As I started out in my career, I was young and confident. There was nothing that I couldn’t accomplish with hard work and determination. Every project accepted was a new adventure that I was willing to embark on regardless if I had the experience or knowledge to fully understand what I was getting myself into. As a young twenty-something, I was good at almost everything, and if found myself in hot water, I figured out a way to learn, reorient, and turn the project around—I liked being successful. This success was built all before I stepped out of the workforce to raise children. At the time, my spouse was in the Army, moving all over the world with and without the kids and me, so there was no question that I needed to be home with the children. This was a wonderful, joyous time in my life, a time I miss almost every day now that my children are in their teens. Years after I stepped away from the workforce, I found it was time for me to re-enter. The stark reality of my absence hit me hard. I was no longer the energetic, confident young person I had been years earlier. I felt like a fraud, a fake, an imposter.
With focused introspect into my past, in an attempt to discover why I was feeling like a phony, it was apparent that I had once had different expectations for myself. I was smart and was always rewarded for exceeding in school, for caring for my family, and even for my “clever” fashion choices. When I made the decision to stay home with my children, it never occurred to me that I would re-enter the workforce as a different person. Unfortunately, I began to perceive that my time away from the workforce dulled my edge, making me less than what I used to be. My absence was a hindrance and everyone else was so far ahead of me, and they all knew it, or so I believed. Insecurities stabbed at my self-esteem and self-worth. No longer was I the stellar student, the one that could get the project done, or the “funky” dresser as I once was. All of it was gone. All of the confidence had faded away into the ethers and was gone forever into the mist. I was left with feeling inadequate and just waiting for someone to figure out what an impostor I was. I needed to figure out what was happening to me.
In 1978, Drs. Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Amet Imes conducted research on the negative emotions that were adversely affecting highly successful women while in graduate school and in the workplace (Clance & Imes, 1978). Many of these women feared that they would be found out as a fraud even though they were educated, experienced, and completely capable of doing the job for which they were hired or completing the program in which they were accepted. As a result of their research and findings, Imes and Clance coined the phrase “Impostor Phenomenon.” This coined phrase refers to “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness which appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women.” (Clance & Imes, 1978, p 241).
Ah ha! I was thrilled to learn that there was a term to what I was feeling. And, there were others who felt the same unworthiness and fear of exposure as a phony that I did. Since this is such internal suffering, people tend not to talk about their feelings of being an impostor, yet upon the discovery of Clance and Imes’ research, I began to question my own belief system—a belief system that was halting a happy existence. It was apparent that I needed to find a new way of thinking about who I was as a person, and I needed to begin to trust myself as I once had many years before.
One of the first steps I made was to look beyond the person that there was before children, to look beyond that twenty-something who needed to prove her worth. As Edgar Cayce said in reading 3674-1:
First, find self. Know thine own ideal. Know that you have just begun to live. While there is a past, put it behind thee. Begin where you are today. There, and in that direction, use thy life, thy purpose, thy will - if it will be dedicated to God and to thy fellow man.
It was time to evaluate the present and look forward toward the future. While the past was valuable in helping me grow into the person I am, the memory was distorted and greatly affecting and altering my present reality. Who I was in the past was gone, I needed to see myself in the here and now, then hold my head up, look forward, and find my Ideal and my purpose. Those who have feelings of being an impostor need to reframe their old patterned thoughts about success, achievements, experiences, and how these thoughts relate to the stability or dysfunction of the internal environment. Old belief systems, superstitions, and thoughts need to be tended to carefully and gradually in order to evoke real internal change (Weir, 2013). It was with honest soul-searching that I began to see a change in my attitude toward success. The fraudulent feelings began to subside when I sat with myself, day after day, in meditation upon my Ideals. I kept asking, Who am I really, and what is my purpose?
The stars began to align and the message was clear. It was in these quiet moments the truth revealed itself to me. I was to believe in myself because I was a product of the Universe. It was my purpose to be of service to those who needed a hand up in the world, and it was my propose to be nurturing to those who needed love. It was time for me to act in accordance with the purpose of my heart (Cayce Reading, 2549-1). All of the insecurities began to fall away in those moments. I began to believe the Universe led me to where I am and it is my purpose to listen to my heart and fulfill my Ideals.
Let those influences of the Creative Forces guide thee in thy seeking to be a channel of help to others; meeting in self those things necessary for making thy body, thy mind, as one with Him.
-- Edgar Cayce reading 560-7
For those who have feelings of inadequacy, a lack of self-worth, a feeling of being a fraud, know that you are worthy. The Divine Universe put you here on this planet for a reason that has purpose and meaning. Living in the past asks the mind to misremember events and causes an undue hardship on the present self. The past is valuable in learning; and the past is a building block for the future. Give thanks to the events that happened long ago, yet now, begin to lift your head toward the present and gaze toward the future. It is in looking forward that you will begin to find a new belief system that sheds you of the superstitions of the past. Meditate on your purpose and Ideals as Cayce instructed. Ask your higher-self difficult questions that you have been avoiding for years. Ask for help and healing. Ask for an answer. You may be surprised at what messages you receive.
Clance, P.R. & Imes, S.A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic interventions. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, and Practice, 15.
Weir, K. (2013). Feel like a fraud? gradPSYCH, p 24.