Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever worried that someone would one day find out that you are not really as good as you say you are?

That you are not really all that talented, prepared, experienced, or smart? As a coach, I see this all the time. Especially with successful people, in particular, successful women.

You might be asking yourself:

  • What if my success thus far has been due to luck?
  • What if there has been a series of events that have led me here, but now, in this new stage of growth, I don’t have what it takes to make it?

This happens to many of us, especially entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, high achievers, or anyone who dares to push themselves a little bit beyond their comfort zone. It happens to me every time I write a blog post and every time I stand in front of a large audience.

What if they find out that I don’t have it?

In her article “Afraid of Being ‘Found Out’? How To Overcome Impostor Syndrome,” Margie Warrell writes:

“…What matters most is not whether we occasionally (or regularly) fear of failing, looking foolish, or not being ‘whatever enough’; it’s whether we give those fears the power to keep us from taking the actions needed to achieve our goals and highest aspirations. Unfortunately, too often people do just that.”

The term impostor syndrome was coined by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, who published an article called “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” in the 1978 journal Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice. Here’s how the abstract presented the matter:

“The term “impostor phenomenon” is used to designate an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women…. Despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the impostor phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise. Numerous achievements, which one might expect to provide ample objective evidence of superior intellectual functioning, do not appear to affect the impostor belief.”

An article published by the International Journal of Behavioral Science showed that an estimated 70% of the population will experience imposter feelings at some point during their lives.

So, what can YOU do about it?

Here Are 3 Strategies You Can Use to Deal with Impostor Syndrome:

1.            Challenge It.

Is it really all a lie? Did you really get here just by luck? Make a list of everything you accomplished thus far. Was all that gifted to you? Usually, the answers to these questions will give you a glimpse of the truth. And while you might have been lucky here or there, getting to where you are has required work, commitment, and consistent action on your part.

2.            Perspective.

If you are an impostor, would you say the same for every teacher, colleague, and partner that has been a part of your journey? Those you have learned from, your mentors, your colleagues? Usually, the answer to this question is a very strong NO. We tend to see those we work with or learn from as the real deal.

3.            Focus on Value.

OK, so maybe you are a fake. Now what? You are still the CEO or SVP of the company or, at the very least, the person standing in front of the crowd. In the role you have at this very moment, what can you do to bring the most value? Maybe it won’t be perfect and maybe you don’t have all the answers, but bring forth what you DO have to offer and be open and transparent about what you are still learning, where you need help, and where you feel you are not prepared.

Clarity on where you stand and how you are moving forward is key to dealing with impostor syndrome and reconnecting with your strength, your worth, and your voice.

– Dolores



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