It’s a big deal. To feel confident in showing up in your full capacity. To know you are qualified and that you have something to offer can change the way you present yourself and how happy you are with your work.
Having doubts about your capabilities were useful to some extent. It led you to prepare, work hard, and give people more than what they expected. As a result of your success, you were then gifted with more and more challenging opportunities. Opportunities where you no longer felt like you have what it takes to succeed. Opportunities that felt like they belonged to someone else.
Enter imposter syndrome. You start to wonder when people are going to realize that you don’t deserve to have whatever it is you have. That you are a fraud; an imposter. You are not as smart, creative, deserving or accomplished as they think you are. People will figure out that you don’t have all the answers.
When I was consulting at McKinsey, I remember feeling that way. That I would be found out. Everywhere I looked, there was brilliance. Who am I to be among the rest of these folks who have achieved so much already? In some cases, they were even younger than I was! It shifted a bit one day when I had an amazing manager who told me that we were all “insecure overachievers”. I realized that everyone there felt that way to some extent. Even though I felt less alone, I still felt like an imposter. I was afraid of looking and being human. I was afraid of being imperfect. I was afraid I was not enough. I was afraid of being embarrassed.
No matter how much you have already accomplished, you are still afraid of embarrassing yourself. You are afraid that you will figuratively trip and fall in front of everyone. What is the first thing you do after you trip and fall in real life? You look around to see if anyone else saw you fall. How crazy is that? I know I do it. You’re wired to seek approval and to be perfect. When you are being stretched in your capacity to fulfill a new role or level of responsibility, you feel like you might not get that oh so important, “You are amazing” compliment. The one you are so used to hearing.
How do we stop this negative self talk?
Take a step back and pretend like you are in a vacuum. Would you care so much about approval if you didn’t have these onlookers? The reality is, when you are new to the game of taking big leaps in roles or responsibilities, the probability is extremely high that you will fail, trip up and make some mistakes. No one is immune to this. But there’s ALSO a chance that you will become amazing sooner because you started the process now. Or there’s the chance that you may succeed out of the gate. There’s a chance that it won’t be as bad as you think it will be.
See the progress. You are doing something you didn’t think you would be doing if you asked your 15-year-old self. Did you think you would be leading a team or organization, presenting to senior management, starting a business, living your passion, changing careers or convincing difficult clients to say YES?
Be in awe. All of this growth is actually pretty freaking amazing. Do you know that? You have come so far in this moment. Going backward is not an option. Keep moving forward each day. Remembering that you wanted this. You chose this, and it wasn’t because you thought it would be easy. It’s because you thought it would be worth it.
Be your future self. You have what it takes. And you will be the only person who is going to convince yourself that you deserve whatever you have. You are also grateful and blessed to be living a life where you feel challenged and are giving yourself an opportunity to shine. Don’t let fear of failing become the one reason you are miserable. I am telling you now, that fear won’t go away. You will always have some fear, some nervous anxiety with you. You just can’t let FEAR make the BIG decisions in your life. Your future self will thank you for not giving in despite the fear and doubts.
Accept reality with a curious mindset. You are going to have self-doubt if you are doing anything new. By definition, you don’t know what is going to happen. There is fear in the unknown. But you can tap into the positive stories that you have and use those to your advantage. The times when something when you did something you were proud of. What were those traits and characteristics of yours that allowed you to achieve those goals? By thinking of these positive scenarios, you are rewiring your brain to be curious and less fear-based. When your brain operates out of fear, it is closed and tight. You know that feeling. Like the walls are closing in and you begin to panic. Opposite to that is when your brain operates from a mindset of learning and curiosity. It feels open, willing to take risks and to expand into new ideas and ways of being.
Why do we need to let go of imposter syndrome?
When I didn’t let go of imposter syndrome, it created a lot of nervous anxiety in me and it shut down my ability to listen to my intuition. As a result, I didn’t make the best decisions. I also got sick more often.
Shutting down your access to your highest self and capacity is one of the worst things you can do for your health and mindset.
It shuts down your creativity and ability to take risks and dig into the WHY. Why are you doing this in the first place?
How do you deal with imposter syndrome in the moment that it is happening?
How do you stop the voices in your head telling you that you’re not good enough?
The secret really isn’t a secret.
It’s a habit. You are what you repeatedly do. You need to put yourself in these situations more and more until it becomes easier. Until the fear of the unknown is gone and lessened because it is now known.
The quickest way to it is through it.
You chose these big jobs, opportunities and responsibilities. Kudos to taking on things that are stretching your capabilities – now just do the hard things and realize that you will go through the up down up down wave of emotional highs and lows, anxiousness and excitement before you get the consistent up of excitement and knowing you will rock it. You will wear the fear down through practice.
When I’ve seen the most success is when I stuck through things for at least one year. I would say my first year of anything is a bit bleh compared to my second year. In my second year of consulting I didn’t know more, but I was more comfortable with ambiguity and able to release imposter syndrome. There are so many examples of something similar in your life that you can tap into.
To put it in perspective, things worth doing are still worth doing badly. Even your bleh moments are valuable and a contribution. You will begin to value the lessons you are being taught through this, especially if you can have compassion with yourself and not judge your efforts harshly.
I wish for you all the success in the world without the crippling self-doubt. Take it one day at a time but don’t give in to those self-critical, fear-based voices in your head. You get to decide who you listen to.