Why does Imposter Syndrome skyrocket during Christmas?
The holiday season can deliver a snowball of Imposter Syndrome triggers making the next week an incredibly difficult time for anyone suffering from Imposter Syndrome.
There is a pressure to present a perfect view of our holiday, our lives and our past year. Yet, when 82% of people living with imposter syndrome are comparing themselves with others and finding themselves lacking, it’s no wonder that they find this time a struggle.
In this episode, I’m breaking down each of the big seven Imposter Syndrome triggers that you’ll be facing this Christmas and showing you how you can manage each one in a healthy way.
What You'll Discover Today About How To Handle Imposter Syndrome At Christmas
- A 2-step process to step pause on Imposter Syndrome this Christmas
- The 7 key triggers for Imposter Syndrome
- Healthy tips to support you over the holiday season
- Strategies to help you manage difficult situations
- Practical advice to enjoy Christmas
- How the 4 Ps of Imposter Syndrome play into the pressures of Christmas
- Plus two self-coaching questions that will help you over the next week.
At the end of the episode, I invite you to make one big change for 2024 that will put you in a good place going into the new year. This specific change will mean December 2024 feels very different to this year.
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Speaker 1 (00:00)
Welcome to Episode 49 of The Ditching Imposter Syndrome Podcast. Today, we are looking at how to handle imposter syndrome at Christmas and set yourself up for a fabulous New Year. Today's episode is for you. If you've been wondering why does imposter syndrome suddenly skyrocket around the holiday season, what the external hidden triggers are, how you can navigate those so you can actually feel more at peace and escape from comparisonitis, and what specifically you can do to set yourself up for success next year in ways that are fast, fun, and forever. So you might have heard me talking in the past about how anything that creates a shift in identity, who we see ourselves as being, can trigger imposter syndrome. But there are seasonal events that can do it too. And one of the biggest in the UK and the Western world is Christmas. That holiday season in late December through to early January. So in today's episode, I want to talk you through some research-backed reasons why that is a really simple two-step process you can do to press pause no matter what is going on for you at Christmas so you can stop imposter syndrome in its tracks and how you can set yourself up for a fabulous new year completely imposter syndrome free.
Speaker 1 (01:18)
So I want to take you through seven key things that can trigger imposter syndrome at Christmas and give you some solutions for each. So listen right the way through this episode because I'm really hoping there are going to be some gems in here for you. And the first thing I want to talk about is social expectations and comparisonitis. So when we think about our social media feed at Christmas, everybody's looking beautiful. The decorations are up. The turkey or vegan equivalent is there on the table. Everybody's looking happy. We are comparing our version of reality with what the algorithm has decided is the highlights from everybody else's highlight reels. It's really easy to feel pressurized to present some perfect life on social media. And this triggers comparisonitis. Our research studies have shown that for 82 % of people with imposter syndrome, comparisonitis, comparing yourself to others and judging yourself as lacking is a really important trigger. It can lead to us feeling inadequate. We're comparing ourselves to others. We're judging ourselves as not being good enough, not being able to compare to the standards that we perceive that they are attaining. So one of the really important things you can do at Christmas is make sure you carry your bucket of salt with you whenever you log in to social media.
Speaker 1 (02:39)
Most of what's on social media is not real. It doesn't mean that people are lying, but it does mean that we're normally presenting our best side. So what you're seeing on there doesn't necessarily reflect the experience the person has been having. And one super healthy thing you can actually do over the holiday season, if it feels right to you, is to take a social media holiday, actually give yourself a week off from being online. Let go of comparing. Let go of assuming just because there's a glossy photo that somebody else's life is somehow better than yours, that their achievements are somehow outperforming yours. This is particularly important as we head into new year and everybody is doing their wrap-ups of the year and look at me and everything I've achieved this year. Aren't I brilliant and wonderful and what you don't see behind the scenes is how they feel about that? Remember, the 2024 imposter syndrome research study shows that 62% of people are struggling with imposter syndrome daily or regularly to a level that's impacting their performance and their wellbeing. So when you see people celebrating what they've achieved this year, you're not seeing the full picture.
