Have you ever thought people are going to find out you aren’t as skilled as they presumed? Soon enough, someone is going to realize you are nothing but a fraud; you aren’t sufficiently qualified to be in the position you are in.
If so, it’s likely you are affected by impostor syndrome. The phenomenon affects high-achieving individuals who essentially can’t accept their accomplishments and end up believing they either got lucky, fooled everyone else, or simply had the right timing. Even Liz Bingham, a managing partner at Ernst & Young confided to have thought to herself:
“What are you doing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be exposed.”
The syndrome makes people feel they aren’t as intelligent and competent as they really are. The good news is that it is possible to overcome the problem.
Overcoming impostor syndrome
Before we start, let’s acknowledge no amount of self-motivation is going to help overcome impostor syndrome. It might provide short-term results, but it won’t fix anything in the long run.
The best way to overcome impostor syndrome is to focus on the value you bring to the table. Stop worrying about how important your work is, how many people it affects, or what could go wrong if you really were a fraud.
Accept that everyone is uniquely flawed, including those who’ve reached the top. As such, reset your standards to a realistic level that won’t make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Comparing yourself to others is rarely helpful, as you see yourself from the inside, and others only from the outside based on what they do and say – a carefully edited version of themselves.
You also need to own your successes. Luck affects everyone and those who do become successful manage to do so because of their own abilities, and not because an invisible helping hand pushed them forward.
Finally, just risk it. Take a leap of faith and, even if you feel like an impostor, keep on doing your best and wait for the results. If everyone else sees you as an expert and recognizes your abilities, chances are you are merely suffering from impostor syndrome. It takes courage to risk failure and humiliation but, as Oscar Wilde puts it:
“There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
One of the most influential philosophers of the French Renaissance, Michel de Montaigne, has given us an effective solution for impostor syndrome. Essentially, Montaigne argues that everybody, including kings and queens, bleep. We can’t imagine the Pope or the Secretary-General of the United Nations bleeping, and as such, we assume we’ll never reach a degree of success anywhere near theirs – that is, of course, because we are well-informed of our own mistakes.
Montaigne’s example shows us that, despite not being able to see or imagine the flaws of those we look up to, we must know and recognize that they are there. We need to stop focusing on credentials: even CEOs fail.
Benefiting from impostor syndrome
It’s better said than done, I know. Getting rid of impostor syndrome isn’t easy, so while we’re at it, it is also possible try to benefit from it.
Recognizing you don’t know everything and being afraid of exposure merely gives you a basis to start fixing every flaw you can identify. Your clients don’t want you to be the best, they want you to do something they are unable to: so strive to give them the best possible service.
Whenever you’re able to, ask others why have you been chosen to do an important task. The answer will, almost certainly, motivate you and help build up your confidence. Fear is natural, it just means you are blissfully aware of how you can improve.
Steven Pressfield, a successful author, once said:
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome”.
Have you felt that you are an impostor? Let us know in the comment field below.