Rediscovering yourself and your sense of identity in your 40s

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has been left feeling pretty blah and with a very watered down sense of identity having battled our way mentally and emotionally through this god-awful pandemic.

The pandemic has battered or erased so many things hasn’t? That sense of freedom, joy, friendships, mental health and maybe – if you are like me – your sense of identity too.

Time to break free

Living in a little box is no good for anyone. Yet that is what as a collective we’ve had to do for the best part of two years, as our world became beyond micro and life became restricted as hell. Little by little, we’ve been picking our way through the rubble, trying to piece together the things we loved before this social tsunami pretty much wiped out the things we loved and brought us joy. But it all takes time.

The other day I went away for the very first time BY MYSELF. I took myself up to Yorkshire from London to see a friend who was visiting from Germany. It felt monumentous. That ritual of packing up my things and taking a train far away from home for pleasure left me sick to the stomach with anxiety but also giddy with excitement.

I realised just how much confidence I had lost with this living in a box mentally which had become the norm. The simple act of stepping outside my daily life, my comfort zone, was so empowering. I would’t have even given it a second thought before the pandemic but it felt epic. I told myself to woman-up: come on Talya, I said…you’ve travelled to India by yourself. You can do this! And so I did. Needless to say I returned a new woman and realised at that point the enormity of that which I – and probably also you reading this – had lost during this utter shit show.

Craving a break from the norm

What was next on the menu and operation sense of identity restoration? I was keen to keep on with the rebuilding of self and sense of identity. I needed to continue rebelling against the mundane which we had all become trapped in. I booked myself and my daughter our very first Stand Up Paddle Boarding lesson with our local operator – Hampton Court Paddle Sports. I had always wanted to be able to engaged with our local part of the Thames on a deeper way than just swanning around on a boat, and this was it.

I won’t lie to you, as we were talked through our explanatory land session, my mouth was so dry with fear it may have as well as been the Sahara Dessert. Completely ridiculous coming from someone who has jumped out of a plane on a skydive before. But there you go. I swear every muscle in my body rallied against me as it got up on that board, but within minutes once my mind had got over the fact that no – I was not about to meet my death by crocodiles in the River Thames – I started feeling free as a bird and began to enjoy the experience immensely. Think walking on water but only better.

Going with the urge

So why does the sudden urge to reclaim your sense of identity happen at this juncture? Jade Mitchell, at Blank Canvas Coaching says, “Many of my clients come to me seeking to renew or rediscover their sense of purpose in their 40s. They want to explore the place they find themselves in, gain clarity on the direction they want to take and set objectives to see real change in their lives. There are the demands on time, the sense of wanting to be fulfilled and challenged but needing to balance the demands of family, as well as the need to keep paying the bills to be factored in. It’s a challenge, but I believe every circumstance can be turned into a gift and opportunity, and fundamentally its down to having a positive mindset.”

So with many of us having taken a massive battering in terms of sense of self due to a more limited way of life then coupled with the mid life effect, how can we go about reclaiming our sense of identity in our 40s before? Here Andre Radmall M.A. MSc. B.A. psychotherapist, coach and author of the book Get Unstuck, Change the Script, Change your Life‘ shares his tips for rediscovering yourself and sense of identity.

Rediscovering your sense of identity

Self-care

Get into your body as much as possible. It could be dancing, yoga, gym, running. It doesn’t matter what you do but getting out of your head and into your body is essential for self-confidence.

Self-compassion

Watch the language you use about yourself– either internally or in conversation. Try to reduce negative self-talk.

Rewrite the script

In my book ‘Get Unstuck, Change the Script, Change your Life‘ I talk about rewriting your life story. When women enter their 40’s the scripts that society gives women change. Women often describe becoming less visible at this stage. This is a good point to step back and think about what your story over the next ten years could be. To build your story you will need to look at what you can realistically bring with you from the past and what new activities or relationships you want to build into the future.

