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The Imposter Syndrome & Spiritual Development

The Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of not being good enough, worthy enough, feeling like we are in the wrong place, under-qualified, like we are on the outside looking in and that we don’t belong. Understanding more about it, particularly if you are familiar with the chakras, can help us to break free from the hold of the Imposter Syndrome. We can then allow ourselves to break through self-sabotaging behaviours that keep us small and go from Imposter to Empower, to live a more fulfilled enriched life.

‘Me first’

It’s probably what the ego would say if it had a voice. It can be a feisty character. It’s the part of us that throughout the years developed to protect us and keep us safe. It grew to help us adapt to certain situations in order to stop us from feeling the vulnerability, pain or truths that might cause our worlds to crumble and crack. It truly does serve a valid purpose and not something for judgement to correct or berate ourselves for. We could, right now, take a moment to give acknowledgement and appreciation to our egos for being our chauffeur in life so far.

However, like a wayward child, it isn’t always the best driver and can lead us off track too. It does not always want to practise discernment, it can be narrow-minded. It doesn’t always mind what route it takes and can literally have a mind of its own. It feeds on the notion that it is right and puffs up with pride when it is noticed, validated, seen and acknowledged. It can be arrogant, hedonistic, critical, judgemental, self-gratifying, narcissistic, superior, belittling, manipulative and downright irritating. But it is as it IS!

Imposter syndrome (IS) can sometimes feel like we are driving a stolen car or one that at least belongs to someone else. We may feel that we don’t belong in the car or at the destination that we are at. We may think that we do not fit in, we aren’t good enough, we aren’t qualified enough, we lack value. It is such a common feeling for many able beings.

An aside, for those familiar with the energy centres or the chakras. This lack of self-worth links to the energy centre called the sacral chakra which is orange in colour and also deals with our feelings. It also links to the Power centre or the Solar Plexus chakra. This centre is yellow in colour and operates our sense of feeling personally empowered. When they are both more in balance we feel worthy of having our needs met and meeting them ourselves. When out of balance, we may become caught up in getting needs met from elsewhere, sometimes manipulatively or through unconscious acting out. Sometimes we deny our own needs and worth, then feel resentful if we get caught in over-giving. This is the journey of co-dependence.

Characteristically the lower chakras are where our false sense of self, our ego, our coping mechanisms of old, reside. Part of the job of the ego is that it is trying to keep us safe. This links to the root chakra, which deals with our security and survival. We can be quite bound up in knots if we have experienced feeling unsafe at any time.

Self-Sabotage

The ego can be a prominent part of self-sabotaging behaviour: ‘you can’t do that, you’re not good enough’ type thoughts. This can hold us back and keep us within those safe comfort zones where we don’t dare do any differently or take risks. Self-sabotage can stop us from doing the things that are our birthright. And not only the things that are our birthright but those things that may also be of great benefit and service to others. 

Give yourself time to reflect and pause on the last part of that sentence.  How does that feel to you? What does it say to you? ‘Those things that may also be of great benefit and service to others’. There’s a wonderful phrase by Marianne Williamson which says ‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us‘.

When we focus on thoughts such as ‘how we may make a fool of ourselves’, ‘how we may not be right’, ‘how we aren’t good enough..’ etc etc, it’s the ego again. Sometimes these may be known as introjects, beliefs or sayings that we have taken in from others, without considering if they are really true for us. As children, we probably don’t know better and may allow other people to define us, like the teacher who tells us we will never be good at maths. Sometimes we rebel against that and it becomes our driver! But sometimes not. The ego is driven by fear and fear is catching from one person to another – if someone does not have the ability to contain and manage their own fear they can dump it on others, especially the vulnerable. These are the roots of our programming or conditioning, but by taking risks and having compassion for ourselves we break free of the small self to become our best selves!

When we, or someone around us, is in a state of love (giving) we come from a higher place. Here we are nurturing or feel nurtured. As we focus on love and service to others and what benefit that may be to them we may feel this by a radiation of warmth in the centre of our chest. This energy centre is known as the heart chakra. When this is engaged, we flow from the heart, when we think about, or are with those, that we love. Staying centred in the heart and being around people who are centred in their hearts and only want the best for us can help us to overcome the IS.