Speaker 1 (03:51)
You're seeing the highlights of 365 days when nearly two-thirds of those people in your feed are probably feeling the way you've been feeling about imposter syndrome too. A second important trigger around the holiday season for imposter syndrome is good old family dynamics. In the last episode, number 48, I talked about the three pillars of imposter syndrome: culture, environment, and personal habits. So family dynamics fit in there amongst the culture. How do things run? How is it supposed to be? What are our values? What's important to us? How does the world work in our family? And also the environment. What does that mean on a practical level for what the Christmas table is meant to look like or how you're meant to wrap gifts, all that thing? How are you meant to respond to the gifts that you receive? Family dynamics also overlay onto the third pillar of our personal habits. There will be factors that run back through the generations on how we're meant to behave, the actions we're meant to take, the times we're meant to bite our tongues when secretly we want to scream. Family dynamics set so many expectations around how should be, and the holiday season often involves spending time with family members that we wouldn't normally spend time with.
Speaker 1 (05:07)
If you're running imposter syndrome, those family interactions can trigger self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and worry, and the pressure that we put upon ourselves to meet those expectations or the fear of being judged by relatives can really intensify feelings of inadequacy, particularly if family members have high expectations. There's a really important thing to remember in these situations. Firstly, something that's got me through some of the tough times in life, a little quote from the Dalai Lama, This too will pass. Okay, this too will pass. These few days of family dynamics are not forever. But it can also be really important to understand that there is a dance going on where there is a family dynamics issue. That family dynamics cannot thrive unless you dance your part of the dance. And it's actually completely okay just to say inside yourself, because this is not the time to lose friends and upset people, within yourself is to say, I'm just not going to dance that dance. I'm not going to go into those emotions. I'm not going to do the drama. I am just going to pretend I'm deaf for the next ten minutes that my cousin is telling everybody how awful their life is, when actually I can see from the outside, objectively, it's pretty good and they're just addicted to the drama.
Speaker 1 (06:28)
Most of the stuff that's happening about Christmas is not about you. Okay? It's a Native American saying, all criticism is born of someone else's pain, and Christmas is a fantastic time for people to dollop their pain onto others. They've stored it up all year. Yeah? All criticism is about someone else's pain. Their Christmas drama and potential criticism is not about you. It says a lot more about how they're speaking to themselves. And it's okay for you to lovingly and compassionately have incredibly strong boundaries and refuse to dance that dance. Third factor around the holiday season that can trigger imposter syndrome is gift giving stress. Yeah, that tradition of giving gifts during the Christmas festivities, that means that we might be worrying that our choice of gifts will be judged or our financial limitations might be held against us. We want to impress. We want to show that we love through this physical act of giving and meet with our perceived expectations. All of this can intensify our feelings of somehow being found out is not good enough, especially if others seem to have even better skills than we do at selecting thoughtful or extravagant presence or even the way they present them and gift them.
Speaker 1 (07:46)
The thing is, love is not about things. Love is about who we are and the way we show up for people and how we're present. But in our Western culture, the whole concept of Christmas has been morphed into this competition about, You only love me as much as the beauty of the gift you give me. Now, this aspect of Christmas is actually best handled in advance. Particularly if you are struggling with the cost of living crisis, it's having those discussions with your loved ones who are going to be expecting things at Christmas about how you can make that sustainable for you and meaning that you then don't have a penny less January, February, and March. But even on the day, remember, it's the love with which a gift is given that counts. If you end up with yet another pair of socks that you hate from great auntie, Flo, it doesn't mean she hates you. It just means that she likes to give people socks that they'll hate. We put too much meaning into the gifts that we give and receive. But the more you can handle this upfront to prevent it being an issue, the easier you will find that aspect of the holiday season.