See things differently

Identity can be broadened and expanded and changed by trying new things out. Write a list of three traits that describe you. Then think of the opposite of those traits. Then imagine how your day would be if you took on THOSE traits. How would you stand, move and relate to others? While this may feel like it’s being fake, you are actually allowing more space for different, previously hidden aspects of yourself to come out.

Have you found a burning urge to rediscover your sense of identity of late? Share your experiences in a comment below and connect with us on Instagram here to contine the conversation.

Photo by elifskies, Olga,  Quang Anh Ha Nguyen from Pexels 

Everything going wrong? How to bitch slap those clusterfuck days

Clusterfuck – otherwise known as a complex and utterly disordered and mismanaged situation, a muddled mess of everything going wrong, which lets face it, the last two years have been without a doubt. But that’s on the macro level. We can kind of handle that because everyone is going through the same clusterfuck of everything going wrong together. The worst type of clusterfuck in my view is when you are going through your own personal clusterfuck of everything going wrong on a micro level, one that is totally personal to you.

Let me paint a picture

….of one of my recent clusterfuck days. I had just booked a holiday to Cape Verde having vowed to not try and travel overseas until the pantomime was over. Within 24 hrs I had to cancel it and was feverishly trying to rebook a holiday to Turkey. OK so totally my own doing there.

I had a firm word with myself and tried to move on. Then sat down and realised I had been locked out (yet again!) of the back end (no not that kind of back end people!) of my bread and butter website Motherhood: The Real Deal as I sat down to try and earn my keep and pay.

But don’t worry because I was soon distracted by the fact my period had come a week two early which meant my mammogram and MRI appointments for my high risk breast cancer screening then had to be rescheduled for some date we couldn’t even bank on because we had no idea if my next period would scupper things once again.

This was against the backdrop of a family ding dong where a family member who shall not be named had labelled me as selfish for wanting to go away against all odds in light of my recent BRCA1 positive status and wanting to live my life to the fullest and a barrage of communications which quite frankly I could have done without.

Definitely not clusterfuck enough yet

My darling four month pup then decided – as she proceeded to dig up a collosal mud pit in our back garden and breakdance the residue all around the kitchen and living room – sofas and all. While I tried to clean the fall out from her kerfuffle up, she chased the mop like a pup possessed making me feel increasingly hot, bothered and hateful by the minute.

Having waited around all day for a doctor that never bothered to call me back about my recent genetic testing debacle, I could feel my annoyance with the world levels reaching breaking point. WHY IS NOTHING EVER STRAIGHT FORWARD? I moaned to my long suffering 40 Now What partner Katie. “Well, my love, because it isn’t”, she wearily replied.

By the time 5pm rolled around, the dinner I had planned on making was a day out of date when I pulled it out the fridge and stunk to fishy high heaven. I called my other long suffering partner Mr C and desperately enquired if he would be coming home soon so I could go for a run before I killed someone with the fall out from my clusterfuckish day. Thank god I did, otherwise I might have been writing this from the confines of a prison cell.

Needless to say I ran every single little bit of clusterfuck out of every cell of my being like I was channelling my inner Usain Bolt.

everything going wrong

Everything is going wrong…so what next?

Clusterfuck days are absolutely the worse. We all have them, we all survive them and live to tell the tale, and go to bed early grateful that the day is finally done and tomorrow will be a new, less clusterfucky (hopefully!) day. We all have our own way of managing them (mine is usually to run faster than my little legs will take me), but in case you need some help in managing your next clusterfuck day, we asked Sam Evans – one of our favourite coaches at 40 Now What – to share their tips to help us with future clusterfuckery:

***

You wake up, like every other day. You set your intentions the night before, you mapped out your week, and you say to yourself, I FREAKIN’ GOT THIS! So, you roll out of bed, drink your first of many coffees of the day, and something happens that causes you to feel, “it’s not going to be a good day!”

It could be an abrupt email popping up in your inbox, or your hot drink getting cold before you had a chance of drinking of it, and the constant screaming of “MUM” first thing in the morning, turns an entire day into one clusterfuck of a day as if the day has been totally ruined leaving you feeling drained and exhausted before the day has even begun.

