At some point in your life, you have probably experienced shadows that haunted or frightened you. These were the shadows that followed you with an extraordinary hold on your fears and doubts. Perhaps there were shadows of your mind that troubled your sleep or caused you to hide behind masks, images and words that you couldn’t quite shake off. I call these masks “shadow brands”.
Shadow brands become thieves, imposters, victims or charlatans that work at destroying your self-confidence and making it more difficult for you to connect genuinely to your authentic voice. What creates a shadow brand? Shadow brands are any feelings of inadequacy you have that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. You experience it internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence or being a victim.
Typically, some of the inadequate feelings of shadow brands you can experience include:
You feel like a fake: believing that you don’t deserve success and somehow, you deceive yourself into thinking that you deserve less. You fear being “found out, discovered or unmasked” for the fraud you believe you are.
Attributing success to luck: when you do achieve any successes you attribute them to luck or to some other external reasons, and not to your own internal abilities. Typically, you say things like, “I just got lucky this time” “It was a fluke” and with the fear that you won’t be able to succeed the next time.
Discounting success: This is where you downplay your success or discount it. You’d find yourself saying, “It’s not a big deal,” “It wasn’t important.” Shadow brands happen with very successful, high achieving individuals — not just with individuals with low self-esteem. They linger around thanks to years of social conditioning the pressure to perform and be responsible as the world around you believes you “should.”
Unfortunately, when shadows of inadequacies are suppressed long enough they begin to show up in the world in ways that makes others feel “less” “distrusting” or “easily swayed.” They become shadow brands that lead to living a lie, to covering up, and to a life that’s not real. Let’s look at the four most common types of shadow brands that show up in the world to destroy what is real, authentic and true.
1. A Thief Brand
The world is a market place of ideas. The thief brand preys on the world of ideas and blatantly steals them from others. This shadow brand can show up as being helpful until the ripe moment where they then steal the other person’s work as their own. Or, they sit back and watch others succeed and then jump on their coattails to ride the other person’s success without any intentions of making any real contributions. Worst yet is when the thief brand plots and schemes how they will steal other people’s ideas or work and sell it for less. What’s driving this brand? They don’t believe they are adequate enough to realize anything on their own. So, they look at what they can take from others generally through manipulation.
2. An Imposter Brand
The imposter is often found working hard at something in order to prevent others from discovering that they are an “imposter”. They believe that the hard work will lead to more praise and success, which perpetuates their fear of being “found out.” In feeling a fake, they often hide their feelings of inadequacy behind a phony smile and a limp handshake. They pour on the charm and tell people what they think the other person wants to hear. They find it challenging to stop talking because they’re afraid that if they do, others will ask the questions that will reveal they are an imposter that doesn’t really know. When they are asked a question, they usually switch the subject or revert the conversation back to the other person. They control everything around them in order to protect their inadequate feelings.
3. A Victim Brand
“Poor me!” they cry. “No one understands.” “Everything bad happens to me.” “I can’t make anything happen that’s successful.” The victim brand believes that nothing good can come to them. They believe that the world is either out to get them or that no one cares enough. They cave into their inadequacies and avoid displaying any confidence in their talents. The victim believes that if they actually believe in their intelligence and abilities that others may reject them. Therefore, they convince themselves that they are not intelligent and do not deserve success. This way, they can remain a victim of their shadow. 4. A Charlatan Brand The charlatan brand pretends to have more knowledge or skill than they have. They are a thief, an imposter and victim all rolled into one. This is the classic “con artist.” They out and out lie, steal and cheat others of their dreams, ideas, jobs, and dignity. The charlatan is a skilled thief. They are charismatic, charming and full of important things to say that they get others to listen. They are generally masters of language, skilled in political correctness, and in practicing the art of manipulation. The charlatan brand is more puffery than substance. Rarely have they done any of the things they tell others.
The thief, the imposter, the victim, and the charlatan are all shadows of the ego. That part of you that is always seeking gratification, stroking, ease, and recognition.
We’re all thieves at some point in our lives. We all want recognition, so we steal a little of everyone’s time to get it, even if it’s from someone who doesn’t know what’s going on yet. And we all play mind and word games when we are being the imposter. Our mind is a wonderfully clever, deceiving thing. It even deceives us to make us think we are being honest. We also play the victim because the mind is always looking for the easy way. If we believe what we feel, the mind will make us feel that the way of least discomfort and greatest gratification is the only choice. We lie to ourselves to justify the lie we share with others. The charlatan is a very skilled thief, who is an imposter, who justifies it by blaming it on the world or others.