Speaker 1 (08:52)
Number five is workplace and social events. Lots of workplaces and groups host holiday season events or parties. If you're experiencing imposter syndrome, these gatherings can be really challenging. The fear of not belonging or being exposed as a fraud in a professional or social setting can lead to that heightened anxiety during Christmas events, making it hard for you to enjoy the full festivities. It can be everything from, What are they going to think of what I wear? Through to, Oh, my goodness, I put 10 pounds on this year. Nobody will want to talk to me. Through to, What if I sit at the side all night and I don't have anyone I can share the evening with? A lot of our deeper fears can come up more strongly in social situations. So when this is happening for you, it's really important to think upfront about how you're going to handle it. Do you have a cohort of friends who you could hang out with for that evening? Are there people that you know and trust who you could actually share your worries and fears with? And one of the really great things I've been seeing some organizations do over the last couple of years is realizing that not everybody likes the same Christmas event.
Speaker 1 (09:58)
Just because the people organizing it might absolutely love the noisiest bar in town, it doesn't mean that all employees do or all friends in a group do. So some organizations are actually hosting events where there are quieter spaces for those maybe who've got an introvert preference or who are neurodiverse for whom sensory stimulation can actually be really overwhelming, places where people can go and talk to each other and actually have conversations without having to yell and scream. Not everybody wants to be on the dance floor. Not everybody drinks alcohol. And if you're the one organizing an event, it's really important to think about this thing as you're doing the planning to include as many people as you can. Maybe offering a range of events. So a choir to lunchtime meal out in a restaurant with a private dining area, for example, for those who don't want to have to shriek over the DJ, and an evening in a club for those who don't have caring responsibilities or who can get cover for it, who don't mind hanging around outside hours for whom that drinking and partying is the main event. It's really thinking about how can we make sure everybody has the chance to be included in this event in a way that is healthy for them and that fits with their personal values and their needs rather than just rolling out the same event that you've done for the last 10 years.
Speaker 1 (11:13)
And if you find yourself in that moment, in that workplace or social event with imposter syndrome striking, make sure that you've got a buddy you can go to talk to, someone who can be your emergency button, your voice of reason, your person to team up with if you realize that maybe you're feeling out of place. And again, that whole all criticism is born of someone else's pain. What's often happening is actually the criticism is coming from within us. It's criticism we are projecting and mind reading that other people might be thinking, but the chances are even if they were to pass internal comment on what you look like, what you're wearing, how you're behaving, that's gone in seconds. Other people don't tend to think about us nearly as much as we worry that they do. The next one I want to talk about another trigger is perfectionism. That is sky high in the holiday season over Christmas time. This is one of the four P's of imposter syndrome, the coping strategies that you often see that can be early warning signs that someone needs support. Perfectionism, procrastination, project paralysis, and people-pleasing. If your way of coping with imposter syndrome is to set your standard incredibly high, unachievably high, and then to write it off as fluke or luck or timing or a team effort if you actually achieve that, well, you can imagine how Christmas can really crank that up.
Speaker 1 (12:40)
That's why it's really important. Shortly, I'm going to give you a two-step self-coaching process you can use to help yourself to press pause on that self-talk. But for now, for the imposter syndrome-based perfectionism, is if you find yourself holding yourself to a ridiculously high standard, just ask yourself, where's this expectation come from? Where has this standard come from? And does it really matter? Or am I just worried that it might? Help yourself to get some perspective and some clarity. And then we move into another one of the four P's, the people pleasing. This one goes crazy at Christmas, people pleasing with everything from the perfect Christmas card through to the gift-wrapped present through to what the table looks like. The people-pleasing element of imposter syndrome triggers a deep need to belong. This is something that we've known about for millennia. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, that sense of belonging, safety, security right there at the bottom of his pyramid, the yogic world that is the base chakra is I'm safe, I belong, I'm with my tribe. It's a really key survival mechanism. So we're desperate at Christmas if we're running that coping strategy to do whatever we can to please others to make sure we belong.
