“Who am I to have a goal of being a senior leader?”
“I’m afraid of being found out.”
“I really do doubt myself from time to time.”
“I don’t have imposter syndrome. I really am a fraud.”
Most high-achieving, intelligent, ambitious leaders have “imposter” thoughts like these from time to time.
(If you don’t, ever, will you pass this article on to someone you suspect does?)
This imposter mindset isn’t related to your IQ or your capabilities. It’s caused by your thinking—unproductive thinking.
If you’ve ever experienced imposter syndrome, you’re certainly not alone. Even well-known, super-successful people are victims of this sort of unfounded thinking.
Actress Michelle Pfeiffer said,
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented.
I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.”
Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization, said,
“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m
an expert. How do these people believe all this about me?
I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
Why You Need to Turn This Thinking Around
It’s normal for leaders to have occasional doubts. But when these doubts morph into harmful, lingering, debilitating 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:
- Prevent you from remembering your accomplishments, or
- Lead you to dismissing them as flukes, good luck or unrepeatable one-offs.
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 can prevent you from acting decisively.
Being decisive is so much harder 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.
But here’s the good news…
Even though these imposter feelings are debilitating and unpredictable, removing them is feasible, practical and do-able.
Confronting Your Imposter Syndrome
Unfounded self-doubts must be confronted.
- Be aware of negative internal dialogue.
If you’re aware of imposter syndrome, you’ve already taken the first step of self-awareness and self-knowledge towards overcoming it. When you know it’s there, you can do something about it. It’s crucial that you monitor your self-talk very, very carefully.
- Ask yourself whether your concerns about the situation are realistic or unfounded.
If you’ve been in this situation or something like it before, then you can do it again. If someone like you has done this before, then you can do it too. If there’s someone who can help you if you encounter difficulties, then you can do it with their support.And if it does go pear-shaped, what’s the worst that can happen? Probably not too much—and you’ll have learnt an awful lot for the next time you encounter something similar.
- If your self-doubts are unrealistic or unfounded, confront them for what they are.
Acknowledge that this negative internal dialogue is imposter thinking and feeling. Your unconscious mind hears that self-talk and believes it. It thinks it’s alerting you and protecting you from danger.You can’t give your negative self-talk any chance to infiltrate your conscious or your unconscious mind. In your head, say with certainty, “Thanks for the alert but I don’t believe that’s true.”Get into the habit of confronting and removing negative bullshit that shows up in your head.
Your Call To Action
To properly overcome imposter syndrome, you need to uncover the reasons behind your unhelpful thoughts and feelings. Some of them may surprise you.
Let’s start to delve into this by asking two questions:
- What frame are you putting on this?
An imposter syndrome is almost always a result of negative self-talk. Therefore, more self-talk isn’t going to solve the problem. That’d be like throwing kerosene onto a fire!
You need to shift your thinking. When your self-talk is fuelling your imposter syndrome, talking about the situation with someone else is going to help you remove it.
Tell someone you trust that you feel like a fraud and why. When you tell your story, you’ll realise how unrealistic it is.
- How does your toolkit look?
Leaders need a good leadership toolkit—one that’s stocked with a comprehensive set of well-honed techniques and models.
A top-of-the-range leadership toolkit will give you solid, evidence-based confidence to overcome your imposter syndrome.
These two actions will get you started on removing the damaging thinking.
There are many more approaches that will also help. Let me know if you’d find it useful to chat with someone who’s used to helping leaders erase their imposter syndrome.
Your leadership and your career will benefit enormously when you turn the unwanted thinking around.
“I now have a better handle on my future direction and have gained confidence
in my career. Carolyn’s caring and sincere personality led me to open up and
be relaxed with her, which enabled me to achieve my targeted outcome.”
—Senior Leader, Multinational Company
About the Author:
For more than 25-years, Carolyn Stevens has helped leaders flourish and become more confident, more courageous and impressively influential (including those who’ve previously struggled to confront difficult situations, let alone persuasively deal with them).
Plus, as a personal career strategist, she specialises in helping ambitious female leaders create a reputation as an indispensable first-class leader.
Carolyn is authentic and results-oriented. She’ll draw on an eclectic array of approaches, tools and techniques to suit your situation.
She’s never too busy to talk to you if you’re in a hurry to boost your success. Same goes for leaders you refer.
Email if you’d like to arrange a time to chat: firstname.lastname@example.org