Imagine a world in which you are constantly worried that you will be found out. That those around you will one day discover that you don’t actually know what you are talking about, and you have only made it this far due to deception and guile.
Sadly, you probably don’t need to use your imagination because many of you already think you are frauds and that your accomplishments and successes were down to luck.
If this is true, you have imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome can be problematic to deal with because you have also been taught that ego is bad. That it is not all about you, you are no better than anyone else, and it is rude to throw your accomplishments, qualifications, and award wins, around.
You are not alone in feeling like this. Award winning author Neil Gaiman wrote about an event he was at where Neil Armstrong expressed that he did not deserve to be in the room with so many talented people. All he had done was go where people told him to go. (The Moon!)
Astronauts, Oscar winners, billionaires, and around 70% of the population of the USA has imposter syndrome.
It is a challenging enemy to deal with, and so you will need a variety of tools to manage it.
Write down all of your knowledge and expertise
This can feel like bragging, but you did the work. You achieved those accomplishments. List every qualification and course you have done, every relevant book you have read, or podcast you listened to. Every relevant documentary you watched, every job role you have had, and every award you have won. Write it down, read it, and own it. You did that!
Create a T.E.D Talk mantra
The idea of having an empowering mantra is quite common, and an extension of this is the empowering bio. If you were being introduced to give a T.E.D talk, what would that be like? Is any of it untrue? If that flattering description is the reality and you are having difficulty embracing it, then repeat it as a mantra. When you wake up, on the walk between meetings, in your head whilst queuing to get coffee. Program yourself to embrace it.
Collect positive feedback
Create a folder on your computer, or even a photo album on social media, and put in it all the nice things people have said about you. This can be product reviews, photos of thank you cards, or kind comments about you as a person. A place you can delve in to when you are struggling or starting to lose faith in yourself. This will enable you to go through the timeline of your life and quickly find proof that you have an impact, have had success, and perhaps even made someone’s life a little easier.
How does your environment support your successful self? Have you put your certificates on the wall in your study, the magazine features of you or your business in frames, perhaps photos of your family who believe in you, or even evidence of your past successes? This may also include anchors to the less successful “you” that needs to be removed. Imagine you are a detective investigating whether the person that lives or works in this place, is who they say they are. Clothing, books, vehicles, will all play a part.
Own your weaknesses
You may think that being in a position of authority means you have to show strength all of the time. This is not true; you are allowed to be human. Sharing your flaws shows self-awareness and authenticity. You do not have to be perfect, and that is not the expectation. Leadership strategist Dov Baron suggests we be less like the flawless Superman/woman, and embrace our vulnerabilities because it allows deeper connections, and increases loyalty.
Keep learning by being curious
Technology is causing all industries to be disrupted, and it is challenging to stay up to date. Doing so out of fear of being left behind is a negative path that will cause stress, but doing so out of curiosity will be much more effective. This can easily be achieved by listening to podcasts or audiobooks whilst on the commute.
We live on an island surrounded by a sea of ignorance. As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance. — John Archibald Wheeler
You will forever be riding the see saw of Imposter Syndrome vs Ego, but not all of your solutions have to be true all the time. Today you may rely on your qualifications to boost your confidence, but tomorrow you might decide qualifications are not what makes you amazing, and the fact that your new colleague has a PHD has no impact on your ability.
Particular clothing can help you play the part today, but tomorrow you may not need them. You are the only you, that is your USP. You are a veng diagram of experiences, abilities, and viewpoints that makes you unique.
If you try and be someone you are not, then imposter syndrome will be able to grow.
Groucho Marx is often quoted as saying “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”
Sadly too many of you are susceptible to imposter syndrome because if you can achieve something, you immediately invalidate it. If you can do it, it must have less worth. This is nonsense.
The above tips will certainly help, but perhaps the real answer to defeating imposter syndrome is to work out who you really are, what gives your life meaning, how that aligns with what you do, and then be that person. 100%.
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