I feel fortunate that my work takes me around the world to work with high-ranking military executives, technical experts, C-suite executives, technical experts, project managers, and all variety of men and women who have a spark to succeed.
One issue many people reveal to me is that they feel like a fraud. It’s a belief, and sometimes a gripping fear, that they haven’t earned their position, and when they are found out, the consequences will be devastating.
This Fear is Imposter Syndrome
- I only got the promotion out of luck.
- I don’t know enough to do this job.
- If I’m not perfect, it will show and be my downfall.
- I find this work too hard for me and I will fail.
- I was part of a team. Why am I the only one earning the rewards?
Does any of that sound familiar? It’s more than healthy self-doubt. It’s negative thinking that can derail your success.
What’s Healthy about Self-Doubt?
In a normal day, we question our activities. I don’t think I’ll make the meeting in time. I’ll call and let everyone know. I don’t know if this presentation is right for the client. I’ll ask someone to review it. And so it goes. As you question what you do or don’t know, you seek answers.
Imposter syndrome shuts down the internal conversation and derails your success.
People who fall into one or more of these five competence types have a tendency to struggle with imposter syndrome issues. Do you see yourself on this list?
- I’m a perfectionist – 100% or nothing. You overwork setting standards for yourself that no one else has.
- I must be an expert before I try to accomplish the task.
- If I didn’t do the work alone, it’s not my accomplishment. Me, myself, and I – a team of we.
- I am a superhero. If everything in my personal and work life isn’t perfect, I am failing.
- If I don’t understand something the first time, I’m an idiot.
What’s also interesting to note is the more success people have, the worse the condition becomes. The higher you are, the harder the fall.
Imposter syndrome leads to bad outcomes. People procrastinate for fear of failure. People don’t seek out promotions or interesting new jobs. Some become socially isolated and may turn to destructive behaviors. When you avoid the fear, it builds.
The Imposter Thrives in Isolation
Here’s a truth bomb: your thoughts are not always fact. Failing to close a deal, coming short on a presentation, missing a flight or missing a meeting, is life. It’s human.
Don’t compare yourself to your peers’ greatest hits on social media. Your friend posts pictures of a beautiful beach day with his family. You call when he returns. Looks like your vacation was amazing. He confesses he had a fight with his wife, his kid got food poisoning, and it rained for most of the trip. What others show to the world is not true. Your Facebook life vs your real one!
A rival wins an award and social media is lighting up with the event. You only see the result. You missed the squishy middle where her five previous attempts went nowhere.
The way through imposter syndrome is to move past competence type #3 – if I don’t do it alone, it’s not my accomplishment. Talk to people. Share your concerns and soon you’ll see you are not alone.
Recognize that not every day is your best. When you do feel down, you tend to skew toward the negative.
Back in March, I devoted this newsletter to the concept of luck. It may be bad luck your car skidded on black ice and you landed in a ditch. But it’s not good luck that you didn’t. You have experience driving, you were warned that road conditions favored black ice and you took precautions. It wasn’t good luck you got your great job. It may have been by chance you saw the opening, but it was your talent, networking, experience, and the fact you applied that landed the position.
I’ve included references to two interesting resources from social scientist Amy Cuddy. Her ideas on body posture and body language can change your outlook on your confidence. She has the saying, fake it until you make it. This means even if you don’t feel competent at a task, keep your head down and move forward until you do.
You may be alone with your thoughts but your feelings are universal. Take a step outside of yourself and engage.You are not alone.
Contact me with your leadership and team questions. I’d be happy to build an offsite learning or training program for you.