Speaker 1 (14:01)
Not only does this risk triggering our inner perfectionism that we've just talked about by setting our standards incredibly high, we start equating our actions with receiving love. But if the person that you're giving the action to or the gift to or doing something for isn't running the same internal patting as you, how do they know that's the response that you want? And if we don't get back that love, that external validation that we were subconsciously expecting, then somehow we feel rejected and we feel wrong. It's really important at Christmas to be aware of any people-pleasing tendencies you have, because the other thing this can do is make you put up with things that are not acceptable. Christmas is a time where the family comes out of the woodwork and some people don't behave very well. They might be running some of the patterns that we've talked about already on this episode. And if they are, then it's really important to understand the difference between acceptance and acceptable. We can accept their behavior and not have a hissy fit at them in the moment. But if it's not acceptable, it means we don't have to take it.
Speaker 1 (15:07)
It's okay to say no. Marshall Rosenberg, he developed a way of defusing conflict called nonviolent communication, which is absolutely incredibly powerful and so simple. In that moment, you can breathe in and breathe out to help reset the stress system and simply say, When you say that to me or when you do that to me, I feel this. Could we please find a way so that we can change that dynamic? You'd find your own words, you know your family, you know your loved ones. But it's okay to say, When you do this, I feel that. Actually, I need us to have a way that I don't feel that. It doesn't mean you're making them responsible. You're not giving away your personal path. You're simply saying, That is not behavior that I'm going to accept in my Christmas. I know that's easy for me to say when I'm not sitting there in the middle of your life, but it's amazing how easily you can actually diffuse conflict simply by doing that breathing to get out of the fight-flight-freeze response so you're not responding from stress, fear, and anger. And just ask the person how you could interact differently to prevent those emotions and that response in you because chances are they're not enjoying it either.
Speaker 1 (16:21)
These conversations can often be better done outside of the Christmas period, but it's absolutely okay to raise it over Christmas. Often that is the time where these things come up. So have a think about that beforehand. And if you've got any family members that you're thinking, Oh, I hate it when they do such and such, find a way to talk about it now rather than waiting until they're four Cherries in and they've had far too much Christmas pudding and they're probably not going to be quite as receptive. Then the final trigger I want to talk about today is exhaustion. One in 10 people is thinking of quitting their job every single day due to burnout or imposter syndrome at the moment. People are on their knees. In a recent research study I've just done, 47 % of people said they're feeling tired all the time, which means they are using more energy every single day than their body is able to develop through food, rest, and sleep. Exhaustion means that we've increased our chronic stress levels. We're much more likely to be stuck in high alert, in hypervigilance, where we're constantly on the lookout for threats.
Speaker 1 (17:32)
It increases imposter syndrome. It means it's much easier for people to push our buttons. I'm hearing so many people saying, Oh, yeah, I've got a couple of weeks off over Christmas. I'm going to use that to top up my batteries. But actually, we completely forget how exhausting the run-up to Christmas is, and then that energy crash that happens in the few days afterwards. So if you feel that your batteries are empty, it's time to really learn how to ask for help and how to delegate. Look at the topics that we've covered in today's episode. Are there any of those that are sapping your energy that are causing you to have to put too much effort into Christmas? What could you dial down? And how could you make sure that you flow your way through Christmas rather than feeling like you're forcing and fighting your way through? So you're exhausted so that your inner fused becomes so short that the tiniest of throwaway comments can lead to you exploding. I've got a bonus point I want to raise for this time of year as well, and I'm going to put a link to a separate podcast episode in the show notes for this and it's performance reviews.
Speaker 1 (18:37)
Over the holiday season, so many organizations have the annual appraisal that runs in the run-up to Christmas. And here, 71% of people really hate appraisals, whether they're giving them or receiving them, they often get left until the last minute. So your end-of-year review ends up tumbling into the last day at work often after the Christmas party. This can be a really big trigger for imposter syndrome. Very few organizations have actually got policies or training on how to make feedback, imposter syndrome, informed. That is something that we can help with for next year now. It's a bit late this year. And as I say, there's a separate episode in the show notes that if the performance review is part of what's triggering imposter syndrome for you in the run up to Christmas that helps you know what to do about that. And if you've just had your performance review as you're starting to wind down into the holiday season break, it's really important to have techniques that you can use to be able to leave that behind you. So that podcast episode is a must listen if that's you. So what can you do for this year?
