The Exciting Truth About Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome is something even the most successful people suffer from!
While in college, and for a time after I graduated, I worked for Merrill Lynch. It was a God-sent opportunity that allowed me to work full time and continuing being a student at Westmont College.
As much as I loved the people at Merrill Lynch, the next logical step was becoming a broker and that wasn’t something I aspired to. I began hunting for a new work adventure. My search led me to a position as a sales rep at Graphic Plastics. They generously provided me with a car, a sizable territory (everything north of Santa Barbara), and an hour or two of training!
Jumping into my new position, I quickly identified the potential plastic overlay customers, headed out in my new car eager to connect with potential customers! If you aren’t sure what a plastic overlay is, it’s the plastic screen on your tread mill, microwave, or oven.
Back then, we didn’t have the luxury of LinkedIn, or the internet, so it meant making the drive, attempting to get in to see engineers or someone in purchasing. It was quite an ordeal that included regularly hunting for a public phone to stay on top of potential customers.
When I was able to finally was able to sit across from the right person, suddenly, I felt an overwhelming feeling that I had no business as a plastic sales overlay rep! I felt beneath them, not up on the lingo, and unprepared to approach the conversation with confidence.
During my time as a sales rep, I locked my keys in the car at least 3 times trying to prepare for a sales call and muster the courage to make it happen.
Looking back, I applaud my younger self for taking on the challenge without the training to tackle it, and the way I successfully brought in new business.
Feeling Like An Imposter
The feelings I felt were symptoms of Imposter Syndrome. You see, deep down, I didn’t feel I had what it takes to persuade highly skilled engineers and no-nonsense purchasing people. I lacked industry knowledge, professional experience, and I also looked like I was twelve – OK maybe sixteen! Those are all partially true, but not insurmountable!
Maybe you’ve experienced Imposter Syndrome feelings too. Feelings like…
- Fearful of being discovered as a fraud
- Doubting your qualifications, skills, abilities, and worth
- Overwhelming insecurity and/or unworthiness
- The inability to let go of your mistakes or perceived failures
- You got the job, but they settled – there were better candidates
- You don’t belong
- Anxiety, stress, and worry
The company I worked for overextended themselves by purchasing some other businesses and made drastic changes by letting their sales team go. I said good bye to my car and hello to my freedom!
The truth is that we all experience that imposter feeling now and then! If I knew then, what I know now, I would have handled some things differently.
The Downside to Imposter Syndrome
The real bummer about Imposter Syndrome is that it keeps you from growing, appreciating your accomplishments, and feeds your feelings of unworthiness. That’s no way to live! And it makes it tough to get real results!
Here are a few other symptoms that come with Imposter Syndrome:
- Low confidence
- Playing it safe…too safe
- Putting yourself down
- Negative self-talk
- Limiting beliefs
It would be nice if you could take a pill and be free of Imposter Syndrome, but, it’s not quite that easy. It’s not a disease to be healed, but your inner voice to be quieted; the whisper (or shout) inside your head that takes every opportunity to remind you that you don’t have it takes to be what others think you are.
Trust me, I’m not the only one who has wrestled my inner voice! In fact, there are some amazingly successful folks who have grappled with Imposter Syndrome including Howard Schultz (of Starbuck’s fame), Tom Hanks, Serena Williams, and more. Check it out here.
There’s hope! You don’t have to have to settle for feeling less than. Here are some practical steps you can take to overcome that funky fake feeling:
1. Become Buddies!
When you get to know someone, they seem less scary, so get better acquainted with your taunting inner voice! I dare you to even name it. When it starts speaking up, try talking back to it. I’ve named that inner voice “Ivan” for Insecurities Very Apparent Now.
Pay attention to what prompts Ivan to start chattering.
When you tackle new challenges or step outside your comfort zone, expect Ivan to pipe up, highlighting your insecurities and fears.
Remember, you are not alone in your feelings, but your inner voice would like you to think you are!
Explore the connection between your Fear Monster and Ivan, your Imposter feelings. No doubt they are closely related!
The more familiar you are with your Fear Monster and Ivan, the easier it will be to spot when they are messing with you! Buddy up!
2. Get Proactive!
Rather than focusing on your mistakes and failures, acknowledge your success – even the tiny ones! When operating with Imposter Syndrome, you will minimize your accomplishments and downplay compliments. Stop doing that! Don’t wait for others to validate you, instead, be kind to yourself and acknowledge your own wins!
Come to understand your strengths and weaknesses and ditch your unrealistic expectations. If you tend to be a perfectionist, it’s unattainable, so let that go! No one is perfect. We are all human, and humans have limitations. Embrace them.
Being independent is good. So is being interdependent! You need others, and the skills and expertise they have to offer, including taking advantage of the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise of a coach.
Everyone is a work in progress! EVERYONE! Taking action is what is going to help you escape the hold Imposter Syndrome has on you. Mistakes don’t make you less capable, they are a sign that you are taking risks and growing. Best of all, taking action builds your confidence!
If you have impossibly high expectations for yourself, it’s time to trade them in for what is good enough!
Has procrastination kept you from taking action? Some of the best lessons are learned along the way, so get to it!
Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. It’s sure to awaken Ivan! Everyone is on their own journey. Just keep marching on your own path!
3. Lean into Truth!
Everything your imposter inner voice says is a lie, laced with a hint of truth. Ivan skillfully twists the truth and has no qualms about sharing half-truths. In fact, you should come to expect it! That’s why it’s so important to lean into truth. Here are three truths to keep top of mind:
God created you! He doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t make junk!
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 (ESV)
God values you! He wants to enjoy a relationship with you and went to great lengths to make that possible by willingly sacrificing His Son’s life to it possible!
But God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him. Romans 5:8 (MSG)
God has work for you! He created you with a purpose.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you are going to make millions, be the next Meryl Streep, or John Legend, or impact thousands like Mother Teresa did, although you might!
It does mean that He has work for you to do while you are here on this earth that will make a difference in small ways or big ways; work that you will need His help because it is outside our comfort zone.
If there’s a blessing to Ivan’s negative chatter, it’s that it urges us to connect to Him!
He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join Him in the work He does, the good work He has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. Ephesians 2:10b (MSG)
When Imposter Syndrome kicks in, it’s an opportunity to grow and expand your comfort zone. It’s an invitation to step into more of your purpose and make a difference and a chance to depend on Him more! That’s exciting!
Change, including silencing Ivan, begins with a new way of thinking that drives new actions. Imagine the possibilities available to you once you are free of Imposter Syndrome!
What thinking needs to change so you can take action?
© Can Stock Photo / mr_Brightside