Now more than ever, this is a recurring pattern I see with many women I work with. Instead of taking inspired action or achieving their desired goals, there would always be something at cause to create this feeling as if nothing is meant to be. “It’s the kids fault! It’s the kettles’ fault! Everyone drives me insane!”  With so many triggered events, how can one ever see the joy, when the emotions are so sky high? It’s as if its everyone else’s fault that your day is a complete wreck when really, it’s something a lot deeper.

By having many clusterfuck days, it can be difficult to imagine a good day as our minds have memorised a significant patterned way of thinking, feeling and behaving caused by the need to get everything done.  We live in a time where everything is so fast paced, that we wake up with this feeling of urgency. It’s as if everything has to be done instantly and if it doesn’t go to plan, then we assume that everything else will go wrong. Just by even having that thought alone, sets the tone for the day, because you have already defined the day before it’s even happened.

When we are faced with such urgency, we face more problems in the outside world with what feels as if the world is against us when really, it’s a clear sign to slow down and pay attention to what really is bothering you and most importantly what to do when we are faced with such days.

Top tips for taking back control when everything is going wrong

Set your intentions in your mind the night before

By imagining and feeling what you want the day to be like, actually programmes your mind to assume that your day, is going to be exactly how you imagined it to be.  So think good thoughts as the mind will begin to create the feelings of joy for the following day.

Rise at a time you want to

That first hour in the morning just for yourself is such a magnificent feeling that you literally feel as if you can take on the world.  If you are not a 5am person, then don’t force yourself to be, rise at a time that you feel happy to wake up to, without peer pressure of what everyone else is doing.

Avoid the phone

I know. This can be difficult. But your phone isn’t going anywhere.  That email or message can wait. You are important and you cannot serve in the first 30-45 minutes of your day when you haven’t even given yourself permission to be, especially as in the first ten minutes of waking up you are tapped into your subconscious programming.  You put you first and do something that makes you happy, even if it’s drinking your first cuppa.

Positive morning routine

Journal first thing.  Honestly, our minds as women are full of ideas and things to do, and one of the calmest things to do. Journal everything out of your head, instead of imaginary lists in your mind.

everything going wrong

Address your emotions

Not every day is going to be perfect. You could wake up late, miss the alarm, or feel flustered.  Instead of allowing this to happen, give yourself permission to wake up late. By addressing how you feel is better than forcing yourself to be miss positive polly pants, because that emotion is there for a reason. Address it, accept it, and let it go.

Listen to your body

Sometimes we experience things like aches and pains, as if the body is telling us don’t move, just chill.  If you ever experience this, then listen to your body. Its ok to chill and watch Netflix; it’s ok to take a break and have a me day. Your body knows best so listen. 

Pause and reflect

If things feel like they are spiralling out of control, instead of forcing yourself to make things happen, just pause and reflect on your feelings.  Your mind and body are always communicating with you so listen with kindness to yourself on where you are now, without the need of more chaos projecting in your outer world.

Get in flow with a polarity test

This process is an effective way for a person who is experiencing negative attitudes and self-sabotaging behaviours, such as feelings of irritability, waking up in a bad mood, negative self-talk, and even procrastination.  To allow yourself to move from self-sabotage to a positive state, the following will allow your physical body to respond and have that instant shift:

  • Using your two right fingers, rub the soft spot in between your armpit and boob on the left side, while focusing on the issue that is causing you to feel negativity. Whilst holding on this spot, inhale deeply, and exhale with two breaths – first short second longer. Repeat this three times.
  • After, use the two same right fingers, and gently place them under the nose.  Whilst holding this spot, set the intentions for the day and inhale deeply, and exhale two breaths – first short second longer. Repeat this three times.
  • Finally, tap the side of left hand on the outside by the little finger reconfirming the following positive affirmations – “I am calm, I am content, and I am in control.” Repeat them until you feel they have integrated.

You can do this as many times in the day as you like, and I would definitely recommend doing this every day first thing.

