Imposter Syndrome is the new buzzword that everyone is talking about, using it to describe the fear that they do not deserve their success. But it’s being used by unscrupulous internet marketers and mavens to sell gullible people their products and services to overcome the imposter syndrome they believe they have.
In today’s Goals, Profit & Soul podcast we’re going to talk about Imposter Syndrome, what it really refers to and what we should be focusing on instead. Yes this may be controversial to some people but I have been denouncing the imposter syndrome scam for a while and it distresses me to see people being taken advantage of by a phony syndrome when the real problem that is causing them to doubt themselves and limit their success is not being addressed.
Imposter Syndrome, also called Capgras syndrome, is a psychological condition where a person believes someone they know has been replaced by an imposter. Sounds a little different from what everyone is breathlessly proclaiming to be ‘imposter syndrome’ today. First described by French psychiatrist Joseph Capgras in 1923, it’s part of the psychological disorders classified as delusional misidentification syndromes (DMSs).
It’s more common in women than in men and here’s how it works. Over time, a woman believes that her husband of 20 years has been replaced by someone else, either a body double or a different person entirely. She then begins to develop anxiety, fear, and can even become violent in her effort to expose the ‘imposter.’ The cause is often attributed to brain lessons, tumors, or brain injury.
Now this real definition of imposter syndrome has been massaged by internet marketers to apply to people who are afraid that others may think they’re a fraud. On a fundamental level, they doubt their own abilities and accomplishments and are afraid of being exposed as a fraud.
Does this sound like the ‘imposter syndrome’ theory that internet markets are telling you they have the cure for? Of course not. It’s another breathless theory that someone is using to promote their products and services as a cure for.
Now while I have been denouncing imposter syndrome as a scam for several years, there is something that I know causes people to doubt themselves and their success, that causes them a great deal of conflict in their business, and that is what I call Approval Anxiety.
It is far more prevalent that the phony imposter syndrome and it impacts everyone in the business space but especially women entrepreneurs and new business startups.
Approval Anxiety is the fear that people won’t like you, will disapprove of what you do, and will criticize and judge you for what you do. And it probably has a lot of basis in fact. There is a strong cancel culture on the internet and it can be vicious. People who hide behind the anonymity of a screen name, email address, or social media profile can say things to you online that they would never say to your face.
Once an online rumor is started it spreads quickly and it can be very hard to stop.
When someone sends you an email criticizing you and what you are doing, writing about, or saying online, or tells you that you look fat or ugly in your videos, (this has happened to me and I’ll share that story with you in a few moments) it can create a lot of anxiety, fear, and self doubt.
And if your self esteem isn’t where it should be, meaning you have a strong enough foundation of self esteem that you do not care what others think about you, then you’re going to be devastated by the smallest amount of criticism or judgment.
If you experienced a lot of criticism while growing up about your appearance, personality, style, or body, you’re going to be very anxious about whether or not people approve of you – meaning whether they’re going to criticize and judge you.
If you grew up with a critical mother or father, as I did, you will be very anxious about being judged or criticized by anyone, especially people you are marketing your expertise and authority to.
Aside from growing up with a critical mother, I was very anxious about criticism and judgment, I was the object of scrutiny from age 5 to 11 years, because I was paralyzed, in a wheelchair, walked with leg braces and crutches, or walked with a limp because of the residual paralysis from my vaccine injury, I developed anxiety about people who stared at me.
But it was mainly because I did not want to be classified as handicapped or crippled – I had been paralyzed and mostly recovered but it was my body that was affected, there was nothing wrong with my mind. As an aside, until the mid 2000s, most people who were considered disabled, handicapped, or special needs (not a term they used at the time) were all considered to have physical and mental issues, there were no distinctions made between them.
So it’s probably a good thing that when I started my business in 2004 I communicated mostly by email and teleconference – there was no video or social media at the time.
But that’s changed and there is a need for strong visibility in today’s online world and the audiences are bigger so there is a bigger potential for judgment and criticism. And the Approval Anxiety factor goes through the roof.
Here is what you need to know about Approval Anxiety:
- it’s the fear of judgment and criticism from others
- it’s more common among women than men and especially if you had a critical parent, were bullied, or have something that sets you out or makes you ‘different’
- it’s the reason you hesitate, doubt yourself, and are afraid to really put yourself out there 100%
- It is possible to overcome your Approval Anxiety by building up your self esteem.
- No matter what you do, someone is always going to criticize you or judge you and not on the basis of what you do, but through their own jealousy, insecurity, and lack of self esteem.
Now for my story that I said I would share with you about how I cured my Approval Anxiety. I had just started my business in February 2004 and had about 500 people on my email list (that was a lot in 2004). Someone wrote and said I was ‘full of crap’. I was initially dismayed, crushed, and very hurt. Then I thought I had 500 people on my list and 1 person wrote this and 499 people did not. So I wrote to the person and said I wasn’t the right teacher for them and suggested they move on. I deleted them from my mailing list and banned them from my website. Problem solved
Imposter syndrome is a fakeout – approval anxiety is very real. The snake oil hucksters of the early 1900s have grown into the internet marketers of the early 2000s. Anyone who peddles ‘imposter syndrome’ cures or solutions needs to be avoided.
Deal with your Approval Anxiety by building your self esteem. Trust in yourself, your abilities, your experience and your authority. No one can question your experience and the expertise you gain from it. Do not let others’ opinions of you become your truth.
People have the right to their own opinion about everything, including you, whether it is good or bad, true or not true. Do not waste your time defending yourself or trying to overcome phony imposter syndrome.
You know who you are, what you know, and the value of your products and services. Build up your self esteem and create a strong foundation that can withstand the naysayers, haters, and people who envy your success. Those who criticize and judge you are not part of your audience, so do not waste your time on them. And avoid anyone who tries to sell you the cure to imposter syndrome – they don’t know what they are talking about either.
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