Speaker 1 (19:40)
What can you do to make sure that Christmas and the holiday season isn't triggering imposter syndrome for you? I've got two self-coaching questions I want to share with you. The first one requires you to be brutally honest with yourself. Is this really true? Is this story I'm telling myself in my head really true? Or is it just my mind-story fears, my mind-story drama speaking? Is it really true? And then what I call my magic question, what do I want instead? What do I want instead? And there are three keys to this question, and it can really help to write this down because it gets you out of that word soup that's going on in your head. What do I want instead? Phrase it positively. The unconscious mind can't process a negative. It will first imagine and create the thing you don't want and the not or stop gets lost. Yeah? What do I want instead? Phrase it positively. It's what you do want, not what you don't want. If what's coming up for you is what you don't want, just flip it. Okay, so I don't want Auntie Flo to sit there in the corner of the lounge and complain the whole time.
Speaker 1 (20:48)
Well, what do I want? I want her to have a great time and actually be a positive member of the family. Then this is the clincher. Step two, key two with this is it's got to be within your control. It's got to be something that you can influence that's within your personal power. Now, you cannot control how Auntie Float behaves, but you can create a space, an environment, a situation that gives her the best chance of actually fulfilling the what do you want instead. And more importantly, you can choose how you react. Remember we talked earlier about that dance? You can choose whether or not to engage in the dance or just to actually focus on the positives. And step three is this what do I want instead needs to be believable. Your unconscious mind and your body need to believe it's possible. You can tell that because when you think about it, your body will either contract and flinch going, Oh, no, that's just a cloud cookie land, or it will relax and go, That would be amazing. Then the other thing that you can do to flip Christmas around if it's triggering stress and imposter syndrome for you is gratitude.
Speaker 1 (21:58)
Now, gratitude gets a bad rap. A lot of people think it's all about Pollyanna, pretending that the world is brilliant when actually things might be in crisis, but it's focusing your attention on, Okay, this thing is happening that maybe I'm really not enjoying, but this thing is happening that actually is going really well and that I am enjoying. I've got another podcast episode for you on my favorite technique to rewire your brain into spotting what's going well, not just things to complain about on what's going wrong. It's the incredible power of a technique I call micro-wins, and I'm going to put a link to that in the show notes. If you're listening to today's podcast episode, wherever you love to get your podcast run them on the website, you can find it, is Episode 46, how to rewire your brain to become a secret cheerleader. Start practicing that now. Within just a few days that can really help to rewire neuroplasticity the brain to spot what's going well to help you to be able to be in flow and have more natural resilience so that whatever Auntie Flo is doing in the corner doesn't bother you as much.
Speaker 1 (23:11)
Those are some things that you can do for this year. For next year, I'm going to invite you to make a new resolution of having what I call a Basta moment. B-a-s-t-a. It's my favorite Italian word, and it means enough. Enough. I am done with having to plan my life, my career, my happiness around imposter syndrome. This coming year is the year I am going to take action to set myself free from this once and for all. I'm going to put two links in the show notes of things that you could start in January that will help to set you free from imposter syndrome, and it can be incredibly powerful. It can take you from 80 % on our research informed scorecard to just 20 % in eight weeks. Okay, so it's really incredible. I'm also going to put links in on how you can train to help others in this work. So you start by clearing out your own imposter syndrome on my certification programs, and then you learn how to support others to do the same too. So have a basta moment on imposter syndrome for new year. Do not let yourself hit next Christmas and still be running it.
Speaker 1 (24:21)
Make sure that you've taken the action. I'm here to support. Drop my team an email if you're not sure what the best next step would be for you. But this is how to set yourself up for a fabulous new year. Is make this coming year the year that you finally take the action to set yourself free from imposter syndrome once and for all. And then just imagine which version of you you will have allowed yourself to become by this time next year and how amazing that will feel. I'd love to get to walk by your side on this journey in the coming year. Go and have a look at the links in the show notes and decide what you're going to do to set yourself free once and for all from the secret fear of being found out as a fraud, because it's time to set yourself free from those old, out-of-date coping strategies so that you can have the impact that your ideas and dreams deserve.
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