Okay the classic definition of an imposter is: a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.
I think of great leaders that I’ve known and worked with, and none of them fit that definition. Then why do so many people that I work with today feel like they have imposter’s syndrome? And even more fascinating about this pattern, is all of these people are extremely high performers and very successful. So, what gives? What is going on?
Psychology today describes imposter syndrome as People believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.
Why do we doubt ourselves our capabilities our achievements, and worry that others will find out, that we’re really not as competent as we’re perceived? That the image we’ve created is just that, an image? Possibly or particularly born out of luck, not skill.
Psychology Today also claims about 30% of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. And around 70% of adults may experience it at least once in their lifetime.
Have you? Well, consider a few of the following questions from the Clance Imposter Phenomenon Scale and see if any resonate with you:
- I can give the impression that I’m more competent than I really am.
- When people praise me for something I’ve accomplished, I’m afraid I won’t be able to live up to their expectations of me in the future.
- I’m afraid people important to me may find out that I’m not as capable as they think I am.
- Sometimes I feel or believe that my success in life or my job has resulted from some kind of error.
- I often worry about not succeeding with a project or examination, even though others around me have considerable confidence that I will do well.
Do any of those statements ring true for you? Or have they at some point in your career?
And in realizing that so many of us experience this either sometimes or frequently, the important question is, what do we do about it? And how do we overcome it?
I would of course say, work with a coach, because I’m like a coach. And a coach helps you see yourself as you are. To create alignment in your authentic self.
And one of my true joys in to work with people to identify their strengths, find evidence for their accomplishments, and to reflect on them. Honor them. And to continue to seek out and align to this more authentic mindset.
Which is a key to changing our view of ourselves. We have to look for evidence to support our success rather than looking for evidence or ruminating on the doubts that occasionally affect all of us.
Ruminating on the fear that we’ve just been lucky. Or in the right place at the right time. We’ve had the right connections. We’re a fluke.
And change to this mindset we must.
Because if we don’t we can stifle ourselves. We may not pursue an opportunity that could be the role of a lifetime. We may not accept that next new challenge, thinking that based on our quest for perfection, we may fail.
Additionally, these limiting thoughts just keep taking up precious headspace. Space in our minds that can be used in a more constructive and creative manner.
To counter these feelings of inadequacy, we also may engage in practices that don’t serve us. We work harder, more, striving for perfection, holding ourselves to an unattainable standard and at a level that doesn’t serve our health and wellbeing. And one that doesn’t serve as a role model for others.
But what if we were more transparent and vulnerable in the areas that challenge us, rather than hiding our authentic selves—because we fear we’ll be discovered as a fraud. I mean, when you consider the people that are closest to you from a work perspective, those that admire and respect you—do you think they’ll really agree that OH, yes you ARE in fact a fraud! Now I see it!
Can you imagine? They’d probably start listing off the amazing and wonderful skills you have and your accomplishments you’ve made….ironically believing in you more than you believe in you. And isn’t’ that a little problematic?
Because again if you don’t believe in yourself, how much will you risk? How many significant challenges will you take on with the fear of failure?
And I know, I know. I’ve been there. And I’ve some clear past examples when I’ve indulged in this type of thinking. It didn’t serve me then, and it doesn’t serve me now.
To overcome this phenomenon:
- Listen to what your brain is offering you about yourself, and tell it to shut up
- Challenge your mindset, adopt a growth mindset (See podcast Podcast 04 Choosing Growth – Intentionaleaders)
- Network with others, be vulnerable and transparent about challenges
- Accept praise, compliments and recognition with genuine sincerity and gratitude
- Be deliberate about reflecting on your successes and accomplishments, noting the efforts and strategies you used to achieve them; highlight your skill not luck
Most of all, believe in you as much as others believe in you. Well, let’s actually believe in ourselves even more.