I was in a deep discussion recently with a dear friend when the topic of imposter syndrome came bubbling up.
If you’re any kind of professional, you probably know the symptoms well… a sinking feeling that you’re going to be found out as a fraud? That everyone will realize you’re a big fat phony and they’ll laugh and scorn you out the door yelling things like
“You moron – why did you think you could do this?”
or “You dingbat… you’ve been lying to us the whole time!”
or “What on earth made you think YOU were capable of this?”
Sound familiar? Chances are you’ve been screaming these words at yourself for quite some time, and you’ve probably become a bit desensitized to them in the process. Instead of hearing those words inside your head, you’ve just accepted them as truth.
Is this you? Here’s the thing…
YOU NEED TO STOP IT. Because you’re wrong. You?are?flat?out?wrong?
You are NOT an imposter. You’re just realizing how much you don’t know. And the more you know, the more you realize how much you DON’T know.
As we talked about imposter syndrome, we acknowledged how we both felt it constantly, and it was kind of hard to listen to over and over and over, and how maybe we really are imposters?
But here’s the thing – we’re not.
My friend is highly educated – they have a doctorate degree! – but they also have street smarts. They’ve been in their field for several years (though the doctorate degree is kind of new.) They’ve worked with the same population for 15 years. Additionally, they’re constantly asking questions to learn more and become the best they can be.
That’s not an imposter. That’s anything BUT an imposter. An imposter would lie and skip around and avoid hard topics. An imposter would find the shortcuts. An imposter would cheat.
But for my brilliant doctorate friend? Not even close to an imposter. They take the honest route in education. They’re constantly trying to be better for their clientele.
As we continued to talk, the cure for imposter syndrome hit me.
Perfection is NOT the cure. In fact, perfection will aggravate the condition so deeply that it may become life threatening.
The cure to imposter syndrome is a one-two punch.
(Yes, we’ve got boxing references coming up!)
In boxing, when you’re learning the basics, you learn two punches: the jab and the cross. One two, one two, one two. Left right, left right, left right. Jab cross, jab cross, jab cross.
The cure to imposter syndrome – the basic principles that will wear it down until it can’t fight back – is gratitude and humility.
Gratitude – The jab.
If you’re feeling like an imposter, take a moment to metaphorically look down at where you are in your journey. Did you get here by snapping your fingers? No. Did you get here accidentally? Maybe. Did you work your tail off? Most definitely. Did doors open at just the right time? Did closed doors redirect your path? Did you learn by trial and error?
Be grateful for the experiences that have brought you to this point.
I got into digital marketing sort of by accident. Though when I look back I see how each “accident” was a carefully guided point on my path here. A copy of photoshop when I was 11. A rebrand of my brother when I was 12. Years and years watching my dad as a small business owner. A marketing degree. A technical savvy that encouraged people to ask if I could fix stuff. Saying yes when I had no idea if I could. A communication degree. Books and books and books about marketing and psychology and UX and design and leading and people and coaching and progress and storytelling….
All “accidental”. But also, all pieces of the puzzle that have made me really great at what I do. And not just great but capable.
NOT an imposter.
And I’m so grateful for every single ingredient that has given me the unique skill set I have today. I’m grateful. And I’m not an imposter.
Take a moment right now and write down a few things you’re grateful for that have led you where you are today. List as many “accidental” moments as you can, because when you’re grateful for each of those “happy little accidents” you jab imposter syndrome over and over and over.
Humility – The cross.
Humility is an interesting word. I think it gets a bad rap sometimes. It’s seen as weakness.
I don’t view humility that way. I view humility as the ability to listen and ask questions. It’s an ability to acknowledge you DON’T know everything, but you’re ready to learn more. And more. And more.
Imposter syndrome shows up a lot when we’re faced with a situation where we feel like we should know the answer. But we don’t. And we feel like an idiot. And an imposter. But if instead we recognize those situations as growth opportunities we can be grateful for the opportunity and humble enough to recognize where our knowledge needs a boost.
Gratitude and humility. It’s the one-two punch to knock out imposter syndrome.
What other ways do you overcome imposter syndrome (even if it’s just for a moment?)