Dealing With the Imposter Syndrome

Dear leader who feels like an imposter,

I recently went on a business retreat with a group of female entrepreneurs who were all super talented, leaders in their industry, make lots of money, and somehow also kind, generous, and gorgeous (seriously, the whole package!).  I mean, these ladies are INSPIRING with the books they’ve written, coaching programs they’ve created, and yes, children they’ve raised.  At first, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated and wonder:  

“Who do you think you are?”

That’s when I realized that the Imposter Syndrome was rearing its ugly head.

It’s the critical voice that questions your authority and achievements.  It’s the lie that holds you back from feeling truly confident in your value.  It’s the fear that leads you to feel inauthentic or that you don’t belong to your circle of influence.  If you’ve ever felt a sense that someone is going to figure out that you don’t know it all, or have it all together, then you’ve experienced that phenomenon called, The Imposter Syndrome.

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In this week’s letter, I want to shine a light on the Imposter Syndrome so it no longer holds you back from greatness.  At the root, it is the fear that you’ll be “found out” and exposed as a “fraud.”  The interesting thing is, the Imposter Syndrome only affects creative, high-achievers who had tons of accolades to be proud of.

For example, Maya Angelou the great American author says,

“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”

So let’s dive deeper into this mindset with some tips to help you recognize it, and how to deal with it.  

1. Celebrate your past accomplishments.  

People who struggle with the Imposter Syndrome feel like they’re not enough (which is a lie!) because they have trouble internalizing their past accomplishments.  For example, you may think you nailed a presentation because it was a team effort when in reality you had the brilliant ideas and the work ethic to follow through.

This is when the Imposter Syndrome says, “This accomplishment was a fluke because….”

To conquer this silly thought, write a list of your past accomplishments, experiences, and people you helped in a list of “humble brags.”  Post it in a visible place you can refer to and add to. You can even craft a canned response that highlights your work ethic and achievements to tackle the Imposter Syndrome head-on.   

For example, when I start to feel the self-doubt creep in, this is my response, “Who am I?  I’m the coach who’s called and committed to helping women grow the confidence to lead.  I’ve earned my certification and worked with more than hundred people.  I’ve done it before, and I trust myself to do it again.”

2. Create your own fan club.

The Imposter Syndrome can feel like you’re isolated, alone, and the only one struggling.  Fear has no power in a community rooted in authenticity, vulnerability, and true connection.  That’s when it’s helpful to invest in your fan club -- coaches, trusted peers, and friends who are your confidants and biggest champions for your success.  These people are your reminders of why you’re awesome.  

The most refreshing aspect of the business retreat was the connections formed when we shared about our successes, struggles, and brainstormed solutions to our challenges.  It helped me to see the “behind the scenes” stories of the ladies I admired, and receive praise and support for my own business.  

3. Get real (and specific) about your skills.  

Now that we’ve talked about mindset, let’s address your actual competency as a leader.  Leaders don’t need to know it all, but leaders do need to know what they’re good at, and what they’re not good at.  This distinction helps to know the areas where you shine, and areas where you can intentionally work on to get better.  When you accurately assess your skill level, and get specific on what you need to work on and how, you can can create a plan to help close that gap.  

A simple way to do this is to get clear on your goals, and the most important skills to help you achieve those goals.  Then, rate yourself on a scale from 1-10 (1-low, 10-high) of where you are right now, where you’d like to be in 3 months, and how you’re going to get there.  

For example, let’s say your biggest goal is to get 3 new clients, but you rate yourself at a 6 in your sales conversation because you’re not consistent with reaching out afterwards.  You want to be at a 9 by getting better of following up and creating a streamlined process to help you do so.  When you’re real and specific about your skills, it helps you to focus on doing the work.  

4. Confidence comes from taking action.  

The more you acknowledge the thoughts from the Imposter Syndrome and intentionally take action anyways, the more experience and confidence you cultivate.  Take one step (big or small) in the direction towards your goals so you develop more self-agency and self-trust.  Your actions and accomplishments are the best way to prove to yourself that you CAN make a difference.

I hope that this letter was helpful for you to recognize the Imposter Syndrome, which can be the shadow edge for true confidence.   

If you found this helpful, then make sure you get your Leadership Style Quiz download below to help you pinpoint what your strengths are to help you lead from a place of confidence and security.  

With Joy, 

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