When I got my first promotion I felt it was due. I was confident and ready for it; I’d been doing the job for months unofficially. Granted, I was only managing 2 other people…hey, you gotta start somewhere!
Sadly, that’s where the confident promotion cycle ended.
Just a couple years later, I
was given earned my next promotion. It had me managing several people including the person who hired me (awk-ward!), overseeing a side of our business I knew little about, and put me in a class with people who’d been with the company for years.
My first thought: I’m in over my head.
Every promotion following had me experiencing something similar. It went like this:
“Great! There’s a leadership position available!”
“I can do that job. I’ll go after it.”
Interview where I convince everyone (but myself) of my track record, skills and more importantly my potential.
Get promotion. Yay!
Cue: holy-shit-type panic. “How’d that happen? I must’ve fooled them.”
Ah, the old Impostor Syndrome. I’d pulled one over on everyone and at any moment they’d realize I didn’t know what I was doing.
Living with this kind of self doubt is terrible and totally confidence-shaking.
Ever been there?
According to wikipedia, Impostor Syndrome is:
“is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
Since we’re in the trust tree here, I’ll admit I even felt this way when I started my own business. Although I was trained in leadership development and had proven myself as a leader, I still felt like I was faking it.
Seems I’m not alone.
The more I spoke with people, the more I realized this afflicts many of us. Check out this book by Dr. Valerie Young, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.
Ignoring the signs and remedies may stunt your career momentum and your chance at being an effective leader. (Tweet this!)
Here’s what you need to know and what you can do about it:
Signs you suffer from Impostor Syndrome:
- When you should be celebrating and riding the confidence train, instead you have a gut sinking, all-eyes-on-me feeling.
- You believe you’re nothing special. Your accomplishments could be achieved by anyone, really. Right place, right time.
- You over-compensate, becoming a yes-person and no longer speaking up; the kind you’d find annoying if it weren’t actually you.
- You’re convinced your true calling is as a con artist since you clearly tricked those in charge into “granting” you this opportunity.
- You’re sure you’re going to be found out, exposed, like the nightmare where you’re naked in front of your co-workers (that’s probably not a thing but it seems pretty nightmare-ish).
- The confidence that got you to this point is M.I.A.
- Since you can identify an unqualified impostor a mile away, you have a sick feeling others have discovered your secret. Avoiding the break room, anyone?
Side effects may include:
- tightness in your stomach
- words caught in your throat when you know what you have to say is right or helpful
- snapping awake with a shortness of breath
- panic monkey on your back- a lingering feeling of fear and doubt
Become friends with yourself instead of being your own enemy
Trust in yourself. Take it easy on the self-criticism and any unrealistic goals for perfectionism.
Celebrate your accomplishments
Accept the highs that come from your accomplishments. As Dr. Young says, focus on what you love to do; doing so can convince you that you’re doing those things well.
Change your mindset
See this new challenge as a thrill. Accept the learning curve and know you’ll make mistakes, and that’s ok.
Get yourself a mantra
Stuart Smalley- style. Try this one:
Be the beginner
Ask questions and listen. Take it all in. The way to build confidence is to be authentic and accept that you don’t need to know everything right away.
One of my favorite quotes: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki (Tweet this!)
Don’t let your fraud feelings hold you back. Who you are and what you bring to the table are of unique value. Remember that and go for it!
If you’ve just self-diagnosed, that’s ok. You’re not alone. Recognizing and overcoming Impostor Syndrome can help you reach your career potential.
There’s a special place between competence and growth that leads to success and confidence. I can show you how to find that sweet spot with my new leadership assessment, Discovering Your Signature Style. Click here to get in the Inner Circle and be the first to know when it’s launched + to receive special offers.
I’d love to hear from you: What cheats can you share on overcoming Impostor Syndrome? Let us know in the comments below!
Anne Omland is a leadership development expert and mentor. She uses her years of experience as a VP for a Fortune 500 company to share all she knows from the “other side” of the table. Her mission is to help ambitious women create corporate careers that are sustainable, mindful and purposeful. Seen as a career stylist, she can help you customize your career to fit your lifestyle perfectly. Click here to inquire about working with Anne.