It’s normal for even highly successful executives to have doubts on occasions.
But when these doubts get out of control and morph into harmful, lingering, debilitating “imposter” habits, they become career-threatening.
Regardless of the long list of your past successes, career progress, and professional achievements, the negative, unfounded thoughts and feelings that make up an imposter syndrome can either:
- Prevent you from remembering these accomplishments, or
- Lead you to dismissing them as flukes, good luck, or unrepeatable one-offs.
Your thoughts and feelings convince you that you’ve behaved like a fraud with others — and they now think you’re more knowledgeable, more intelligent, and more skilled than you really are!
When you feel like an imposter:
- It can eat away at you, giving you a sense of unease.
This uneasy feeling sits in your unconscious. It pops into your conscious mind every so often, particularly when you’re feeling vulnerable — i.e., tired, over-stressed, under attack, overwhelmed, unwell, and so on.
- It can feel quite uncomfortable, even awkward, when these confidence-zapping thoughts are at their extreme.
And, because “sooner or later we act out what we really think,” this leaves you with a problem in others’ eyes too.
- It’s so much harder to act decisively when you’re not feeling confident and courageous.
You can be sure that people around you notice when you’re not behaving like your confident, decisive self.
Here’s the good news…
Even though these imposter feelings are debilitating and unpredictable, removing them is feasible, practical, and doable.
Let’s remember that when you experience imposter syndrome, all you’re having are subjective, emotional thoughts and feelings — subjective, emotional thoughts and feelings that are likely to be unfounded.
The leaders who succeed and get promoted aren’t necessarily the leaders who are the best in terms of their IQ, qualifications, or experience. They are the leaders who make sure their thoughts and feelings serve them; then everything else tends to fall into place.
Therefore, it’s super critical that your thoughts and feelings serve you and prevent this imposter thinking from derailing you.
If you think you’re being held back by an imposter syndrome, it’s important that you deal with it. Rise above it so you can climb your career steps, regardless.
It’s essential that you:
- Make the firm decision to remove your imposter thoughts and feelings, and
- Put your focus, time, and energy on removing them.
Aligning Our Thinking
Let’s do a quick double check to ensure our thinking is aligned here.
First, being wrong every so often doesn’t mean you’re an imposter. Nor does doing something that you don’t really know how to do make you an imposter.
Nobody knows what they’re doing all the time.
And you don’t have to, or need to.
Asking good questions is a lot better than attempting to know everything, which is clearly impossible.
I remember when I first entered the consulting arena I often used to say “yes” to things that I didn’t know how to do at that point. I then researched the topic and discovered how to handle it effectively.
I never felt like an imposter; in fact, the opposite. I felt like an empowered, “can-do” person. I felt good about myself.
Second, being cautious doesn’t mean you’re an imposter. A bit of realistic caution is healthy.
Before you jump off a 5-metre wall, it’s a good idea to think it through. Without a legal background, before you agree to appear in court to represent a friend on a manslaughter charge (please excuse my extreme example here!), it’s a good idea to exercise caution.
But when you’ve thought the situation through and there’s no real reason why you can’t pull it off (except for your self-doubts), that’s when you need to confront your thinking and your imposter syndrome — if you’re serious about achieving your career goals.
Continued in Carolyn Stevens’ book, “Stepping Into Your Power“.