Remember, when it everything is going wrong and itmin feels as if the world is against you, it’s a clear indication that you need time for you. You are so important on this earth and the only way you can serve others and have the most productive day, is if you put you first.

So if you’re having one of those days when everything is going wrong, take a deep breath and remember the above! Have you had a clusterfuck day recently? Why not get things off your chest with a comment below or by joining in with our community on Instagram here.

Photo by Liza Summer, energepic.com, cottonbro from Pexels

Finding happiness in your 40s – this summer and beyond

Life starts at 40….or does it? While some people might already living their best life in their 40s, others are feeling miserable as muck wondering what has become of their life. But wait for it…apparently being in our late 40s is the most miserable time in our lives. Now there’s something to look forward to…..NOT! Damn it, I thought I would be swinging by the chandeliers by then. So is finding happiness in your 40s a total pipe dream? Or can we still take life by the balls and throw a big two fingers up in the face of the midlife slump.

Well good news people because yes, happiness in your 40s feels as the scarlett pimpernell, here  Andy Cope and Paul McGee – authors of The Happiness Revolution – share their top tips for finding happiness in your 40s – this summer and beyond. Taken from the science of wellbeing, here’s how to have the best summer of your entire life that will help you feel fiendishly fantastic rather than flat as a pancake.

Going viral

Human beings are wired for emotional contagion. Your feelings and attitudes will spread. In holiday terms, if you have small children, they will be as happy in Margate as they are in Miami. So long as you are!

Similarly, one negative family member will lower the tone of the entire holiday party. Top tip: make sure it’s not you!

The $64,000 question

According to an esteemed researcher at the University of London’s Institute of Education, here are some monetary values of happiness:

  • Seeing friends and relatives is equivalent to a pay rise of £64k a year
  • Chatting to nice neighbours is worth £37k a year
  • Getting married is worth £50k a year
  • And the biggy? Excellent health is estimated to be worth £300k a year to you

Hopefully you can tick some of those boxes, in which case, you are enjoying ‘mental wealth’. Whatever the summer brings you, be grateful.

Happiness is Maximized at 57°F

Weird I know, but the American Meteorological Society found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity. It also found that happiness is maximized at 57 degrees (13.9°C), so, technically, point number 1 is bang on – you’re more likely to find happiness in Margate than Miami!

Stop musterbating

Musterbating’ is when you turn things you’d like to have into things you absolutely MUST have. Every advert on the TV is designed to make you unhappy with what you currently own, luring you to Amazon to spend money on products that will make you happy. Mr Postie’s next day delivery does indeed create a spike of happiness, for an hour or two, before you’re back online seeking another hit.

So here’s an interesting list to write… the top 10 happiest moments of your life. I’ll wager that most of your top 10 happiest moments are ‘experiences’ rather than ‘products’. So, to squeeze maximum happiness from your summer, throw yourself into experiences (picnics, BBQs, walks, swims, bike rides, pub lunches, sandcastles, hugs…)

‘Forest bathing’

The Japanese call it ‘shinrin-yoku’. We call it ‘going for a walk’. A study from the University of Sussex found that being outdoors made people happier: “Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.”

To be fair, no University degree is required. The point is obvious; fresh air – lots of it – makes us feel fab. Top tip, while you’re out and about, walk with your sense open. Bathe yourself in mother nature.

Be the Pied Piper of Happiness

Your emotions are contagious – they leak out of you and ‘infect’ those around you. So, when you make the conscious choice to be positive and upbeat, other people will catch your good vibes. So, top tip, be enthusiastic for 4 minutes and everyone else will feel great too!

This is especially important if you’re camping in the rain. It only takes one idiot (you!) to be enthusiastically jumping in puddles and, before you know it, the entire campsite is doing the same. When you are old and prune-like, you will look back on your life and realise that these ‘little moments’ were, in fact, the best bits of your life.

So here’s to happiness in your 40s and saying no to being miserable and middle aged this summer and beyond!

***

Dr Andy Cope and Professor Paul McGee have combined forces to pen THE HAPPINESS REVOLUTION: A Manifesto For Living Your Best Life (published by Capstone, June 2021). It’s the perfect summer read. It won’t change the world, but it’ll certainly change yours.

