One common thread too many of us share: a sense that perhaps we’re not quite good enough.
Self-deprecation can oil social connections – but it also costs each of us something important.
I’m shocked all over again when I talk to someone I admire and learn she doesn’t think herself as impressive as I do. And I laugh and say: “We need a support group to keep building each other up! Because you’re amazing, even if you don’t think so”.
Have you heard about imposter syndrome? Lately, I’ve been thinking about it often.
Psychologists Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., first identified the problem. It happens when successful people can’t accept their own success. They credit luck, not talent or hard work. And they live in fear of being found out.
It seems this happens more often with women. According to an article in The Guardian, imposter syndrome – not family demands – may be the driver when successful women opt for less ambitious goals. Too often, smart, talented people aren’t sharing those gifts fully – because they’re certain they don’t have much to offer. And because they’re desperately afraid to be found out as frauds.
Does this sound at all familiar to you?
It struck me that my own hesitation ends up being selfish. Because I downplay my own experience and skills, I share less of it with others.
That doesn’t only affect my own career – it can impact the organizations I work with. And that’s not a good thing!
So, what to do?
Much of what I’ve read suggests mentors can be helpful. (Although, sometimes high-powered female mentors only increased the imposter anxiety in their mentees.)
Margie Warrell, in a Forbes article, suggests the following:
- Don’t focus on perfection. Look at the value you bring. Your best doesn’t have to be THE best.
- Take credit for your own achievements. They didn’t happen by chance.
- Stop comparing yourself to other people. That comparison is “an act of violence against oneself” according to author Iyanla Vanzant.
- Be brave. Risk that exposure.
Look, learning begins with mistakes.
If we don’t allow ourselves to make them, how do we learn? And if you raise money for a nonprofit, you know that you MUST take chances. You have to test, all the time, to succeed. For a nonprofit, standing still is usually another way to describe a slow death. Grow or die.
Being aware of what you don’t know can be an asset.
Don’t think of it as failing – think of it as an opportunity to learn. (People who are sure they already know it all seldom do and stop learning). Don’t stay safely with what you already know. Push yourself a bit all the time. “What can I learn today? What can I learn from this?”
And it seems to me we could be more generous in supporting other people, especially those who might not see their own worth. It’s amazing what a kind word can do!
Worth reading: my friend Clare McDowall touches on this in her piece on the old boys club.