Hey, yall! It’s been a minute since my last post. I received such AMAZING feedback on the post on imposter syndrome. It is clear that a lot of us are struggling with internal anxiety and not feeling like we are enough. Listen…this stops in 2019! (And, by the way, March is the new January. It just is. LOL)

I am an eternal optimist, but I’ve been around long enough to know that feelings of imposter syndrome will likely never go away completely. However, I believe that with diligent effort, imposter syndrome can be overcome. 

If you haven’t read my prior post, this would be a great time to pause and do that, so that you can reflect on just how much of a HOT MESS I used to be. In my last post I gave examples of my life during residency, but, guys, hot mess-ness is not in my distant past AT ALL. Just a year and a half ago a typical day was getting called by someone at work wondering where I was and why I wasn’t at the place that I needed to be. I would basically put out self-made fires all day long. Then, I would come home and do more of the same. We would eat out most days because we hadn’t thought ahead to what to eat for dinner; our home was a cluttered nightmare; and we would go to bed exhausted and frustrated, just to wake up the next day and do more of the same.

I was running on E most days, and it fueled my anxiety. I would sit at my desk at work and have all sorts of negative thoughts: “You don’t belong here”, “Why do you even try”, “Your life is such a disaster”. I’d look around at my cluttered desk and my huge to-do list, and that basically confirmed my inner thoughts of “You can’t handle this”. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy, an endless cycle that I did not know how to break free from. Then, one day at a second point I was blessed with the 5-second rule. This changed EVERYTHING. 

Since then, I have developed a strategy to overcome the imposter syndrome that had plagued my life for so long. Things are by no means perfect, but I am so much better than I used to be. Here are the 5 things that I have done to overcome imposter syndrome: S.O.A.P.P. (Y’all know I love acronyms!). This stands for Speak, Operate, Affirm, Plan, and Praise.

1. SPEAK

This is not about affirmations or speaking positively to yourself. Affirmations are important, but they should not be the initial step. Most self-help manuals teach that if you change your mindset, your actions will change. This may work for some, but it did not work for me. No amount of looking in the mirror and telling myself that I am kind, beautiful, or important made me actually feel that way when I stepped away from the mirror and into the clutter and chaos of the day. 

Instead, I learned that DOING the things that I am scared of, taking imperfect action, and putting progress over perfection were the most important things that led to improvements in my life. 

Speaking, then, involves speaking the words and phrases and that are going to get me to move. We are speaking in order to get us to move, because movement is the key to overcoming imposter syndrome. I utilize Mel Robbins’ 5-second rule, so the words that I speak are “5-4-3-2-1” I can’t not move when I do this! This powerful mind trick overrides whatever is keeping me stuck. I sometimes have to say it multiple times per day…sometimes I have to say it multiple times per HOUR. However, the goal is clear: I am speaking something that reminds me to move and to act. 

You may choose to use the 5-second rule as well, or you might develop another phrase that prompts you to move. Whatever it is, you must be consistent with it. Write it on a sticky note and place it on your computer. Write it in your planner. Schedule an alert on your phone so that it pops up every hour. 

Once you speak your movement phrase, the next step is to… 

2. OPERATE

Yes, we then have to move! As you recall from part 1 of this series, I overcame feeling like an imposter in residency by faking it until I made it. I had to do the things that residents do; do the things that physicians do, until I began to feel like a physician. This became a positive loop, and the more I did, the more that I began to feel like I could do it. There’s nothing more powerful to help you conquer the mountain in front of you than looking back on the mountain that you just overcame. You have likely experienced this before. You know when you make a huge and overwhelming to-do list, and that feeling that you get when you cross something off? If you’re anything like me, you add things to your to-do list that you’ve already done, JUST SO YOU CAN CROSS IT OFF. Why do you do this?

You do this because it makes you feel powerful. It emboldens you. You’re like: “I did that!” And it motivates you to do the next thing on your list. Let’s go over this again: Doing the action is what motivates you take another action. Not telling yourself that you can do. You have to actually do it. That’s why I began to overcome and truly shined in residency. 

You are going to be scared. Move anyway. Even if you simply take a small step (in fact I encourage you to take small steps at first)

If I were reading this blog, I would stop right now, close my laptop, and start scrolling Instagram. I can just sense your overwhelm. This. Is. The. Hardest. Step. Consider this entire HWDL blog a lesson on how to operate. You will not have to figure it out alone. We will get through this together over time. 

The best thing to do when you are in the operation phase is to break down your projects and tasks into manageable steps. Additionally, large to-do lists are more overwhelming than they are helpful-to-do list items must be prioritized. We will delve more into this in a future blog post. 

Do not despair if the steps you take are small. Guess what- you’re still moving! Small steps can still move you closer to your goals. Think about it like this: you want to be an author and want to complete your book in 2019, however, you are able to write 1 paragraph per day. At the end of the month, you will have 28-31 paragraphs! Conversely, if you wait until you get a big block of time to begin writing, you will likely end the month with…nothing. In the first case, you are a writer, even if your book isn’t completed, because you are WRITING. In the second case, you are not. The writer is going to be much further along to becoming the author that he or she desires to become than the person who waits around for the perfect time.

Remember that imperfect action is still action! It may be messy but at least it will be done..and “done is better than perfect”. 

3. AFFIRM

Alrighty…you’ve spoken to yourself to get yourself in motion, you’ve moved and completed a task. Now…affirm yourself! Pat yourself on the back. You’re more likely to believe the affirmations at this point, because you have done the work. You might even want to give yourself a small You are strong, successful and fierce. Write them down. Believe them. Because you are those things, even if you don’t always feel like it.

Check out this amazing book for daily affirmations that will empower you along your journey toward overcoming imposter syndrome

4. PLAN

Plan your next step. This may start with speaking again, or you may be able to go back to the project management plan that you made and during your operation phase. Pull out your cute planner or notebook and get to work planning your next move! Maybe you will go to the next to-do on your list, or you will complete another section of the work you just completed. 

Don’t get stuck in the planning phase, though. Quickly think about what is next and then Keep. It. Moving. Many may chime in and say “but if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail”. Listen. If you truly have imposter syndrome, then you likely have a to-do list longer than the state of Florida. You have all sorts of tasks and projects that swirl around in your head at night and keep you from sleeping. You scroll endlessly through facebook and Instagram in order to numb the realization that you are falling behind in life and not keeping the promises that you have made to yourself and others.

In other words-you already KNOW what you need to do.

Be sure to prioritize the things you need to do, and start with those items that are both urgent and important. For more on this, refer to Stephen Covey’s matrix system that is outlined in his book. You can pick up the book here. I also plan on devoting an entire blog post to to-do lists.

5. PRAISE (and PRAYER)

You did it! You spoke to yourself to get yourself to move, operated in a small way to move your goals forward, affirmed yourself and gave yourself some kudos, AND you planned your next move.

Now, take a moment, and give Him some praise! You may also want to pray as you again move into the speaking of the cycle to prompt you toward your next action. I suggest that you write down your prayers, if at all possible. Once you’ve moved through a particular season, it is so encouraging to be able to go back through your prayers and see where you were and how far you’ve come.

The SOAP method has been very effective for me when I need to break the cycle of self-sabotage that held me back from accomplishing my goals. Try it out! I would love to hear your feedback. Please shoot me a message below, or email me at husbandwifedoctorlife@gmail.com.

Peace and love,

Kim