Build a Roaring Fire of Confidence and Power
Are you suffering from The Impostor Syndrome? (0:10)
When the Impostor Syndrome's voice often raises its ugly head (0:50)
When comparison becomes a weapon instead of an insightful tool (5:25)
When you choose to appear perfect over being authentic (7:45)
Three things you can do to break free of The Impostor Syndrome (10:35
Are you ever afraid you’ll be found out?
You know what I’m talking about – that moment when you stop in your tracks and think, “What if they find out I don’t know as much as they think I do? What if they find out I’m not really equipped for this job?”
Well, if your answer is Yes, you’re in good company because most of us suffer from Impostor Syndrome. The Impostor Syndrome’s voice most often rears its ugly head when we attribute our success to factors outside of ourselves.
Impostor Syndrome Sign #1: Not taking the credit for our success
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “Oh, it was just fate” or “Oh, I got the promotion because they didn’t want to look outside for a candidate” or “Oh, it was luck”? Sometimes we attribute our success to these things instead of our skills, knowledge, hard work, and tenacity.
Here are some of the questions within which the Impostor Syndrome thrives:
Who am I to write a book?
Who am I to have this job?
Who am I to offer my opinion in this problem-solving scenario?
Recently, I was working with an emerging leader who was invited to attend a really high-power strategy session for her organization.
In her mind, she had a litany of reasons for why she had been invited to this strategy session. The thing that was so interesting to me was that not one of those reasons had to do with her skills, expertise, and length of time she had been with the company.
When I questioned her on this, it was really challenging for her to accept that she had been invited to the table because she had something of value to offer. Her fear that she would not be able to hold her own with the rest of the group was really limiting and inhibiting her ability to embrace and congratulate herself for being invited to the table.
So I asked her to give me three concrete examples of why she was qualified to be at the table and, not surprisingly, it was very easy for her. They rolled off her tongue: “I’ve been with the company longer than anybody else. I’ve managed several highly visible and successful projects. I’m the only one in the team that has this level of attention to detail.”
Those are three really great reasons to be invited to a high-level strategy session. And as she listed those reasons, it became clear to her – and almost comical in a way – that she had questioned her value. That question of “Who am I to be invited to this meeting?” was creating a roadblock to her stepping into her power.
I could hear the relief in her voice as she answered my question, and then she was ready to develop the next steps that would help her move into her power and confidence. These are what she came up with…
I will stop and let go of questioning that holds me back and portrays me as being small.
I will ask for direct feedback on what value others perceive I will bring to the meeting.
I will focus on the places that I have strengths, confidence, and passion.
This changed the way she was able to show up, not only in this meeting but other meetings going forward.
Impostor Syndrome Sign #2: Using comparison as a weapon
The next place that the Impostor voice rises up is in comparison. Comparison is to self-confidence as water is to fire, but it fuels the Impostor Syndrome.
Your cousin’s Facebook announcement about their promotion quickly turns into a self-beating about your progress on your own career path. When a teammate receives accolades for finding a problem on the profit and loss spreadsheet, you suddenly delve into beating yourself up about how you’re not good at reading the financial statements, even though you (and everyone else in the organization) know your greatest strength is customer service.
Comparison is the ultimate act of violence against self-confidence. Next time you are tempted to turn the strengths and successes of someone else into a recrimination against yourself, breathe and bring your attention back to the only person you have any control over – yourself.
Just as you would add logs to keep a roaring fire going, remind yourself of the strengths and skills you possess, and focus your energy on building those skills just as you would build a fire by adding logs, not water.
Impostor Syndrome Sign #3: Playing it safe and playing it small
The Impostor Syndrome can also hook us when it tempts us to keep ourselves small from a fear of failure. I spend so much time working with emerging leaders and current leaders who have places where they still play small.
They are afraid to stand firmly in their unique place of strength because they’re so afraid they might not do it perfectly. Equally important to understanding and embracing your strengths is understanding and embracing your vulnerabilities.
For me, personally, I frequently do not get behind the person who portrays that they know it all. I actually resist that person. For me, I connect with the person who is self-aware and honest enough to admit what isn’t their area of strength and, instead, surround themselves with people who possess the strengths they don’t.
In other words, I don’t look to get behind a faker. If you overcompensate or try to cover up for the places where you aren’t skilled or strong, you actually foster mistrust – mistrust in yourself and the mistrust of others – giving your Impostor voice an opportunity to scream for attention.
But if you choose to be aware of and open about both your strengths and your gaps, and you ask for help and mentoring where you need it, you are not choosing to play it safe. Instead, you’re choosing to step into an amazing trajectory of growth, development, connection, and opportunity, and people will line up behind you to help you be successful.
How to break free of The Impostor Syndrome
So, as we come into the beginning of 2018, this is a beautiful time for some reflection and energy around letting go of the Impostor voice. What are some steps you can take to do that?
Ask for insight from others. Select two people you trust and one person you’re not quite sure about, and ask them a few really simple questions: What do they see as your greatest strengths? What do they see as your vulnerabilities? When you walk into a room, what energy do you project?
Make a list of the top 3 to 5 pieces of evidence that demonstrate your expertise and knowledge. These can be examples of times when you did something really well, when you received compliments and feedback, or when you supported others stepping into their power by lending your strengths and expertise.
When you notice you are comparing yourself to others, take a breath and shift, and instead of measuring your strength, your success, and your ability against someone else’s, notice what intrigued you about their success. Feel into your body to see if something about their success feels attractive to you, interesting to you, energizing to you. Maybe that’s an area of skill or expertise that you might want to build within yourself, to bring out within yourself, to foster and develop so that you can stand in your power and passion in your unique way.
As we come into the beginning of a new year, it is a great time to take stock of what your power, passion, and confidence are built of, to begin adding the logs to your fire instead of allowing the Impostor Syndrome to throw water on your fire and quench your confidence.
I look forward to continuing to connect here in the coming year.