Have you felt it before?
The sinking feeling that you’ve been fooling everyone into thinking that you’re better, smarter and more qualified than you really are?
If so, there’s an official name for this issue.
This insidious mind virus is known as The Impostor Syndrome, and here’s an excellent definition of it, courtesy of Fast Company:
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to see their own accomplishments, dismissing them as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
The good news is that if you’re thinking that you’re alone in feeling like a fraud–you’re not. I’m right there with you.
Here’s my story, and more importantly, here’s how we can win the fight against Impostor Syndrome, starting today.
The Impostor Syndrome in Action
The Impostor Syndrome has tormented me my entire life.
As I’ve mentioned before, it took me three years before I found the courage to officially launch The Positivity Solution and publish my first-ever article for the world to read.
Up to this point, my story about why it took me over 1,000 days to press the “Publish” button on my initial article was due to the fear of dealing with the online haters.
Well, that was only half-true.
The other–and slightly more debilitating–reason was that I didn’t feel like I was good enough to launch a website about positivity.
The voices in my head relentlessly reminded me of that point:
“Seriously, why would anyone listen to you? There are people out there with Ph.Ds in Positivity Psychology, and you think that anyone would care about you and your sorry little Bachelor’s degree? You’re barely qualified to leave a comment on someone’s blog, much less start a blog of your own. Stay in your lane, man.”
We really do save the most mean-spirited words for ourselves, don’t we?
As you already know, I believed in those voices for three long years. When I finally found the guts to hit the “Publish” button, I thought that the reward for slaying the dragon inside of my mind would be that it would actually stay dead and leave me alone to write my articles in peace.
Well, not exactly.
Instead of vanquishing the dragon, the dragon became stronger. From the bloody stump where its head once was, it grew multiple heads–each one with a renewed focus to inflict its toxic influence in every area of my life.
- I was promoted to a Director position at work (“It will only be a matter of time before you get found out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”)
- I was asked to be a keynote speaker at large conferences (“You’re a fraud. You don’t have a fraction of the qualifications as the other big-name keynote speakers.”)
- I was given a publishing deal to write a book (“You didn’t deserve it. You got lucky.”)
This is the Impostor Syndrome in action, and it almost limited my effectiveness in every meaningful way. Almost.
Thankfully, I learned a secret that changed everything.
I’m Not Alone
Last month, I was invited to be a speaker on an author panel at a very large conference.
Specifically, I was on a panel with five other extremely gifted authors who were there to talk about their books to a large audience of librarians. And predictably, the Impostor Syndrome was raging out of control in my mind prior to the event starting.
In hopes of doing anything to calm the flock of vultures swirling around in my stomach (read: distract me from throwing up all over myself), I decided to strike up conversation with the other authors while we were waiting for the festivities to begin.
“Out of curiosity, since I’m a newbie to this author stuff–what was the hardest aspect for you in writing your books?” I asked with sincere interest in their answers.
“Oh, without question it’s the self-doubt,” one author said immediately. “I would sit at my computer for hours typing up something, only to read it over and realize that it was a steaming pile of crap. Then I would go to my room and cry about how much of a fraud I was until the tears stopped. Then I would dry my tears, crawl back to my computer and start typing again. That was the process that I repeated until my book was finally done.”
All of the other authors on the panel instantly chimed in.
“Yes! That is soooooo me!”
“Whoa, here I was thinking that I was the only one who did that.”
“I feel so much better knowing that I’m not alone!”
To say that I was completely blown away by this conversation would be the understatement of the year. As embarrassing as this is to admit, I honestly felt like I was the only person who was consumed by the Impostor Syndrome as I was writing my book.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
According to the Fast Company article that I mentioned above, over 70% of people have experienced the Impostor Syndrome at one time or another in their lives.
The 70% undoubtedly includes famous movie stars, professional athletes, Grammy-winning musicians, high-profile politicians, New York Times best-selling authors, the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and the guy/gal that at the coffee shop that you have a crush on, just to name a few.
On a positive note, that means that you and I are in very good company.
But, since this issue affects pretty much everyone, that means that we’re going to need to stare down this issue and deal with it once and for all.
The Reality of the Impostor Syndrome
The reason why the Impostor Syndrome is so insidious is because it devalues all of the blood, sweat and tears that we have put into our accomplishments over the years.
Instead of owning our successes, we chalk it up to dumb luck and our sneaky ability to pull a fast one on the entire world.
This is crazy.
The world is not filled with gremlins lurking in the darkness, patiently waiting to expose us to the world as frauds once we launch our blogs, write our books, apply for manager positions, enroll into colleges, or speak in front of audiences.
Equally as true, the world is not filled with gullible morons who are consistently (and easily) fooled into believing that we’re actually capable–due in large part to our “expert acting jobs” at work, at home, and every place in between.
The gremlins aren’t real, and our abilities aren’t Oscar-worthy acting jobs.
The voices of the Impostor Syndrome are consistently telling us lies. The reality is that we are better, smarter, and more talented than we believe we are. That is the voice that we need to listen to.
No, we are not frauds because we have some insecurities about our experience or knowledge. That makes us normal, like everyone else.
But to be exceptional, we’re going to need to act in spite of our insecurities, unlike everyone else.
In order to win the daily battle raging between our two ears, we must remember these truths, each and every day.
Even when we might not believe them ourselves.
Do you suffer from the Impostor Syndrome? Have you ever dismissed your accomplishments as lucky or as a result of fooling other people? If so, jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!
Are you tired of dealing with the bullies and jerks at your job, and ready to join the new workplace positivity movement? That’s good, because change is coming, my friend. If you’re ready to join the movement to change how we treat each other at work, reserve your copy of Making Work Work, today! Order link on Amazon.com