There. I said it. Out loud this time, instead of in my head.
Recently, I was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices 2018: Philanthropy and Global Development. Pretty cool, right?
And my first thought was, “Me? Why?”
My second was “Oh no, now how do I live up to that?”
Does that sound familiar to you?
Do you spend a fair amount of energy beating back or ignoring that obnoxious voice in your head? Does it affect your work? Your life? Your happiness?
If you said yes, I can guess a couple of things about you: you’re a very nice person. And you’re probably good at what you do, despite your fears.
So, imposter syndrome. What is it?
Impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.
We tend to be perfectionists – at least with our own work. (We can be more forgiving of others.) We’ve been taught, somewhere along the line, that achievement is a must. Unfortunately, these feelings can leak out of our brains and into our behavior. Then we may find we earn less money or respect… all because we’ve downplayed our own abilities out of our fear of discovery.
This isn’t a “snap out of it” thing, of course. The habits of a lifetime are hard to overcome. But here is some advice for you. And here are my thoughts:
Attack the problem like Spock
The next time you’re ready to talk yourself down, try looking at it rationally instead of emotionally. Was that presentation really bad? How do you know? What does the feedback tell you? Look at the facts, not your feelings.
Are you the first to congratulate someone else AND the first to downplay your own achievements? Forget about the why of the success for a moment and celebrate it. Whether you want to call it luck or serendipity or the advice of an expert, you still succeeded. Yay, you!
Remember you’re not alone
We are legion. Seriously. Talk to 5 friends and see how many experience this. You may be surprised.
And if this feeling is really getting to you, or affecting your life or work, look for counseling. Then remember changing is a process… don’t beat yourself up as an imposter at fighting imposter syndrome!
Use your colleagues and friends for encouragement. And give them the same. Imagine a workplace where you all competed to make each other feel great!
It’s true, sometimes you can fake it until you make it. Pretend you’re confident. Pretend you deserve that praise. Learn to accept it graciously. And happily!
Many successful people are also tortured by their perceived failures. But they learn to push those thoughts aside. They act as if they’re succeeding.
Your self-doubt isn’t really helping you or anyone else, is it? I’m not suggesting you turn into an insufferable egomaniac. But accept yourself, or fake it when you need to.
When faking it fails, and I still feel unsure of my expertise, I switch my thinking. Instead of the fear of calling myself an expert, I think about how I can be helpful. Am I THE authority? Nope. Do I know a lot – and enough to be helpful? Yup.
Plus, there’s nothing like helping people to make you feel good about what you know. Sharing is caring, right?
The plus side of feeling like an imposter is you’re not likely to suffer from an excess of confidence. You’re easy to be around, and quick to share credit. Those are great traits – and can be so useful to fundraisers. Humility is a good thing, unless you turn it into a weapon against yourself. Because then you can’t share your talents with the world.
And we need you!