Get out of your head and into your feelings

When we are coming from our ego, we may be ‘in our head’ thinking thoughts rather than allowing our true feelings. Over-thinking can be a sign that we are blocking deeper feelings, it can be a form of avoidance. This take us back to the sacral chakra and the blockages there. The use of the colour orange may gently help that to unblock as well as other therapies. When we are in our minds, it can be characterised by ego chatter, such as ‘what can I gain or lose from doing something’ eg ‘if I do x, y will pay me attention/pay me money/notice me‘ etc. It isn’t always conscious, we may have to catch ourselves and become aware of these programmes that run in the background. If it’s how we were raised, it’s normal for us, so we might not notice or be aware of it.

And coming back to the analogy of the chauffeur, those wandering thoughts can lead us down dead ends and via routes we’d prefer not to go down. If we can bring the focus back to the road ahead and stay in the moment we can choose a more conscious route that helps us to break free from the Imposter.

Most of us have this ego mind chatter once we start to pay attention to ourselves. Frequently it is about getting our needs met because we don’t know another way. But there is another way as we will find out. As we’ve noted already, IS shows itself up by saying ‘I’m not qualified enough, I don’t have enough experience, I’m not special, I don’t belong‘  etc etc. You probably know the self-talk, that pitter-patter of negative background chatter. 

I AM Presence

In contrast to the constricted feeling of the IS, it could be said that our I AM is the opposite, This expansive feeling is of something greater than our lower self. It encompasses a sense of connection, flow, belonging and being part of the Whole, our co-creative Presence with God. It’s an acknowledgement that we are all connected, that we aren’t separate. The ego is that which seeks to make separate, to set us apart, often in its misguided or historical replay of some incident in the past or the ‘what if’ story scenarios of the future eg ‘what if I fail…?’.

This may be where we have been wounded. It may be through challenge, slight, called into question, put down, shut up and so on when we have endeavoured to share what we do know. I think it is important to acknowledge that and allow ourselves to process the past in order to unfreeze it and let it go. That way we begin to remove our blocks and our obstacles where self-sabotage resides. This might be where some unravelling and talking therapies or energy therapies may be useful with an understanding therapist. Understanding our faulty programming and learning new self-talk helps us to support ourselves. We learn to become the voice of reason and compassion at last.

Our gracious ‘greaterness’

Humility is a beautiful trait which enables us to accept that we can be all of these things, and it’s ok. It takes practise to learn to listen to that part of ourselves that is wise, sincere, grounded, kind and non-judgemental. Metta meditations can help. This part is sometimes known as our Higher Self, our Soul, or our spiritual nature in contrast to our Lower Self, the ego and links also with our I AM presence . We connect here when the higher chakras, such as the throat, third eye and crown chakras become activated and more open. We may be under the illusion that to develop those chakras is ‘more spiritual’ and characterises a higher spiritual being, however, we benefit from developing all the chakras to ground our spiritual sense. Remembering that in our uniqueness we may able to reach out to another in a way that only we can do can help us to access our greatness. There we can find value and peace within ourselves. 

Spiritual Bypassing

As mentioned, development of the higher chakras may mean that we link sufficient grounded earthliness to materialise heaven on earth. We live on earth and spirituality, our beingness, benefits us more so when it is doable. Attention to the lower chakras helps to build solid foundations and again issues that reside there may benefit from talking therapies. Both lower and higher are necessary, for our being and doing. If we live in the higher chakras, we may be spiritually bypassing – or evading – our true feelings which reside in those below. Someone in that place can be ‘top heavy’, as if band-aided. Therein lies a lack of authenticity or substance to the person. Too much foundation, however, means that we never get off the ground.

Observing our current modus operandi helps us to understand which part of us may be needed at the time. The harsh sergeant -major ego may be running the show but can get things done. Our higher self guiding us gently with compassion may be needed if we are tending old wounds and need gentleness time and space. Few of us are lucky enough to have an epiphany and an overnight shift into completeness or enlightenment, It takes time to notice and observe where we are operating from as we switch automatically and unconsciously back and forth between the two, until they begin to merge. And accepting that. ‘Oh there’s the ego self again’, ‘Oh there’s my higher self’, we learn to not over-identify with the process and get caught up in the story.

Response-able

As we take responsibility (become with awareness response-able), we can allow ourselves to get honest. We are more able to be truthful with ourselves about this feeling of being an imposter. The throat centre deals with our truth, expression and communication. We may voice it, honestly. There is a difference here, when we do this from a place of vulnerability and humility, we allow ourselves to be open. When we are looking for others to gratify ourselves and meet our needs, we pull on their energy as we seek reassurance. The key here is to learn to meet our own needs.