About the Authors

DR ANDY COPE is the UK’s first ever Dr of Happiness. He has a passion for motivation and positive psychology and strives to influence people to think differently. He founded Art of Brilliance in 2004 to blaze a new trail – one that was non-academic, totally rooted in the real world and that would make a massive and immediate impact on individuals and organisations. Andy is a sought-after keynote speaker, bestselling author, and authority on happiness, motivation, and human flourishing

PROF PAUL MCGEE is a visiting professor at the University of Chester and is one of Europe’s leading speakers on the subject of change, resilience, wellbeing, and communication. His book SUMO became a Sunday Times best seller and his book on Self Confidence reached number one in the WHSmith’s business chart and remained there for a further 24 weeks. His books have sold over a quarter of a million copies worldwide. He has appeared on BBC Breakfast television and is a regular contributor on BBC Radio.

Photo by Julia Avamotive from Pexels

How to manage intrusive thoughts

‘Just don’t think about it.’

Possibly the most unhelpful thing one can say to another. How about we respect our thoughts. After all, that’s all they are.

Imagine if you could see everyone’s thoughts. Now there’s a thought. There’s no way of knowing how people think. You might be able to guess what they are thinking but you can’t know how they manage their thoughts.

I wanted to share some of my intrusive thoughts with you. For me, it helps to talk about them. It helps me validate them and it creates a platform in which we can safely say, you know what… this might sound bonkers but… and after this, you might realise you’re not alone and I hope you find some comfort in that.

Gemma Thickett, Advice and Information Service Manager at Rethink Mental Illness, said:

‘Intrusive thoughts can be associated with mental health conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re experiencing mental illness. Intrusive thoughts can be very common, but if it’s starting to affect your quality of life it’s important to explore what you can do to manage them and seek out professional support which can help you.’

My top 4 intrusive thoughts

Like most of us, I think about a bajillion things at once. What can be rather annoying though is the frequency in which I think about the SAME things and they are often things from the past. However, I have managed to use some of my intrusive thoughts to my benefit and I channel them in a positive way while maintaining a good sense of humour about them as that is my way of coping and it works for me.

If I don’t do this…

…then that will happen. I used to wager a LOT on things like if I don’t see another magpie, something negative would happen to me or someone I loved. It wasn’t until fairly recently I realised that I had got a handle on this. I would have physical symptoms of panic (racing heart rate, tingling) if my thought wasn’t fulfilled.

I won’t need a poo will I?

I imagine this is a common one but when I was a very young girl, I was obsessed with not needing to poo anywhere. I won’t need a poo will I? Will I, Will I? The question would swirl around my head over and over again. Now my Mum, who was a legend by the way…. unhelpfully told me that I wouldn’t. And I believed her. So you can only imagine my horror when I was caught short at school and shat myself in year 7. It was decades later I realised that although there’s no place like home, pooing in other places wasn’t as bad as previously dreaded. It’s taught me that if my boys worry about something, I offer them a scenario whereby we come up with a solution if the unthinkable happens.

If I don’t try a bit of the food….

…it will be poison and that person will die. I’m not over this one so if my husband orders a different meal to me, I have to take a bite just in case. Same with the kids’ food.

The one about the boiler pressure

This is currently the most annoying one and it plagues me daily. Do you know what the pressure is on your boiler? Well I do and I know exactly how it fluctuates and unless it remains stable, it really affects me. I’m yet to fully understand why I seek comfort in my boiler but I do and that’s just the way it is. Every morning when I wake up, the 1st thing I do it check it. When I’m feeling particularly anxious about something, I find myself having to leave the boiler cupboard door open just so I can check it more regularly. I don’t need a new boiler. I realise it’s absurd and I can’t make the connection. When the pressure isn’t where it should be, I can find myself in a manic state. But I have lots of tools to help me. Talking of help…

Managing intrusive thoughts: Help is at hand

If you also have to deal with intrusive thoughts – as so many of us do whether we care to admit it or not – then here, Antonia Harman, multi award winning emotional trauma expert and healer and founder of www.divinempowerment.co.uk offers her top five tips to manage intrusive thoughts.

