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Impostor & Sensitivity

This blog post is related to our podcast MeWe, saison 1, episode 5: Impostor & Sensitivity

This fifth episode of MeWe is dedicated to all persons living with a high level of sensitivity and feeling illegitimate in the different areas of their lives.

In the last episode, we shared and learned about how our ego can limit us because of many fears and projections. We introduced the impostor syndrome, one of the manifestations of this timorous ego. Let’s dig into it!

What is the impostor syndrome?

The impostor syndrome is “the tendency to discount or diminish obvious evidence of our ability”.

It manifest with a mix of thinking like an impostor (I’m not good enough, I have managed this but it was nothing compared to others … ) and feeling like an impostor ( feeling of being illegitimate feeding a mix of anxiety and fear)

This syndrome was unveiled in the late 1970s by two psychologists Pauline Clance and Susanne Imes after studying 150 graduated women working in prestigious jobs. All these women were recognized for their skills but they thought they were overestimated and feared that they would be "uncovered" and that others would find that they were not as competent as they thought they were.

Women are slightly more touched by this syndrome but overall 70% of the population have experienced at least once in their life this feeling of being illegitimate.

From an impostor life to an impostor episode

This syndrome has roots in historical, educational and societal bias. It is not an illness nor a fatality, thus it is possible to talk yourself down faster and get back to a normal level of self-esteem. How? by reframing your thoughts and feelings.

In coaching sessions, we learn to think like a “non impostor” bringing benevolence and stepping back from competition, perfection and performance. We slow down, stepping out of autopilot mode and reprogramme the mind with supporting beliefs on ourselves and situations we face. If you want to learn more about shadows and ego work you can listen to episode 3 and 4.

The feeling part is also very important as emotions are very powerful to embody a new state of being. That’s where the power of the mind comes in, as we do not need to feel confident to act confident. Your mind doesn’t make the difference. Fact it until you make it become a “new normal” after some time. And of course celebrating is a way to support our gifts.

Some other antidotes

  • stop comparing yourself to others; center yourself

  • be less perfectionist and more indulgent with yourself and your potential mistakes

  • cultivate self-esteem and self-confidence: learn to appreciate yourself without internal or external conditions.

Emotional consciousness

Impostor syndrome is feeding mainly the family of fears that enables us to anticipate any threats to our security. There are different intensities from worry, anxiety, fear, panic or terror.

In our case, there is not really a physical security threat; it is more about the emotional security and the associated shame: fear of failure, fear of being exposed, fear of not being up to it, of not getting there … Losing face is the backbone.

The issue is that these fears develops 2 types of strategies that are self-sabotaging:

- Always do more: the overinvestment which seems essential to compensate for the appalling lack of skills at work or in our personal projects.

- To do a little less: underinvestment is a formidable strategy of failure which makes it possible to justify a possible failure. We dismiss our ideas, creativity and dreams.

Understanding how emotions are triggered and how to react bring back a sense of mastery. Consciousness itself is a strategy. It helps to understand the emotional experiences. We don't want to remove or cut our emotions, we need strategies that help us respond in a useful and constructive way. In nonviolent communication we use a lot of auto-empathy for that. It is a self soothing ritual where the emotion felt indicates to us what is needed behind.

Auto-empathy to release tensions, cultivate self-tenderness and step back

  • What is alive within me now?

  • How am I feeling? from what family of emotion is it? fear, anger, sadness...

  • Where is it in my body? How does it show up?

  • How strong is it on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • What am I telling myself that's associated with this?

  • What is not aligned in me that makes me feel this? what do I need?

  • What little action I can do or little deman can I do to release this tension?

Hypersensitivity and self-realisation

Impostor syndrome makes us feel vulnerable and human. And it’s even more the case for people with Hypersensitivity. They perceive reality in a different, more intense way, and that’s why they feel even more anxiety during impostor episodes. Did you know that 15% to 20% of the population is hypersensitive? In fact the correct word would be intense sensitivity or high sensitivity.

But it does not mean we cannot succeed in our projects. We just need to be mindful of the different manifestations it has on our life. Few of them could be described below.

Have a look at the propositions to regulate them :

  • Feeling illegitimate and not daring > taking action and cutting the projects in pieces

  • Hypervigilance and disaster projections > coming back to the present moment, anchoring and breathing - back to the body.

  • Over adaptation > check in with yourselves if it’s aligned with who you are and not what you think others would expect

  • Fear of rejection or abandonment > finding colleagues, partners, mentors who validate you as you are and support your creations

  • Acute perfectionism > step back and prioritize

  • Low self-esteem > celebrating who you are and what you do

One of the tools Marie-Amélie is using is EFT ( Emotional Freedom Technique) a psycho-emotional and body tool that releases the emotional charge of a situation and brings back peace. By tapping on different acupuncture points on the body and reframing the situation or the belief you face, the body reacts in the minute. You are more calm, gain clarity and can continue your day and focus again on what you have to do. This tool is also used for trauma healing. We will discover it in more detail in the next episode.

What about you?

What's the biggest blockage you face linked to impostor syndrome?

Do you recognise yourself in the different manifestations it has in our life?

Do you have rituals to welcome it and manage it?

Do you lack a sense of inner security and want to develop it?

Have you tried Emotional Freedom Technique before?

If you need a partner and guide to help you with emotional release, inner dialogue reframing, and boost of self esteem, you can contact Marie-Amélie for a free discovery session to design your personalized coaching, using a variety of body-mind-spirit tools and practices.


WOMADE is an all-female community & coworking space in Brussels — follow us on Instagram

MeWe is WOMADE's official podcast sharing empowering stories to inspire ambitious women — follow us on Instagram

Marie-Amélie Ormières is an Holistic Coach & Therapist, and founder of MAO — follow her on Instagram


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