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How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Therapies that can help to heal
Man looks in a mirror

This is one of a series of brief articles, outlining how therapies offered by Rose C Jiggens of True Self Systems, may be helpful for themes that people commonly bring to therapy sessions.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

With Imposter Syndrome no matter how objectively high our achievements are, we will feel that we don’t deserve them. Studies show* imposter syndrome often co-exists with depression, anxiety and low self esteem. It can be experienced in all genders though some studies show it to be more common in women; imposter syndrome has been found to be more common in African, Asian and Latino American college students too.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with TEB:

TEB uses touch to support the healing of developmental trauma. With developmental trauma our bodies may never have known “feeling safe”. Imposter syndrome may be what is known as a “defensive accommodation” – a way of being, thought, belief or even a physiological response – that emerges early in childhood to keep us safe in adverse conditions.

While imposter syndrome is evidently maladaptive in adult life, as a child hyper-vigilance, perfectionism or always second guessing ourselves may have been an essential way of coping in adverse circumstances. The adverse circumstances may include the limited availability (emotional or otherwise) of our primary care givers when we were young, childhood trauma, poor schooling experiences, adverse economic conditions or racial discrimination.

The causes will be important to talk through in order to fully grasp the root causes of imposter syndrome. In addition to talking – what’s happening in the body and nervous system of someone with imposter syndrome – may be important to address as well. This is where TEB comes in: it’s hard to talk our way out of survival defences learned before we could even talk. Survival defences are ingrained deep into the functioning of our kidney adrenals, brainstem, HPA axis and other ares of our bodies.

Using talking AND the TEB 7 point protocol of touch: greater narrative understanding can take root in a physiology that slowly learns to settle into a deep parasympathetic rest state, supported by co-regulating presence and attachment informed therapy.

Click here for more information on TEB sessions.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome With Family Constellations:

Sometimes the root causes of imposter syndrome may not be apparent, this is when we might turn to a constellation to help. It is my experience from working with many clients with imposter syndrome, that the trauma of past generations might lead to anxiety and imposter syndrome in the present day. This can happen even when we are not directly aware of or impacted by the trauma because it happened several generations ago.

Examples from my practice include uncovering the experience of a great grand parent who emigrated and found themselves subject to racial discrimination in a new land. Or being the only living child of parents who had a number of miscarriages, leading to an unconscious burdensome sense of never being enough as the client unconsciously tried to live and make up for the lives of the children lost.

Family constellations are very helpful when there is no obvious cause for our suffering. Causes that lie further back in our ancestry may not have been addressed by therapies that only focus on our life since we were born. Identifying these root cause can often help imposter syndrome heal, supported by other therapies from my practice.

Click here for more information on Family Constellations sessions.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome with Trauma Sensitive Breathwork:

Imposter Syndrome can sneak up just when we need to be our best: whether thats to give a presentation or attend an important interview or meeting. In trauma sensitive breathwork – supported by my co-regulating presence – I will teach you tools that develop greater agency in regards to the trauma responses of your body.

The part of us that feels afraid often is very young – thats why I also call this work inner child healing. Often we can unconsciously be in an abusive relationship with our inner child parts, wishing they would just get out of the way so that we can get on with the project of out adult life.

These inner child or trauma parts can respond well when we turn towards them and find out what they need. We do this by using our breath as a gateway into our bodies, helping to develop our skills of interoception. Developing our interoceptive skills has been shown in studies to have positive benefits for our mental and emotional health.

In Trauma Sensitive Breathwork: you will be guided in practices such as Orienting, Pendulation and HRV Breathing, to bring about healing for your inner child and greater agency to self soothe and to calm, just when you need it most!

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome using the Wheel of Consent:

A core facet of imposter syndrome is that we feel others will judge and view us negatively, if only they knew who we truly are. From this core belief, a great deal of our conscious and unconscious effort, is engaged in actions (or defensive accommodations) designed to prevent the shame and humiliation of exposure.

This results in many of our daily actions, words, behaviours – all being shaped by our perception (real or otherwise) of what other people want or demand of us. From this perspective, imposter syndrome can also been seen as a form of masking – or perhaps a fawn response – that evolved as an essential survival mechanism at one time or another to keep us safe.

The wheel of consent alone won’t heal these wounds: its an embodied psycho-educational relationship agreement model, rather than a healing therapy. However in my therapist toolkit I have found it to be an essential teaching that aids recovery from imposter syndrome.

Where imposter syndrome (and the fawn response) essentially leads to a loss of self, the wheel of consent (WoC) can guide us home to our true self. It does this using a simple solo and relational touch practice, framed by a relationship agreement model.

The combination of WoC model and embodied practice, helps us learn to notice, trust, value and communicate both desires and limits and boundaries too. We do this in the practice zone of a workshops, sessions or with a friend or partner. What we learn in these practice sessions filters out into all aspects of life helping us be more authentic in all places from the bedroom to the boardroom!

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you are interested in sessions, workshops – or would just like to respond with your own experiences of overcoming imposter syndrome – you are welcome to contact me using the methods described on this website.

* The Journal of Mental Health and Clinical Psychology: Commentary: Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Imposter Syndrome: A Systematic Review

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