Imposter syndrome is common among highly successful people. So I thought I would take some time to explain to you what imposter syndrome is, share my own journey with imposter syndrome and also what I’ve witnessed while networking and being around other successful people, including business owners.
What is imposter syndrome?
If you haven’t heard the term before, impostor syndrome is when you feel like a fraud. Imposter syndrome is a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persists even though there’s plenty of evidence that suggests otherwise. And you tend to feel like a fraud even though on the outside you have all the accolades and the success. This even goes for people who know exactly what they’re talking about. You can know your subject well and still have imposter syndrome. So that’s impostor syndrome in a nutshell.
Even I’ve personally dealt with this. I actually wrote about this back in the day when I had my column with Ink because I felt like a fraud myself. And normally when I’m writing stuff or putting some sort of content out there, it’s because I need to heal it, and then I oftentimes heal by teaching.
Here’s a bit of my backstory and my own experience with imposter syndrome. In 2016, I was starting to get a lot more attention in my business. I had a column with Ink. I’d been quoted and featured in major publications, and I was starting to be approached for speaking gigs. I had no idea what that meant, what it entailed, or what to charge. This was also the year when a lot more work started coming to me. For example, I didn’t have to hustle nearly as hard as I had before to make money. I was starting to have really great success. Which was great for me because I’d been working hard since 2010 in my own business.
So you would think that I would be really happy about this, but instead, I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I felt so uncomfortable that whole year, and on top of that, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop because at that point, I was so accustomed to something going wrong. I also just kept hearing this voice saying, “You’re a fraud. You’re a fraud. You’re a fraud.”
And that’s kind of how imposter syndrome comes along and it can really take you out if you don’t know what to do with it. What’s so interesting is I’ve been in rooms with very successful people, people who are more successful than me. And they too suffer from impostor syndrome and you wouldn’t think it based on the fact that they’re doing so well and they’re so successful. But on the inside, they think they’re frauds.
It’s more common than you think
According to research that was published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, 70% of the population, as in the human population, feels like a fraud. And it’s not something that’s like, “Oh, women have it more than men.” No. This affects both genders and it’s throughout all occupations.
This is just part of being human. So what can we do about impostor syndrome?
How do you deal with imposter syndrome?
So the first step is to befriend it. In the book “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert writes about how she’s had conversations with her own fears. So, basically, when she starts feeling fear creeping in, she says something along the lines of like, “Hey, fear. I know you’re just looking out for me but you’re not really needed right now. I’m in the driver’s seat. You can go to the back seat.” Why don’t we learn how to be friends with our fear?
The next step is to focus on service. So I have personally found that when my impostor syndrome starts creeping in, it’s usually because I’m waiting or putting way too much attention and focus on myself. Usually, it’s a pretty good indicator that I am not focusing on my audience. So whenever I catch myself in impostor syndrome, I know that one of the most effective ways for me to come back is to start focusing on service and start focusing on putting value out there. I’ve found that this step personally eradicates my imposter syndrome almost immediately.
And the last thing is to keep a running list of your accomplishments. I have a lot of journals and highly encourage them. For me, I know that one day I’m going to see them and read over them and reminisce like, “Oh, remember when you were doing that?” Now, it doesn’t matter if the accomplishments are big or small. One day, it could be like, “I had my best revenue generating month ever.” And then on another day, it could say, “I got out of bed when I was supposed to today. I didn’t hit the snooze button.” This has been so helpful for me, and many others, as we learn to deal with imposter syndrome.
Now that you know what imposter syndrome is, and how to deal with it, don’t let it control you! It’s possible to handle it and learn to get over it. There is no reason to feel guilty for being successful, especially when you worked hard for it.