Believe it or not, “I feel like a fake”  “I feel like I don’t belong here”  and “I feel like I’m not good enough” are not really feelings although we pass them off as ones in our everyday life.  I call them Imposter feelings. They are actually subjective judgments, evaluative thoughts or statements we make about ourselves, others, or a situation. Judgments are usually based on our beliefs, values, and perceptions, rather than on direct sensory or emotional experience.   

Emotions, on the other hand, are feelings that arise in response to a situation, event or thought. They are typically experienced as bodily sensations and can range from pleasant to unpleasant, intense to subtle. Examples of emotions include happiness, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust. Emotions are automatic and unconscious, while judgments require conscious evaluation and interpretation.  

Too often, people use judgments instead of describing their emotional experiences. They struggle to identify, detect, and connect with their genuine emotions. Replacing emotions with judgments leads to increased experiences of the imposter syndrome and stories about ourselves and other people. 

Imposter Emotions masquerading as emotional experiences 

Our lives are filled with imposter emotions, lurking in the shadows and disguising themselves as genuine feelings. They seduce us into believing that they are true emotions, and we respond to them accordingly, unknowingly inviting confusion and frustration into our lives and relationships. What makes these imposter feelings so difficult to detect is that they can be conjured up in a flash, with a single thought. 

To create one of these imposters, all it takes is a simple sentence starting with “I feel…” followed by a judgment. From “I feel put off by her” to “I feel disrespected by him being late,” the list goes on and on. But these are not real emotions; they are judgments, evaluations, and beliefs, masquerading as feelings. By framing these judgments with the phrase “I feel,” we deceive ourselves into thinking that we are experiencing a genuine emotion when in reality, we are only expressing a judgment. 

Imposter emotions are expressions presented as feelings but are actually thoughts or judgments about a situation rather than genuine emotions. These expressions often begin with the phrase “I feel” followed by a word such as “like,” “as if,” or “that,” which indicates that the statement is not truly an emotion. For example, saying “I feel like a failure” is not a genuine feeling but a thought or judgment about oneself. “I feel like a fraud” is often used by those suffering from the Imposter Syndrome  

Finding the emotion behind the judgment 

Many people are so busy judging themselves with imposter emotions that they don’t take the time to discover the genuine emotion beneath their surface. The real feeling is overshadowed and ignored, while the imposter emotion takes center stage. The result is a confusing mess of unresolved emotions, leaving us unaware of our true feelings and tricked into believing that the imposter emotion is real. When we say, “I feel judged” or “I feel put down,” the true emotion could be frustration, anger, fear, or disappointment. However, instead of identifying the real emotion and addressing it, we judge the experience and deceive ourselves into thinking that the imposter emotion is genuine. 

They are abstract ideas and evaluations about ourselves and our world using “I feel…” instead of “I judge.” While these imposter emotions may seem convincing, we should not be fooled. By continuing to ask questions and checking in with our bodies to locate where we feel emotions, we can distinguish between genuine feelings and imposter emotions. Similarly, saying “I feel ignored” is not a genuine feeling but rather a thought or belief about our disappointment in the behavior of others. A better way to express this would be to say, “I feel hurt and sad when you don’t respond to my messages.” This way, the other person can understand how their actions have affected you without feeling responsible or on the defensive. 

Using imposter feelings to express oneself can be confusing and misleading in communication. These expressions are often interpreted as genuine emotions by the listener, even though they are not. This can create conflict or distance when shared with others, as they may feel blamed or attacked. Additionally, relying on imposter feelings can lead to a lack of self-awareness and an inability to identify and address genuine emotions. This can perpetuate feelings of the Imposter Syndrome and prevent personal growth and authentic connection with others.  

What to Do 

To stop expressing imposter emotions, it’s important to recognize and distinguish between genuine emotions and imposter emotions to communicate effectively and authentically. Start by becoming aware of when you are using imposter emotions instead of genuine emotions. This can involve taking the time to reflect on what you are feeling and why. When you notice an imposter emotion, try to reframe it into a genuine emotion by identifying and expressing the underlying feeling.   

Overall, stopping the expression of imposter emotions involves becoming more self-aware, challenging negative beliefs, and seeking support from others. By doing so, you can power past the Imposter Syndrome and live life powerfully and on purpose.  

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