What to do when intrusive thoughts are getting you down

Intrusive thoughts can be both destructive and distracting; they keep you up at night, they stop you from being present, they could even alter your behaviour, making you play small. You may not take opportunities as the little voice in your head tells you not to, even when you know in your core it’s the right thing for you. Intrusive thoughts can cause anxiety and are generally a blight on your life.

Here are my top 5 tips on how to deal with intrusive thoughts:-

1. Self-enquiry

What are the intrusive thoughts actually saying? The thoughts tend to bubble up when you feel a little unsure; they escalate your feelings making a mountain out of a molehill. Are the thoughts constantly murmuring in the background? If they are, which they are for most people, take some alone time to sit and engage with your thoughts. What is that broken record playing on repeat? Is it that you are not good enough? That you will never achieve your goals. Is it abusive about your weight? That you are a terrible parent? Too much of this or too little of that? Whatever it is, listen and work out what the loudest voice is saying.

Once you know that, start asking yourself, is it true? Most intrusive thoughts are unfounded. Let’s take “I’m a bad parent” as an example. Well, are you? No one expects Mary Poppins. Do you stuff up from time to time? That’s cool you are human. Are your kids fed, with a roof over their heads and happy? If so, you can’t be doing that badly now, can you?

To stop intrusive thoughts, you need to find a resolution to them, to get to the point where they no longer resonate; they don’t make sense. For example, if some said you were a ‘tin can’, you would be puzzled. You definitely are not a tin can, so the idea of you being one completely bounces off you.

You need to be that annoying kid who says “But why” repeatedly. Listen to the thoughts dissect them with ‘But why’ you need to be honest with yourself. If some of the points are accurate and there is room for improvement, that’s fine too; make a list and action it. Get proactive and neutralise the blighters. Once the loudest thought is gone, go onto the second and so on.

2. Seek Professional Help

If you are struggling with point one, you could seek professional help? Talk therapy can help probe into the ‘why’ of things to help you burrow in and let things go. Letting it go is the most important thing, seeing it for what it is with a neutral, adult perspective and forgiving all parties. This means you need to forgive them, the situation and yourself. There is a good reason that forgiveness is a central theme in all religions; even AA has ‘make amends’ a major component. Forgiveness stops intrusive thoughts and allows for a happier you. If you are looking for non-attachment to your thoughts, you could give Divine Empowerment a try; we dissolve the energy or emotion associated with trauma. Once it’s gone, you find peace in the situation you don’t feel triggered when you think of it; you don’t feel anything; it’s neutral and just the facts without the loaded emotions.

3. Get into Nature

The more grounded and relaxed you are, the quieter your mind is. Have you noticed that the intrusive thoughts subside when you are on hols? Why is that? Of course, you are less stressed (hopefully), but there is more to it. Being in nature is grounding the negative ions you get from the sea or forest to help to quieten the mind; the body is less stressed and anxious. Make being in nature part of your daily practice if you can do it barefoot or in moccasins, all the better (rubber-soled shoes block grounding); that way, the negative ions can be absorbed through your feet. To really connect to nature, go for a walk alone and if you are feeling brave, leave your phone indoors. The world is unlikely to end whilst you are on your 30-minute stroll. Many people constantly listen to music and have little or no time to self-enquiry whilst on your walk. Allow your thoughts to bubble up and refer to tip one.

4. Exercise

Yoga, pilates, chi gong, and tai chi are great way to ground and quieten the mind. They calm down your adrenalin and cortisol levels, causing less stress. The more pressure you have, the busier your mind will be. Meditation is another option; there are countless guided meditations on YouTube; apps like Calm and Mindful are brilliant as they keep you accountable to your daily practice. You can start your day with a guided meditation, use breathing techniques when you get stressed and even listen to bedtime stories and much more.

