Imposter Complex

I first came across the Imposter Complex (Imposter Syndrome/Imposter Phenomenon) while listening to Sparta Chicks Radio. Jen often talks about feelings of fear, self doubt and the imposter complex with her inspirational guests, who have all felt like this at some point. The Imposter complex is a feeling of not belonging, of being a fraud, undeserving of success and attributing your successes as fluke or luck, with the fear that your peers will find out how inadequate you really are. OMG YES!! This is me exactly!!

Even Tiffo suffers from the imposter complex of not feeling like a cyclist. This chick just race 1200km Paris-Brest-Paris!

This is how I felt when I first joined MX Endurance. I was about to join a triathlon community, having NEVER done a triathlon before. I obviously don’t belong and I’m not good enough to do an actual triathlon, despite having swam, biked and ran separate events before. But clearly Tim saw something that I didn’t and I am so grateful that he gave me this nudge towards triathlon and endurance sports. The MX Endurance community do not judge and they are full of encouragement and advice for everyone, no matter how far along you are on your journey.

Being thrown into the world of triathlon, I suddenly found my Instagram feed full of amazing and accomplished athletes who seem to have everything together. They have the good job, a family, do amazing at triathlon and have a social life too! We all know how deceptive social media can be and its important to filter out that information for your benefit, not your detriment. Learn from those who seem super organised and fit, ask advice and share your experiences.

The fire of self-doubt rages in all of us.

Will it ignite your dreams, or burn you down?

Having spent the last few days thinking more about the imposter complex, I realised its impacted my life for years and in some very negative ways. This feeling of inadequacy, not being enough and that I don’t deserve what I have, lead me down a pretty dark hole. Aside from the failed relationships, missed career opportunities and countless other examples, I want to focus on how its impacted my sport.

Imposter syndrome is essentially a series of lies we tell ourselves, to justify our feelings or ‘poor’ performance when the evidence is often contradictory. Here are some lies I’ve told myself in the last year. Believing them the has hampered my progress and performance, which has only reinforced my feelings of not being good enough.

I’m not a ‘proper’ triathlete so can’t do Ironman branded events.

I don’t work hard enough to use gels/sports nutrition/hydration/recovery supplements.

I don’t need running shoes, I’m not a real runner.

I’m not a good enough swimmer to have a pull buoy and hand paddles etc..

If I race my local club XC races, everyone will see how slow I really am.

I’m never going to stay this size/weight, I’ll just go a size up to be safe.

So telling myself I’m not an athlete enough, means that I have kits that are too big, am not fuelling and recovering properly, not using essential training equipment, missing race opportunities and am not progressing as much as I could; there fore fulfilling the idea of not being good enough. Makes sense? Yeh, nah!

Did I really do all that?

Even when I have achieved something and should be proud of my accomplishment, I don’t feel like it was me who did that. I got lucky because someone crashed, or I got onto a good group or the conditions were in my favour. For a while I had taken down my race plates and medals, as I wasn’t comfortable having them up on display, even in my bedroom. It didn’t feel like me, I hadn’t achieved that. It feels like a dream and I want to go out and try again to prove that it was real and that I can do it. I guess its what keep me motivated to keep trying my best and pushing my self further.

These feelings can lead to issues with athletic identity and your athletic self-schema (The Brave Athlete). I don’t really see myself as an athlete, so in order to perform my best at an event, I try to see myself as someone who IS an athlete. Yes, I have an athletic alter ego. When I put on my race kit, or even training kit I transform into someone who IS good enough and CAN do it. I’ve taken inspiration from numerous other athletes, friends and badass women to channel a bit of them into my performance. It sounds crazy, but it works! I think…

Channelling my inner athlete. [Photo: Scottie T]

These imposter thoughts are ridiculous and if I take a step back I can see that, but I am yet to take control of this negative inner voice. I have become better at quietening it, as it has been fairly loud while I have been researching for this post (like I can write anything worth reading anyway!) Its all very confusing, but if I can feel like this, I guarantee that someone else does too. You need to remember that YOU earned those medals hanging up though your own hard work and determination. YOU are better than you think you are and YOU deserve it.

For more on the imposter complex, check out Jen Brown on Sparta Chicks Radio or her book ‘She Believed She Could So She Did’

For more about athletic identity check out ‘The Brave Athlete, Calm the F**k Down and Rise to the Occasion’ by Simon Marshall and Lesley Paterson.

For inspirational women to follow, check out my #womancrushwednesday posts on Instagram.

Have you had dealing with the imposter complex? Let me know in the comments.

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