Sam slowly takes a sip of beer, staring at the bottom of his glass.
“I’m not ready,” he claims. “No one thinks I’m an expert or an authority.”
I respond calmly: “You sure about that, Sam? How many people have ever told you that you’re not an expert or an authority?”
“Ummm…ahhhh…hmmmm…no one, I guess.”
“So, Sam, is it really that ‘no one thinks you’re an expert or an authority’ or YOU don’t think you’re an expert or authority?”
Sam has imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome: A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.
Feeling like an “imposter” is extremely common. In fact, many high achieving, highly successful people suffer from it.
It’s the employee that gets a promotion based on merit but still doesn’t feel qualified.
It’s the athlete that works tirelessly; yet attributes their success to luck.
It’s the parent who struggles to accept compliments on what a great job they’re doing as a mom or dad.
In Sam’s case, he’s been successful in corporate America for 20+ years. His knowledge, expertise and experiences are SIGNIFICANT. But he never internalized his own accomplishments, and thus, when he launched his own consulting business he still felt like a fake.
If this resonates with you, please do the following three things:
There’s nothing “wrong with you” if you feel like an imposter from time to time. You’re not weird. Or weak. Or broken. In fact, when Sam and I were having this conversation over happy hour, I readily admitted that I’ve suffered from this, on and off, my entire life. I still question why I should be the person standing on stage, talking to people about goal achievement, leadership, motivation, focus, resilience.
Who am I to be standing up there? Why would people listen to ME?
That’s when I remind myself of the next point…
2—Let your competence fuel your confidence.
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, there is a prosecuting attorney in your head making a faulty argument based on insufficient evidence.
YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!
Sorry, had to get that in there 🙂
A Few Good Men aside, your brain actually CAN handle the truth, but you need to make a conscious, intentional effort to do it.
In Sam’s case, how many tens-of-thousands-of-hours has he spent working? Training? Acquiring and refining his skills?
So, grab the reins as the lead defense attorney and make a factual counterargument with the supporting evidence of your own competence.
Those late nights and extra effort got you the promotion.
That additional practice and conditioning caused your athletic success.
The sacrifice and attention to detail makes you a great parent.
Every single high achiever with whom I’ve worked has this reservoir of proficiency. We just need to remind ourselves of it.
3—No failure, only feedback.
A large part of imposter syndrome comes from the feeling of being found out; that you’ll be exposed as a fraud.
This transpires when you “fail.”
But what if you could set yourself up with the mental rewiring of never failing, of only getting feedback?
Fully embracing our abilities—whether it’s an employee, athlete, parent or consultant—comes from setting the expectation that we’ll make mistakes and perfection is not only indescribable; it’s unattainable.
Gathering feedback and trying to do it better the next time doesn’t make you “lesser” or fraudulent—it is, in reality, the reason you’re successful in the first place.
All your competence has given you valuable feedback and lessons learned. Use them to your advantage.
Believe in your abilities and keep Outperforming,