Truth be told, many successful leaders and entrepreneurs seriously question their abilities. We doubt whether we are as competent as others might think we are.
Quite plainly, we can sometimes feel like phonies and fear that at any time, our “fraud” will be called out – and we will be labeled as impostors for the world to shame.
Experiencing this “impostor syndrome” is not uncommon. Sheryl Sandberg, writing in her infamous book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, describes feeling like an imposter.
“Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself — or even excelled — I believed that I had fooled everyone yet again.”
Many of us are probably sighing with relief at Sandberg’s confession, thinking finally someone admits to feeling the same way that we do.
Overcompensating to Deal with Imposter Syndrome
Living with the impostor syndrome is like a dog chasing its tail – doing more, preparing more, all to ensure that no one discovers your secret: that you think you’re a fraud.
The term imposter syndrome was first coined in the 1970s by a pair of psychologists, Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance. At first, it was applied to mainly to high-achieving women. But over the years, it has been recognized as a syndrome that many others experience.
Some of the common signs, among others are:
- Doubting ourselves
- Sabotaging our success
- Claiming our success is due to external factors or luck
Research has suggested that entrepreneurs are more likely to display symptoms of the impostor role, since they are using their dreams/fantasy of a business to fuel their ideas into reality. (The Imposter Syndrome: Developmental and Societal Issues; Manfred F.R. Kets de Vres)
“It is because we are all imposters that we endure each other.”— Philosopher Emil Cioran
What Are Supposed Imposters Like on the Inside?
Although Impostor Syndrome isn’t acknowledged in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it does exist. It’s something that people don’t talk about.
“Part of the experience is that they’re afraid they’re going to be found out,” says Imes.
Those of us with impostor syndrome oftentimes were raised in families that placed an extreme value on achievement, according to Imes. “Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”
In our quest to be deeply seen and heard, we might fantasize about our parents being rich, being something other than what we actually are. Some of us, however, never learn to ‘tone down’ our grand self-images or our optimal parental images. We want to be treated according to our ideals – not according to our real achievements.
Those of us with the imposter syndrome may relate to any of the following:
- Extremely sensitive to rejection
- Afraid of social failure
- Exhibit perfectionistic attitudes towards ourselves
- Believe success is attributed to luck, likeability or attractiveness
We can believe we have fooled everyone and are not as competent or intelligent as others think we are.
It is believed 70% of people will have at least one episode of the imposter syndrome in their lives.
Conquer Imposter Syndrome by Recognizing Your Feelings
We can learn to overcome our feelings of being an imposter by:
- Sharing feelings with mentors who can offer encouragement and support
- Acknowledging our expertise
- Recognizing all the things we are good at
- Always remembering no one can meet all criteria of perfection – “perfect” is a matter of perception
“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” ~ Buddha
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Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.