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Virtually every successful person has something else in common other than their outside success.
No it’s not privilege or influence.
It’s not even brilliance or connections.
It’s the feeling of being a fraud at one point or another as they reach their achievements.
Otherwise know in psychology terms as…drumroll please- IMPOSTER SYNDROME.
So what is imposter syndrome?
Simply defined (because you already know what it feels like already!) imposter syndrome reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.
It can crop up as acute imposter syndrome, only in certain circumstances, or as an overall outlook you seemed to catch somehow!
That fear of getting caught, fear of being inadequate, fear of not being successful, even the fear of success in it of itself! Many different coats it wears- same underlying thread running through.
So now that this feeling has a technical name, what do you need to learn about it and how can you shift this feeling?
Let’s bust some myths first:
Imposter syndrome DOES not go away the longer you are at the ‘game’ of success and achievement.
If anything, left to its own devices…it gets bigger! There is more at stake, more people watching and a higher place to fall from if you feel you will be ‘found out’ as a fraud.
Imposter Syndrome is something you can control
Actually, quite the opposite. The more you try to control outside circumstances and viewpoints, the more it will inflict you because your self identity is so wrapped up in what everyone else sees and believes and we all know that changes by the second
Imposter Syndrome means you actually aren’t good enough
No no absolutely no! If anything it represents how much passion and focus you actually have towards what you are working so hard to be and build!
Ironically, those who are making stuff up are the ones who never worry about this fraud stuff!
More credentials DO NOT make someone less of a fraud
So yep, stop collecting papers to prove who are you are!
Now that’s not to say don’t master your skill, better your skills and constantly up your game- I am all for that.
But tell yourself the truth about WHY you keep collecting letters after your name and notches in your belt.
That’s a huge distinction between competency and busyness. More on that later….
Imposter syndrome comes up when you don’t feel ready enough
Oh hells no! Readiness takes courage and bravery for sure, but most people are never fully ready! That’s why you have to leap and take risks BEFORE you feel ready- doing something- anything! Towards your goals is the fastest antidote to fraud feelings and waiting your turn.
Newsflash- everyone is ALWAYS just making it up- their way, their pace, their experience.
Ok, now that we have that out of the way- let’s dive into what DOES change this and how you can take control of that runaway not- enoughness feeling once and for all.
While I am not generally big on labels and buckets, when you can define HOW and WHERE imposter syndrome creeps up for you, it’s far easier for you to get the reins back in your life.
The 5 categories are:
1. The Perfectionist
2. The Superwoman/man
3. The Natural Genius
4. The Rugged Individualist
5. The Expert
Let’s explore these and see if you can define any that feel like you. (you can be a mix or your own version as well!)
Perfectionism and impostor syndrome are a match made in heaven (or hell!)
It’s an obvious duo-
Perfectionists set massively high and, many times, unrealistic pressures and goals for themselves, and when they can’t possibly achieve those lofty heights, they get saddled with overwhelm, doubt and concern about being enough in all ways. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, feeling like if they want something done right, they have to do it themselves.
Add on a dash of love of control, many perfectionists run this scene over and over because they don’t stop to measure the small wins, tally up their steady growth or give themselves credit period.
These are the people who feel like phonies in relation to their colleagues or ‘competition’ (I don’t believe in that as a side note), so they overextend themselves, try to be the master of everything, Jack or Jane of all trades, so to speak, to make up for the fact that overcoming imposter syndrome is the thing that cripples them the most.
Work harder, show up triple time and burn out just to start all over again.
Totally exhausted, insecure and emotionally depleted, they can’t even see out of their self imposed cape!
The Natural Genius
Oh the irony of this one… if something comes too naturally to them, they think they aren’t working hard enough for success.
The human brain is quite a ride, huh?
These people separate their natural ability from their efforts- so if they aren’t slaving themselves, they must not be as good as those more hard working people around them.
This is similar to the perfectionists but instead of those too high expectations, their barrier is getting it done right on their first try- because they should be able to, right?
The Rugged Individualist
This one is very familiar to me personally- a rogue by nature, this person likes to do things their own, always disrupting and changing the status quo or ‘regular’ way to feel unique and show the world a different way.
Which in turn means asking for help or using resources already created make them feel like they are selling out, too weak or not able to overcome an obstacle well enough, so of course- THEY aren’t enough and fall prey to that acute imposter syndrome.
Slippery slope indeed!
This category is about that expert level being a marker out of reach.
They may feel like they got a job or client because they tricked someone. A constant inner strife of hiding inadequacies and a deep fear of being found out-
So they overcompensate with shiftiness or hiding behind others rather than shining in their own right.
Each of these will have a distinct unlock valve but here are the things that matter in changing this setpoint in yourself:
Learn to take mistakes as a lesson
The best environment to better yourself is to watch where you trip or fail and do better, in incremental steps.
If you are too far in your grip on being found out as a fraud, you don’t give yourself a chance to learn and grow and maybe even find qualities and strengths in yourself you didn’t know were there!
Remove the addiction to validation
Confidence in yourself is an inner game skill NOT an outer world validation obsession.
The fact is there will always be different measuring sticks that you can find to torture yourself, but that’s not the point here!
As a caveat here, it’s key as your inner confidence grows, you learn how to take constructive criticism and from who it matters so you can keep growing.
Realize we are all (yes all) a work in progress
Don’t go by social media highlight reels, marketing ploys or the loudest flashy peacocks around to gauge who you are.
Those people are not real and trust me, have their own demons they are fighting against.
Realize you are never always you. Strange statement, but you are ever-evolving so as soon as you think you’ve arrived- plot twist! You will inevitably change and grow again!
So let go of this perfect ‘arrived’ image you hold of your ideal self and allow time to evolve you like the diamond you are- pressure and polishing included.
The fastest way to unstick yourself is to MOVE. To do something, a step in the forward direction- even a step back if it will catapult you forward!
No more sitting and calculating. Life and business are not a chess championship. Dance on that board, not hold your pieces tight to your chest and never take a chance at greatness!
Overcoming imposter syndrome is an act of moving the abstract into something tangible- beautifully, gracefully and even messily.
Realize what is at stake
Not to put more pressure on you, but the truth is- the more you hold yourself- the real you, back from the world, you rob people of what they can only learn and receive from you.
Your quirks, your brilliance, your wisdom, your unique spin on all of it- are trapped within your web of being afraid of being a fraud that no one can get to experience ANY OF IT.
Ouch. I know.
Be the messenger that you already are underneath the fear and doubt. Let the mission be bigger than you and ride that wave right over the rocks of feeling like an imposter!
The best part of you showing up in the world despite the fear and doubt? It encourages and inspires others to do the exact same for themselves. Win all around, I’d say.
With these tools in your arsenal, and the awareness of what you are tackling by facing what holds you back, you are literally sitting on earth shattering change. For yourself and for the world that awaits your full, glorious arrival as the bold maverick you truly are.
Take the baby steps, show up brave and decide each pebble in front you is for kicking you forward, not to get tripped on by your own feet.
Imposter syndrome can become your greatest motivator from pain to pleasure- success, inner calm and fulfillment in all ways.
I say that’s worth a bit of sweat to get there, don’t you?