5. Monitor Visual Consumption

Are you hooked on the news? Let’s face it; there hasn’t been much good news of late are you watching the news on repeat and stressing yourself out? It’s great to be well informed but not overly well informed. If you have news bulletins on your phone, switch them off. Stick to watching the news once a day at the most. Whatever you are doing now, halve it; there is a lot of ‘fear porn’ out there which will cause intrusive thoughts.

Are you hooked on true crime documentaries or horror shows that stress you out? Do you watch scary things late at night and go to bed fretting about it? If so, knock it on the head entirely. If the intrusive thoughts are about something you have seen on the telly, turning your box off is a simple fix!

Have you ever suffered with intrusive thoughts? Do leave a comment and connect with us on Instagram here where we love to chat all things being in your 40s.

Got Imposter Syndrome? Here’s why Imposter Syndrome is hitting us hard!

The other day I was talking to a good friend about what bothered her most about being in her 40s now. I was met with two words that used to be my own nemesis: Imposter Syndrome. You will either know very well what these two words mean having struggled with it yourself, or will be thinking Lord woman what on earth are you on about!

In case you fall into the latter, let me break it down for you. Very Well Mind has the perfect explanation of Imposter Syndrome, and it goes something like this:

Imposter syndrome (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.

To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.

So how many of you now know what I’m talking about? Well, probably 6 in 10 of you, seeing as that’s how many women experience imposter syndrome at some stage of their lives. For years, I found myself looking over my shoulder, feeling like I was spinning the world’s greatest lie like I was going to be caught. I skulked around with this nagging feeling that I was not really who I said I was, or doing what I said I was. Even as I write those words, I realise just how completely bonkers that sounds, like I have a major personality disorder of some kind. Even after my career had taken me on TV and radio numerous times over, I had this horrid little voice in my head whispering at me, “you’re a fake!”. The thought alone makes me shudder!

So why is it so many of us women feel like a fraud and that we’ve somehow oversold ourselves when the reality is we’re shit hot and have totally earned it? And why can’t we stop comparing ourselves to others, constantly beating ourselves over the head with other people’s successes when we should in fact be celebrating our own? And more poignantly, why can all of this feel so much worse in our 40s when we should instead be reveling in the so-called confidence we should be enjoying in life and our careers by now?

Hold the phone caller! Because in this deep dive on Imposter Syndrome, we’ve lined up some of the most well-versed professionals on Imposter Syndrome to help us understand why we’ve fallen under the IS spell and how we can break it.

imposter syndrome

How do you know you have imposter syndrome?

Faye Cox, Mindset & Confidence Coach believes women in their 40’s are still experiencing Imposter Syndrome despite their success, as the sheer act of comparing ourselves to others tends to arise when we step out of our comfort zone.

The more successful we become the more we step into unknown territory which is where we feel uncomfortable and our self-doubt kicks in. Each time we do this, we have to re-adjust and use the techniques we’ve learnt to overcome it. More on that down below!

So is imposter syndrome just a female thing?

According to Intuitive Business Coach Sam Evans, it’s present in everyone, but women tend to suffer more, due to the emotional connection of their goals and dreams and the difference in upbringing between men and women.   

With the increase of female entrepreneurs online, it can be difficult to believe in yourself when you are constantly comparing yourself to other women causing disbelief that anything is possible for you.

Imposter Syndrome attacks the human psyche based on the programming of the subconscious mind which is where all your beliefs, and memories are stored.  Somewhere in your lifetime, you experienced a significant event that caused you to feel the way that you do which in affect triggers the feelings of inadequacy.

Does imposter syndrome becomes worse in your 40s? 

Unfortunately, Sarah Pittendrigh, Breakthrough Coach believes that Imposter syndrome can strike at any age, it can become particularly prevalent among women over forty. For many years, a woman’s focus has been on everyone and everything else; she’s the strong woman, the glue that keeps it all together and makes sure everyone else’s life is running smoothly. She supports her partner, she brings up her family, she nurtures her business – the focus is on everyone but her.

