if applied in the correct way. So a certain degree of self-doubt may be useful if spurring us on to be the best that we can be. Using that in a positive way can be extremely powerful, especially if applied at the right time – perhaps when assuming new responsibilities in the workplace or when accepting a leadership role in a team of some sort.
The real art in the use of that self-doubt and anxiety as a useful tool is in attaining the fine balance between being arrogantly over-confident and being frozen into submission by fear. So deciding exactly what to do in a potentially difficult future scenario can be most helpful. We should all be grateful that there are realistic optimists whose job it is to have a think about what may go wrong, and to have some plans in place as to what to do if that happens.
Perhaps an important point to grasp here is that we can all become very good at whatever we rehearse, so if your concern about future events leaves you rooted to the spot, rigid and incapable, you are probably rehearsing failure, and dwelling on the possible results and consequences if you do fail in your task. An early examination of how useful your fears actually are in any given situation may be the best route to go, as it is always possible to find a more useful thought than the type of self-doubt which prevents you from taking action and solving problems.
Being stretched is an important facet of everyday life for each of us. Being overstretched, and constantly building goals that are simply not achievable will result in regular failure. Equally damaging perhaps is the prospect of building a life that is safe, cocooned and not the least bit challenging – good for a few days to have pressures removed, but the lack of achievement will quickly take its toll on the best of us.
The speed with which we can re-establish confidence after a setback is a measure of our resilience and it is that which will suffer if that self-doubt takes over and wins. Perhaps the most successful strategy is to imagine what solutions you would put in place in the event of something going wrong. Once all that is planned, sit back and rehearse your own success – you’ll do well, and you won’t have to worry any more. Learn how to take time and be in the moment with the Better app. Gain a deep understanding of your own real emotional needs, find out where your needs are being met, but importantly discover the ways in which you can better your resilience, your wellbeing, your health and your happiness.
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