You know that crippling feeling that silently whispers to you that you don’t belong where you are. People will soon discover that you don’t know what you are doing and they’ll call you out as a fraud? That may be all your accomplishments this far were pure luck and not your skills and hard work? Yes, this imposter syndrome thing is real and many of us struggle with it than we care to admit. What’s been surprising is to see that even the most accomplished people you see that might appear to be the epitome of self-confidence still struggle with it.
Right now as I type this, I am struggling big time. I am about to start a new series that’ll hopefully have a big impact on my audience but I have been procrastinating almost all week. I’ve questioned my authority in putting this together and wondered if what I have to say will be impactful. Why would they bother to listen to me? The things I’m sharing are things I’ve just mastered, do I have to be a veteran expert because I can talk about this topic? So many difficult questions are running through my mind.
Throughout my career, like many of you reading this, I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome. Over the years, I’ve managed to beat it with pure bravado and a “fake it till you make” it attitude. It’s not until you’ve had some spectacular career failures like I had a few years back that your self-confidence takes a hit and the “fake till you make it” approach loses its power. In the last few years, I’ve been forced to face my biggest fears head-on and develop more sustainable ways to confront and them and move forward with life.
So how do I deal with imposter syndrome? The first step has been acknowledging that I have this problem. When you admit that you struggle with something, you remove the shame and stigma surrounding it and your brain can start to find answers. I know I’m not the only person who faces it and that makes me feel normal. I’ve learnt to now use this as a gauge that I’m about to do something great. The fear is my body signal that I need to step up and get ready for the big league.
The second trick has been to schedule things with hard deadlines. Take a good example of this writing thing. When I started, it scared the daylights out out me. Do I have the authority to write about this stuff? What about all the careless grammar and spelling mistakes I make? Will people start to judge or pigeon hole me? Well, the fact that I have a publishing schedule and I don’t want to break my streak means I write a short article like this one every day and a long-form one every week regardless how I feel. My success metric is completed and published articles by the end of the week. So, having a plan and a clear definition of success helps.
I guess having a strong sense of self-awareness has helped me understand the triggers. That way I can start to change tact before I find myself heading on a downward spiral. This stuff is an ongoing fight, sometimes I beat it and sometimes it gets the better of me.