Imposter Syndrome, Yep – it’s real.
Sitting on a gym floor chatting with the CFO of a publicly listed company, I had no inkling that I was about to have my socks blown off. It wasn’t the intense CrossFit session we’d just completed, or his rigorous travel schedule he’d just detailed including no less than 17 international flights in one month period. It was when he uttered ‘even my guys at the top ALL suffer from Imposter Syndrome‘.
There it was. The big reveal. Even the guys and gals right at the top are terrified that they’re going to be ‘found out’.
After years of working with startups and small business, I knew Imposter Syndrome was rampant in the entrepreneurial world. But at the top end of town as well? Really? I needed to do some digging.
Slowly but surely, like a well panned gold field, it was revealed to me over and over again that everyone suffered this ‘fear of being found out’. Whether they ran a successful company, sat in an executive position, were just starting out – or were somewhere in between, the feeling remained the same.
The feeling that they don’t quite know enough.
The feeling that at any moment they’d be found out.
The feeling that once the big secret was uncovered that they didn’t deserve the position they held, they’d be cast into a deep dumspter, wheeled away with the nightly trash, and never to be heard from again by any of their loved ones.
Sound familiar? It should. Here’s the kicker….we’ve all got it.
It appears Imposter Syndrome is having a party, and we’re all on the guest list.
So just why do we all have Imposter Syndrome?
Turns out that psychologists and life-coaches alike agree that there’s three universal fears common to all human beings. Unfortunately, this failed to make the primary school curriculum, where to be honest it would have been incredibly valuable information.
Disclaimer: I’m not talking about the innate fears we’re all born with including loud noises and falling. These tell you that you’re alive, and serve as very helpful protection mechanisms. The ones I’m talking about just serve to undermine your confidence, sense of self, and sense of joy. Charming really.
Here they are, the BIG THREE:
- You’ll be found out.
- You won’t belong.
- You won’t be loved.
- (For a bonus round) you’ll die.
Ok, ok, I get it….this is all reading a bit doom and gloom BUT now you know what’s fuelling your pesky Imposter Syndrome fire, how can you actually deal with it?
Here are my top three sure-fire ways to beat Imposter Syndrome:
1. Don’t try to be anything you’re not
Sounds simple right? But we forget that it’s actually humanly impossible to know everything. Not only that, but you have to keep in mind that everyone started somewhere. You’re not going to be at the top of your game in the first week, the first year, or likely even within the first decade. So pour yourself a pot of nerve-calming peppermint tea, and relax in the fact that you’re not superhuman, nor do you need to be. Further, having had the privilege of many closed-door sessions, it’s probably worth mentioning that everyone is kinda making it up as they go….
2. Be everything that you are
We’re all here on the planet with a completely unique set of skills, talents, experience and passions. These come together to make you very uniquely placed to help a whole bunch of people, in a way that only you. So put down the cup of everything that you’re not, and pick up the just of everything that you are. The sooner that you own your awesome the more impact you’ll make, and joy you’ll experience. You’re awesome, own it.
3. Commit this phrase to memory immediately….
“I don’t have the answer to that right now, but let me find out and get back to you”. Yep, when you don’t know, admit it. I promise that no-one will burst into flames (not even you). I still say this myself all the time. It shows that you’re honest, and gives you a great opportunity to loop back to your client demonstrating your care, and you’re invested in building a genuine, honest, and authentic relationship with them.
In a nutshell, everyone experiences Imposter Syndrome, so the choice is yours whether you want to roll around in life filled with fear and anxiety having an unrealistic expectation of being superhuman OR if you decide to own your awesomeness, serve where you can and be cool with not knowing everything. Personally, I’d suggest the later.
Be everything that you are, and nothing that you’re not, and you’ll be just fine.
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