“I’m not really as good as people think—what if I’m exposed?”
A Harvard Blog defined Imposter Syndrome as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” This smacked me in the face one night after my daughter got engaged…
My daughter’s fiancée (now my son-in-law) was over for dinner. He made a comment about my “success.” I truthfully replied that I don’t feel like I had necessarily been “successful.” My daughter and my wife both jumped in and took his side (and I was left wondering what happened to family loyalty!). As I thought about the next day, they were right. I was suffering from imposter syndrome. Despite my accomplishments, I often still felt like a poser.
I was suffering from imposter syndrome. Despite my accomplishments, I often still felt like a poser. CLICK TO TWEET
Where was that feeling of inadequacy coming from? Was it some childhood insecurity that had never surfaced? Was it coming from comparing my self to people at the top of the mountain? In my case, the answer was not very sexy. I just felt like I didn’t deserve some of my success because I saw so many good, hard working people who had not succeeded. I was comparing myself… but to those below me rather than those above me.
Most leaders battle the imposter syndrome at some point, but not many are talking about it. (Women suffer more from it than men, as addressed in the sidebar of this HBR article. If you struggle in this area, or know someone who does, here’s what to do:
1. Don’t beat yourself down. Note that research reported in the NY Times suggests that those who feel inadequate often study more and work harder to “prove” to themselves that they are not imposters. That extra knowledge gained and good work sets them up for future success.
2. Don’t be a “Phony Phony.” Wake Forest researchers discovered that some imposters use self-depreciation as a strategy—secretly, they are more confident than they appear. Dr. Mark Leary, notes that “In this way, they lower others expectations – and get credit for being humble.” Trust me, no one likes leaders who are proud of their humility.
3. You deserve the success that you worked hard to achieve. Today, get alone and “accept” your achievements. You’ve accomplished some things in life; you weren’t just lucky!!! Be authentic. Take just a moment to enjoy your progress and accomplishments.
Trust me, no one likes leaders who are proud of their humility. CLICK TO TWEET
The Bottom Line: Test Yourself: When you think about the things you’ve accomplished, do you feel a sense of pride, or do you feel overwhelming thankfulness? If pride, you might want to think about all of the people who have helped you along your journey. If thankfulness, you’re on the right track. Now go thank some of them.
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