"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." - Bertrand Russell
Any second now, they’re going to find out that you’re a total fraud.
They’re going to discover that you don’t really know what you’re doing.
They’re going to realise, finally, that you’re just not as good as they thought you were all this time.
The truth will come out; it’s only a matter of time.
If you’ve ever felt any of this in your life or business, you’re not alone.
In the past few weeks and months, these are just some of the things people have said or sent to me in both my business and personal life:
"When I read it, I thought of you and your light."
"You are the bravest, kindest, most inspirational, beautiful friend I have."
"When I came to Fearless Play, I was anxious, depressed and afraid of a lot of things and I realised it was all because I was unable to find a job after University. My confidence, self-esteem hit rock bottom. I still get moments of anxiety but now I know that to grow and develop I must be prepared to go out of my comfort zone. So thank you for having me at Fearless Play..."
"Happy Valentine's Day to the most caring & kind-hearted girl I know!"
“You’ve totally changed my life.”
Whenever anyone says anything nice about me, whether it's in a personal or professional capacity, I often have two simultaneous thoughts running through my head:
1. Yay! I’m awesome!
2. Oh, but they don't know the real me. If they did, they wouldn’t say those things.
Feeling like a fraud – it’s an actual thing
The feeling of being a fraud isn’t uncommon. Studies have shown that 70% of all people feel like a fraud at one time or another and in 1978, clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term ‘Impostor Syndrome’ to describe it (source, Wikipedia).
What is Impostor Syndrome?
“Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.” – Caltech Counseling Center.
Who suffers from Impostor Syndrome?
Interestingly, Impostor Syndrome is most commonly experienced by high-achieving, successful individuals.
Why do people suffer from Impostor Syndrome and what can you do about it?
Research into Impostor Syndrome indicates that:
"Attitudes, beliefs, direct or indirect messages that we received from our parents or from other significant people in our lives early on may have contributed to the development of impostor feelings. Certain family situations and dynamics tend to contribute to impostor feelings: when the success and career aspirations conflicts with the family expectations of the gender, race, religion, or age of the person, families who impose unrealistic standards, families who are very critical, and families who are ridden with conflict and anger." - Caltech Counseling Center.
Whilst delving into your past and childhood may bring you to an a-ha moment of why you might be screwed up in a particular area of your life, I prefer to focus instead on strategies and ideas that can help in the present moment. After all, we're all screwed up. Sometimes I think that's the definition of being human. Tweet that.
Here are 5 strategies I've used myself to lessen my feelings of being an impostor in my life and business.
1. Don't underestimate the value of what you know
It's easy to dismiss the value of your own knowledge, assuming that what you know is known by everyone.
In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath warn of the Curse of Knowledge.
"That's when the Curse of Knowledge kicks in, and we start to forget what it's like to not know what we know."
As you gain knowledge in your area of expertise you fail to remember that not so long ago that knowledge wasn't part of your world and you begin to forget that others might not yet know it either.
In the last two and a half years I’ve read hundreds of books and articles, watched countless videos and attended several trainings about building websites, blogging, coaching, meditation, spirituality, marketing, writing, health, business and more. Everything I’ve learned is a part of my life now and it’s easy to think of all that information as ‘stuff anyone would know.’
Remind yourself that you didn’t always know what you know now and there are plenty of people out there who can benefit from your knowledge.
2. Give up the myth of perfection
“The thing about "impostors" is they have unsustainably high standards for everything they do. The thinking here is, If I don't know everything, then I know nothing. If it's not absolutely perfect, it's woefully deficient. If I'm not operating at the top of my game 24/7, then I'm incompetent.” – Dr. Valerie Young
Those suffering from Impostor Syndrome set ridiculously high standards for themselves. I’m constantly having to remind myself to let myself off the hook as I stand poised, whip in hand, ready to give myself a beating if I’m not meeting my own expectations.
Remember that perfection is unattainable and that your best is always good enough.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
Learning from others who are further along in their journey is hugely valuable. But in looking to others for inspiration and learning, be mindful not to compare yourself, which can quickly leave you feeling wildly inadequate.
We all too often compare what's going on on the outside for other people with what's going on on the inside for us. This sort of comparison is the motorway to misery. Don't do it and remember that everyone, even those who look like they're breezing through life, have their own struggles.
4. Celebrate and own your successes
If you suffer from Impostor Syndrome you most likely skim over your successes or explain them away to nothing. Here’s how I've done that with some of my achievements over the years:
I gained a First Class degree at University but it’s not because I’m actually intelligent, it’s just because I’m good at memorising stuff.
Studying for CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), I was the only person in my class to gain a Pass A. But this stuff is easy and not that valuable.
I passed four rounds of interviews, psychometric and aptitude tests to get my first job in London. Apparently they're a bit fussy about who they take on. But the tests weren’t that big of a deal. The people who didn’t pass must have been really, really terrible.
After quitting my job without any idea what I wanted to do, I started blogging and have built a business from nothing. No knowledge of websites. No knowledge of business. No knowledge of marketing. No knowledge of anything, really. I just threw myself in at the deep end and now here I am. But there’s always someone out there doing something bigger, something better, something more important. What I’m doing isn’t really all that brilliant.
It's really important to recognise, celebrate and own your successes. I acknowledge my successes more these days, saving and re-reading emails of praise and really letting them sink in.
5. Use better language
Most of us don't realise how powerful the language we use about ourselves and the world really is. But your language creates your reality, so you better make sure you're using words that serve you.
"Yes, it was great, even though only 3 people turned up."
"It just happened, I don't really know how it worked out so well."
Remove words like 'only' and 'just' from your vocabulary. They are weak. They are not the words of someone who owns their power. Own your success by using more powerful language.
"Yes, it was great. 3 people turned up!"
"It worked out well because I did x, y and z to make it happen."
The cost of Impostor Syndrome
When you allow those feelings of being a fake, a fraud, or an impostor to slow you down or even stop you, the rest of the world misses out on what you have to offer.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a big part of you that knows with all your heart (in the humblest of ways) that you have something of value to give to others.
Do not let your self-doubt trick you into holding those gifts back.
Over to you
Blog posts without comments is like apple crumble without ice-cream - it's so terribly sad. Please add your voice to the comments below and share:
- Your own experiences of feeling like a fraud
- Your own tips on overcoming Imposter Syndrome
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