However, in her forties, a number of things can knock her off-kilter. Her children are growing up and she doesn’t need to be so hands-on. Her relationship with her partner may have changed over the years, whilst their energy shifted to their joint responsibilities and it can be challenging to bring the focus back to just the two of them.

When the time comes to refocus on your future, you can feel lost and lose sight of your direction and of your goals. The goals you had in your twenties may feel like a distant memory. It is when you lose this purpose and sense of self that Imposter Syndrome can set in.

This is echoed by Monika Mateja of Live Well Coaching who points to the fact that all of the above adds to insecurities and contributes to second-guessing ourselves. We doubt our abilities even if we have a successful career because there is so much going on in our life. In particular, in our 40s we begin to experience more health issues including unexplained weight gain and brain fog that can make us feel like we failed ourselves and this can contribute to low self-esteem and feeling like a fraud.

Does this sound familiar?

Jo Swann, a successful Director at a PR firm knows first hand that the Imposter Syndrom struggle is real, “As an ambitious high achiever I set up my business in my 20s and was full steam ahead, and built a successful business for 10 years working with large brands like banks and building societies and brands like Whistles and Yo! Sushi. No imposter syndrome there!

But then I had some personal circumstances that made me wake up and realise – just as I turned 40 that I wanted to change track. Practically burnt out with a young son I decided I wanted to use my skill in another way and put the soul back into my PR work – so I started to work with female entrepreneurs with a new business  – helping them use the power of PR to get their stories out there. Working locally I LOVED this but then came the introduction to the online world.

Oh my God – I freaked out and this is when my imposter syndrome hit. It was full of glamorous women rocking the online space, who looked so comfortable chatting on video, sharing their lives and successes (and I couldn’t even take a selfie). I was overwhelmed and didn’t see where I fit in despite having nearly 20 years PR experience and being networked to some of the most successful online entrepreneurs of the time, who readily accepted me into their circles.

It’s taken me two, nearly three years to find my true guts again and retrieve that ballsy 20-year-old as this new world spawned limiting beliefs, lack of self-worth and huge comparison-itus. This led to me playing small, undercharging and over-delivering until I finally took the bull by the horns, to tackle my blocks head-on and with the help of a fabulous coach I came out the other side. I now love helping other women fight the battle too, helping them use PR and the confidence it brings to fight their imposter off!”

imposter syndrome

Some tips for overcoming imposter syndrome…

So you’ve got Imposter Syndrome and it’s eating away at you one bitter little bite at a time. What to do? Follow these tips from Joanna Howes, Leadership and Performance Coach.

Women in their 40s still experience Imposter Syndrome as the inner work hasn’t been done to find out the reason why they have it in the first place.  Imposter syndrome doesn’t stop you from being successful, for some, it is actually a driver to prove themselves.  It can however stop you from owning, celebrating and being proud of what you have achieved, as you do not connect your success with how great you are. You do not stand in your true power and you can find yourself hiding from what you could be.

My top tips for overcoming Imposter Syndrome:

  1. You need to look inside yourself to get to know who you are. We are all born with self-leadership yet along the way, through school, parents, and friends we adopt roles to survive, to fit in and belong and these roles can squash our true self. When you find out which roles you’ve adopted you can then work to be back in charge of them, instead of them being in charge of you.
  2. Notice whether the thoughts you have about yourself are beliefs that are limiting you.  If you say ‘I’m not good enough’ is there any evidence to support this or is it a belief you have created or a story you have been telling yourself?
  3. Start affirmations in the morning. It took me a while to believe these affirmations work, and I can tell you after doing them myself they really do.  Look in the mirror and say ‘I am enough’, ‘I am worthy’ and ‘I belong’, and ‘I can handle whatever comes my way’. You can write your own but if you need something to get started with, these are powerful ones to use.

Are you currently struggling with Imposter Syndrome? Or perhaps you have beaten and moved on from crushing self-doubt and feeling like a fraud? Leave a comment below and follow us on Instagram here where we’ll be keeping the conversation going.

Picture credits:  Antonio DillardOlya KobrusevaAndrea Piacquadio, Thought Catalog  from Pexels