Our emotional responses to challenging situations can draw us into negative thought traps. These feelings are strong and sometimes cause great internal turmoil.  

Most of us have heard about imposter syndrome, where we feel inadequate for the role we’re in or tasks we face. It can take over our emotions and consume our thoughts if not reined in. Some of you may have read my previous blog on the Saboteur and the Sage. It deals directly with the concept of imposter syndrome and includes solid ways to fight it off.  

Imposter syndrome pits two parts of ourselves against each other—our heart and our head. When the emotions in our heart run contrary to what we know in our head, we’re experiencing what I’ve heard described as cognitive confusion. Two sources tell us different things about the same event—our head and our heart don’t agree. 

Should you find yourself in cognitive confusion, repeat this phrase to yourself: “What I know to be true.” I’ve shared this with others, and it always helps bring us back, to ground us in reality. 

Let me give an example. A person’s emotions may be telling them they are not up to the challenge they’re facing. This person may be preparing for a presentation at work or a crucial conversation they have to have with their boss or coworker. Before the event, they get negative thoughts that may sound like, “This is not going to go well,” or, “I’ll probably get lost in my presentation and forget my talking points.

That’s when you repeat the statement to yourself, “What I know to be true.” Then follow with the facts:

  1. I’ve prepared sufficiently for this.
  2. I know the material.
  3. I’m no expert and can always learn something—but I am very knowledgeable about this topic.
  4. I’ve always done fine in the past, and there’s no reason I won’t do the same for this event.

We must recognize this cognitive confusion, then give ourselves time to consider the truth. Give your head a chance to weigh into the battle. It might also help to write these things down; once written, you can think of those words on paper as evidence to support “what I know to be true.” 

Give it a go the next time you find yourself in cognitive confusion. Repeat the phrase, write it down. It will help calm the nerves during a tough time.