A negative mindset can trap us in imposter syndrome. An empowering mindset can free us from it.
Let’s start with defining what “mindset” means. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term mindset as “a mental attitude or inclination.” An attitude is a thought or feeling, and you have a choice about your attitudes – when to lean into specific attitudes to serve your purpose or your goal.
There are a number of theories related to Mindsets, and even more describing various iterations of the term. From Carol Dweck’s Fixed and Growth mindsets to Stephen Covey’s Scarcity and Abundance mindsets, there have been several theories on which mindset one must have to achieve the greatest success.
I find some of these mindsets binary – they appear to be set up in, and further specific judgements. It is as if each theory works by setting up a “bad” and “good” mindset, and that changing your mindset is as easy.
From my perspective, none of these are right or wrong – they all serve a purpose. The primary question I ask myself and my clients when discussing mindsets, is: What is pragmatically going to serve you?
I instinctually have a “negative mindset” or a set of negative attitudes. While it may be unpopular, this negativity manifests as my natural caution, and ability to see how a system can work more efficiently. These are traits that have served me well in certain instances in my past. Growing up, it helped protect me from danger and higher risk activities. It helped me question disruptive people or malicious influences in my life. It defended me from outside threats.
The problem I recognized several years ago with the negative mindset is that it also allowed for internal attacks. It created my “Imposter Monster” – the negative voice in my head challenging my self-worth and self-confidence. This, in turn, created cycles of self-sabotage and fear of failure. To combat the Imposter Syndrome I was facing, I had to build what I call the “Empowering Mindset.”
The Empowering Mindset is the set of attitudes you can lean into when you know you need to switch from a negative to a positive mindset dependent on a specific situation. I view it similar to an Abundance Mindset or a Growth Mindset, with a little more flexibility built in.
I was in the midst of climbing the corporate ladder when I first noticed my Imposter Monster. I was not achieving a sense of success or happiness at each advancement, but instead a sense of anxiety. There were so many times I wanted to switch out of my career and transition to something new, but the Imposter Monster often crept in. It would whisper negative and unhelpful thoughts: that I could never switch careers, that I could not achieve any other success elsewhere because I was not good enough, that I was “lucky” to be in these roles and I needed to just stay.
I developed techniques to beat the monster back by taking some actions, developing routines, and eventually forming strong habits.
Here are some of the daily habits I created in order to make the switch. I still do these, every day, and I recommend them to my clients to help create the Empowering Mindset and find ways to lean into it when they need it.
5 Daily Habits to Challenge the Imposter Monster
1) State your Powerful Truths
There is a great deal of power in making a positive statement, about yourself.
We all have times when we reject a positive statement about ourselves, whether we or someone else states it. The goal is to find a statement that will combat what the Imposter Monster is saying that we deeply know to be false.
Positive truths about yourself should be your first line of defense against the Imposter Monster. They can be written on a post-it next to your computer. Or you can just remember it. No matter which statement you choose and how you choose to remind yourself of it, be sure to say it out loud each day.
Here are some examples of positive truths to recite to yourself:
“I am worthy and needed.”
“Done can be perfect too.”
“I know how to be successful.”
Find a factual and positive response to your Impostor Monster that resonates with you and repeat it, write it, post it, and engage with it daily.
2) Talk to your Internal Advocate
An “Internal Advocate” is the voice in your head that is full of praise and support for all that you do. It can be a person from history, one that is present day, someone you personally know or someone you do not.
Your Internal Advocate promotes your growth by telling you how great you are and helping to build your confidence in doing uncomfortable tasks that may move you forward towards that growth.
The Imposter Monster is notorious for coming out and preventing you from growth and getting to your goals. Create a different, more positive voice that will help promote what you are trying to achieve. The Internal Advocate can be that great voice – an ally and a champion against the Imposter Monster.
A daily practice is to speak to your internal advocate, especially when negative feelings brought on by the Imposter Monster creep in.
Here is some sample dialogue that could be going on:
|Imposter Monster’s voice||Internal Advocate’s voice|
|“You are lucky to have this job”||“They are the LUCKY ones to have you!”|
|“Don’t speak up. You may sound stupid.”||“Say what’s on your mind! You know your stuff and they need to hear you!”|
|“If you try to go for that promotion, they will discover you are a fraud.”||“It’s about time they recognized you for a promotion! You so deserve it so go for it!!”|
3) Commit to a daily mindfulness practice
I define mindfulness as time focused on one task only and being sure that I am committing to it in the present moment. For some, the practice is the same each day. For me, I have found that variety is more helpful, so I practice a different mindfulness activity each day.
Regardless of the activity I choose, I pause, focus on being grounded and present, and think of nothing else but the mindfulness activity I have for the day.
In the past, I had found that my Imposter Monster often shows up when I feel most stressed, tired, and overcommitted. So, to counteract the go-go-go mentality in my life, one where the Monster especially thrived, I had to learn to slow down.
By incorporating a daily habit of a mindfulness practice, I am able to clear my mind and refocus my attention and energy on the other important activities of the day. And that re-focus and added energy provides me with an overall feeling of empowerment at the end of the day because I am able to keep balanced and controlled.
Here are some quick mindfulness activities that you can incorporate into your daily routine:
Choose an activity, or set of activities, and try to commit to a mindfulness activity for 10 minutes daily.
4) Lean into your Strengths
This one will require some prep work. First, you will need to figure out your Strengths. Understanding and accepting our strengths helps us create positive language that we can use to combat the negative language spoken through the Imposter Monster.
You can take the time and list them yourself, you can incorporate feedback from friends and family, or you can take Gallup’s Clifton Strengths Assessment.
After you know your strengths, it is time to put them into practice.
Think about your Strengths daily. Choose what strength you want to lean into to accomplish one task. That’s the habit. Be intentional.
5) Write it down!
Writing can be a powerful method to reinforcing the Empowering Mindset. Through the process of writing, we are able to declutter our minds and put our thoughts down in a form that may make them easier to understand.
Journaling is a great way to do this. It also will solidify the 4 habits listed above.
It only takes 5 minutes, at the end of each day, to answer these 4 quick prompts:
As I started learning about my strengths and understanding my own greatness and power, I developed the Empowering Mindset and made the formal switch to a career of executive coaching.
Identify your Imposter Monster and instill daily habits to create the Empowering Mindset. Then see how you grow! And if you need more help, reach out to me.
Aashi Arora, MHA, ACC