Unmasking your Imposter
Posted on 21st September 2023 at 12:37
"I'm not supposed to be here"
"I'm going to get found out"
From Beyoncé to Batman, everyone at some point in their life, has heard their inner imposter and cowered under it's judgment. Thankfully, they don't usually stick around too long as we grow and develop the skills to navigate whatever uncomfortable situation we were in.
Just check out business guru and star Dragon, Steven Bartlett, talking about his experiences here.
There are, however, some slightly more sneaky ways that our imposters can show up. Coming at us with a view to keeping us safe, these imposters can either push us hard to succeed, or become limiting and get in the way of us shining bright.
As leaders, it is perfectly ok to talk about those imposters. And learning to navigate - and reframe - our imposters is not only vital for ourselves, but an important part of leading others with compassion.
"Learning to navigate - and reframe - our imposters is vital"
Imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young, who is the author of a book on the subject, The Secret Thought of Successful Women, found patterns in people who experience impostor feelings and names five main ways they show up. These apply equally to men, however, and the good news is there is plenty we can do to work with them.
"Perfectionists" set extremely high expectations for themselves, and even if they meet 99% of their goals, they're going to feel like failures. Any small mistake will make them question their own competence.
If this is you, try learning to accept mistakes are part of the process. If you don't believe us just listen to the 'How to fail' podcast and see what an integral part of success failure is. Celebrating achievements will also put the focus on positive outcomes rather than any negatives.
"Experts" feel the need to know every piece of information before they start a project and constantly look for new certifications or training to improve their skills. They won't apply for a job if they don't meet all the criteria in the posting, or they might be hesitant to ask questions in class or speak up in a meeting at work because they are afraid of looking stupid if they don't already know the answer.
Sound familiar? Can you practice diving in the deep end and learning things on the go? As you build trust in your ability to cope without hoarding information first, your confidence will start to soar.
When the "natural genius" must struggle or work hard to accomplish something, he or she thinks this means they aren't good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that's proof they're an imposter.
If you were always the top of the class, learning to be a work in progress is the way forward. Look for evidence of skills that take time to master - learning an instrument, playing a sport, or even baking - and focus on the process.
"Soloists" feel that they have to accomplish tasks entirely on their own, and if they need to ask for help, that invalidates success and means they are a failure or a fraud.
For the lone rangers out there, talking to those you admire about what role getting help from others has played in their success, will show just how vital it is and re-frame your relationship with reaching out.
The "superperson" pushes themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they're not imposters. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life - at work, as parents, as partners - and may feel stressed when they are not getting external validation by accomplishing something.
If you are constantly wearing an invisible cape and on the edge of burn out, it is time to start redefining what success means to you. What do you want to achieve for yourself? Once you've realised what is realistic and reasonable, it's time for some healthy boundaries and self care.
Which imposters do you face? What about those around you?
Recognise them, diminish their power by talking about them, then make them your friend and you'll be unstoppable!
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