As a successful leader, I know you’ve experienced those moments of feeling inadequate or like you “should” know more, or be more – even if you are a confident person with high self-esteem. The dynamics of this Imposter Syndrome can be complex, challenging to self-diagnose, and create significant self-imposed barriers to curating the dream career and life you want.
Therefore, it is critical to determine whether your self-doubt is objective and accurate, or an unfounded, self-sabotaging assumption.
It’s easier to see it in others. I’m sure you’ve been in a situation where a very qualified person didn’t think that they belonged or were ready for a responsibility being given. Their inability to see reality can make us feel confused, frustrated, distracted, dis-respected, even annoyed! In many cases, it can inadvertently lead to time-wasting, and prevent growth. Think of the research that identified how women won’t even apply for jobs unless they believe they can do everything listed in the job description.
I often witness Imposter Syndrome (with compassion) when I coach successful leaders in curating their Next Chapters.
I remember one such moment very clearly. I was beginning a new Leadership Mastermind, coaching seven very accomplished women, all with equally impressive credentials, all very respected in their fields.
Our first coaching call created an opportunity to get to know each other, state their goals for the Next Chapter in their careers and lives, and set intentions for the weeks that would follow. Immediately following the call, I was shocked when I received emails, texts and phone calls from every single participant letting me know they “knew” that they weren’t at the same “level” as the other amazing women but were grateful to me for including them, and hoped to try to contribute in some way.
ALL seven expressed feeling like an imposter, and all seven considered the other women to be more successful and impressive than themselves.
Hmmm. Obviously their assumptions couldn’t be true.
While we are life-long learners, and there are areas we want to continue to expand in, and be situations where we don’t have the same qualifications as those around us, this lack of self-awareness and value for ourselves in the present moment has got to STOP.
For one thing, your feelings of not being “enough” or “as good as” – are often simply not TRUE and are irrelvant.
What’s worse, is that your incorrect thoughts are getting in the way of living in your purpose and having the impact you are meant to have.
I know, some of you may be thinking: “Yes Kathryn, but in MY case, in the specific scenario I’m thinking of, it IS true! I don’t have the – fill in the blank – that I should have.”
Since I’m not with you in person to coach you through the process, I can say that in the case of the over 200 successful leaders I’ve coached, it has NEVER been true.
And, if this topic is resonating with you, try playing with some of the questions I use in my Imposter-Removal Exercise (said with a twinkle in my eye):
1. In writing, describe the scenario(s) where you feel like an Imposter. When do you feel this way? With whom? What ARE you feeling? Why?
2. Have you ever experienced that feeling (not the specific scenario) in the past? Describe.
3. Now ask yourself the following Guiding Questions:
- Do I really believe what I just wrote is true for me currently, or did I say/think it out of habit?
- If I do believe it… why? How do I know it is 100% true about me?
- Is there a slight possibility that I could I be incorrect in my assumption/assessment? [HINT: the answer is always yes!] If so, what would that mean could now be possible?
- Would I like that to be possible? Why?
4. Any observations that seem interesting or relevant? What did you notice you were valuing as important? (Credentials, experience, etc.?)
5. What DO you offer of value “even if” you don’t have any of those things?
With this key foundational “intel,” you can begin moving to creating strategies to replace your negative/un-true language with new, truthful language about yourself and what you offer others by Be-ing.
You may also want to practice noticing when others diminish their value – it’s often easier to spot. Help them see how their view of “reality” may not be true. Practice the same on yourself.
We need you showing up fully, knowing you belong at the table, right now – today – just as you are.
As always, I love hearing from you. Let me know how you’re working to remove Imposter Syndrome from your life!
To your success,
Kathryn R Martin,
Creator of the Career (Life!) Breakthrough Academy
Crossroads Coach to Individuals & Organizations