This tool can be incredibly powerful, and I want to share a little bit more about it here.
I used to think journalling was a "Dear Diary" experience, and not really up my street. How wrong I was. Journalling can be incredibly useful for acknowledging and processing our feelings, and also getting our thoughts straight; sometimes when we have them down on paper in front of us, it helps us to look at them a little more objectively, see different perspectives and identify action points. I recently completed my journal coaching diploma, which gave a massive insight into the clinical benefits of using this too; I will dive into those another day for you all!
How do I journal?
• Find a pen and paper; the stationery fiends amongst us might like to spend time finding a notebook or journal that means something to them (top tip: don't let that stall you from actually getting started!). Some prefer the computer but some suggest putting pen to paper is more connected.
• Create an environment free of distractions- turn off the TV, find somewhere you can relax for settle down.
• Release a little expectation - there's no right or wrong way to do this. If you're not sure, it's absolutely fine to write "I'm just not sure at the moment". Sometimes we need a little patience in getting started. Be curious rather than critical.
• Make it doable. Just journal for a few minutes to start with. Take the pressure off.
• Some people like to use "prompts", which are questions posed by others to make you think on a topic, for example "what are you grateful for?" or "write a letter of encouragement to yourself" or "what would you do if nothing was holding you back?". You can get journals with daily prompts incorporated find them online, or look at the imposter-themed ones I'm going to mention below. It is useful to know the reason behind doing some of the prompts if they're a little more obscure - for example, you might identify blocks on money mindset and look up some money mindset related prompts. Other people like to just start writing on their thoughts of the day and see what comes up - "free journalling".
• Know when to step away. No journal prompt should worsen your feelings - yes it might bring up some thoughts that surprise you - but it should not make you feel worse. If it does, it might be worth stepping away from that prompt and speaking with someone else to help you to unpack it, or revisiting another time. (Note: if you've experienced severe trauma, consider speaking with your medical professional before journalling on anything that could be potentially triggering. I don't advocate it without advice from people that know the situation in full).
• Reflect back. It's really important to look back at what you wrote and gently reflect. Did anything surprise you? Do you need to take any actions or discuss anything further? Have you gained a new perspective? Has this changed how you feel?
• Have fun with it! It's a fun tool to get to know yourself more. (If I ever feel a bit overwhelmed, I use journalling to get my thoughts on paper, and then importantly look at the tasks I can delegate, delay, schedule or delete - go and look up the Eisenhower matrix. I also enjoy writing down the encouragement I'd choose to give myself as a loved one).
Imposter Syndrome Prompts
If imposter thoughts pop up around a particular situation or a task coming up, I like to use this series of prompts in series for a journalling session. They're explained in more detail in this 20minute video below, please do take a look.
1.Visit worst-case scenario briefly. Some people advocate giving ourselves designated time to worry, and maybe this prompt might be that for you - but keep it short. We play worst-case scenario in our head, but it's let it out on paper.
Think about who you'd ask for help, what you'd say to a friend in that scenario and what you'd actually do. Remember that 85% of things we worry about never happen, and of the 15% that do, 79% of those are easier to deal with than expected (Leahy, 2005).
2.List 3+ reasons WHY you’re choosing to do it. Remembering our WHY is important, and it's not to prove that you aren't a fraud.; sometimes we forget and lose focus of this.
3.List 5+ reasons that you DO deserve it. Sometimes we have to take a little of the confidence from our friends and family, and have them hold a mirror up for us. Focus on the facts, the work you've put in before.
4.List 3-5 strengths and where you’ve used them before. Studies suggest that only 1/3 of people are aware of their strengths (Linley, 2008). There are many theories for why this is the case. Some believe that strengths become so ordinary to people that they lack conscious awareness, or that school teaches a focus on 'weaknesses'. In reality, often our focus is elsewhere, or our perception of a strength is downplayed due to the identity that we have been living. There is always the opportunity to realise and develop new strengths, especially when we begin to highlight them and consider the areas of our lives in which we can put them to good use. Removing limiting beliefs and negative identities is the equivalent of releasing the handbrake on a car to move forward. Using our strengths is associated with higher levels of wellbeing (Jones-Smith, 2011), and estrangement from our strengths can lead to unspecified unhappiness. Look at times you've overcome challenges and the strengths you've used, or asking friends/family/ colleagues what they feel your strengths are.
5.List 3+ actions you can take to be kinder to yourself. Reminder: you are valuable. Feeling like an imposter can be uncomfortable, and it's not because you're actually a fraud, often it's because we're pushing boundaries of limiting beliefs, we've forgotten that value and skillset, or we need to reach out and ask for help. You're not a fraud, but this is the time we need to let go of a bit of self-judgement and practice self-compassion; believe me, self-kindness helps us far more than self-criticism. Dr Kristen Neff has over 2500 articles on self-compassion on her website if you're interested.
6.Write down a time you did something but had doubted yourself initially. This is another useful boost to discredit that imposter gremlin witness. Maybe there's something you haven't consciously given yourself credit for?
7.Who and How are you going to show up? Remember that you're not your thoughts, you're not that negative narrative and you are a valuable person. Think of the body language you're going to employ, smile; be it until you see it. How will it feel?
8.Visualise the best case scenario. This is the fun bit, let's train our minds to look for a good outcome. How will it feel? What will it look like? Visualise it.
9.Ask: Who could you ask for help? We don't dive much into the "types" of imposter syndrome in my emails, as I don't want to encourage adopting labels without a full explanation, but one of Valerie Young's noted aspects that some people experience imposter thoughts is what she called "the soloist". Young notes that those experiencing imposterism in this way believe they have to do everything alone. Reminder: we go further together. Your success is not taken away from if someone else assists you, in fact, often it speeds things up.
Sometimes the person we ask for help might be a friend or family member to help with tasks, maybe a colleague or supervisor, or perhaps we need to look at taking on a coach.
10.Write down: I’m not an imposter, I am more than enough, I am valuable. Find an affirmation that you feel comfortable with and would choose to remind yourself of after going through the other prompts