As we progress with our personal development and awareness around this issue, we learn to recognise and see within ourselves where our lack is. The third eye centre is the energy centre dealing with our in-sight, as we look and see within. We may become aware that we are judging ourselves (and perhaps others) and as this centre opens and becomes less cluttered and blocked, we start to see what is within us. We recognise it, it’s that a-ha lightbulb moment where we see where we are at.

Knowing we are more than enough

We gain further awareness through such practises which engage the wisdom of our higher being. Our consciousness is located in the Crown Chakra. This links with that sense of connectedness and I AM It is bigger than ‘all that’, yet humble enough to be small and insignificant too whilst still being of worth.  We seek to look for practises which connect and engage that higher sense of Be-ing. As already mentioned, metta-meditation encourages an attitude of compassion, and that self-respect and self-regard towards ourselves can be of benefit. Grounding may help us to rebalance. Prayer, journeying, studying philosophy, psychology or spiritual texts may all help to enlighten us further towards that place of knowing that we are enoughand absolutely perfect as we are. Knowing this can be a relief and it’s also that sense of knowing that is the integrated practise of truly walking our talk, with honest humble acceptance of all of our selves.

During meditation many years ago a mantra came to me to repeat to myself in moments of self-doubt. It has a centring sense.  ‘I am enough for me for where I’m at’. We are, where we are, with self-compassion, in any given moment doing the best that we are able and the best that we can. We cannot know what that impact will be on others when we share what we may feel that we are ‘ISing’ about. However, with a glad heart and sharing what we do know, ultimately that is enough.

Acknowledge and Decide

So, our feelings of fear surrounding the IS could be a replay of past conditioning, past influences, past events that have injured us in some way. The ego niggles and seeks to remind us of that. I also like the phrase ‘those that matter, don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter’. It helps to sort the wheat from the chaff of our own thoughts but also those of others, if we have concerns about how others may perceive us. We aren’t always surrounded by the people who have similar route maps and journeys to ours!

Time to bring the focus back to Now. It may be that we would benefit from doing some more training and IS may well be a realistic call to do that. We aren’t always sufficiently qualified. Do we need more training? Or, will it be that like a hungry ghost we will never have enough training and keep hankering after more and more, to silence the ‘I’m still not enough’ voice inside? It may be that we are sufficient as we are and it’s our mental squabbles that we allow to run mindlessly amok within. Our mental processes may benefit from reining in, maybe through therapy – or just awareness of reading an article like this. If you do need more, take action. What do you need to do?

One of the wonderful, transformative lessons that IS can bring to us is to align with our authenticity. Allowing ourselves to ACCEPT and allow exactly where we are at can be the first step in resurrecting our sense of belonging. Getting out of the confusion of denial is about not pretending. after noticing what’s going on for us, we can celebrate that it is now within our awareness that we feel that we don’t belong or we aren’t good enough. We can do something. Noticing if we can with non-judgment and neutrality, our lack of self-worth, lack of self-value and appreciation can help us to cultivate compassion for our true self. It’s time to heal those past wounds and accept ourselves in the present. It is as it is. We may then stick our neck out and take some risks to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Feel the fear and do it anyway. I notice when I take those steps that God & the universe often reward me for it. We also then learn to detach (de-ache) from the thoughts that have bound us to discomfort and come into our greater way of being.

This journey then brings us back to the heart chakra, to reside in the resting place of peace and acceptance. we build courage and confidence in ourselves as we take action and put our new way of being into place and become the success that we are. Within this space, the seeming opposites that we may do battle with inside us, the lower and the higher selves, come to a place of agreement. Realising and realigning with this new found awareness can allow our beings to just be. We begin to gain a sense of staying centred and accepting within the heart. We may move between the human being and human doing modes, out of our heads, into our hearts, and backwards and forward. But as we stay present in the here and Now, we can have and own our right to our place of belonging in the world.

Interestingly after writing this blog, but not yet publishing it, synchronicity gave me that God-given opportunity to reflect more deeply on the I.S. An eventbrite course showed up on the subject, whilst I was ‘apparently’ looking for something else with a life-coach called Michelle Jones of Your Significant Coaching. I signed up and it validated and brought home much of my journey. During that time I went a step further with that mantra ‘I’m enough…’ to remind myself that actually I am more than enough. And I invite you to do the same as we join each other in a moment of self-cherishment and gratitude, with a big resounding ‘Yessss we can do this!


This article was originally published here at Emma Sims Holistic Therapies on 4th August 2020.

Emma Sims
Emma Sims is a complementary Holistic Therapist and Reiki Master Teacher with 20+ years experience in the field. She is based in the Community Resource Centre, Gwersyllt, Wrexham, North Wales.

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