Imposter Syndrome is a an absolute dream killer.
Death by psychological wall that closes in on it’s victim, it is a phenomenon that wages war against inside the minds of the truly ambitious.
For many have set out to accomplish great things. Lead a revolution. Shape the future. Only to have their minds land-mined with thoughts of failure, inadequacy, and incompetence.
If you have ever wanted leave the confined walls of a “normal” life behind and start a new endeavor — you have, undoubtedly, experienced Imposter Syndrome. The hollow feeling that you get that makes you question your greatest dreams and aspirations. The feeling that is capable of stopping you dead in your tracks in life and steers you gently back into you comfort zone as it promises the past of least resistance.
“What gives me the right to be a leader?!”
First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.
Clance believed that the Impostor Phenomenon is not “a pathological disease that is inherently self-damaging or self-destructive,” rather, it interferes with the psychological well-being of a person.
Although Impostors may receive positive feedback about their successful accomplishment of the task, Impostors deny their success is related to their own ability.
So, what often happens? Leaders trying to make a dent in the world overwork and burnout. Overworking is one observed and self-perceived pattern of the Impostor Cycle. Overworking becomes problematic when “the amount of effort and energy invested in a task exceeds that for producing work of reasonable quality and interferes with other priorities,” says Clance.
Clance has suggested that Impostors have high expectation for their goals and have their own concept of ideal success. Impostors disregard their success if there is any gap between their actual performance and their ideal standard, which contributes to discounting of positive feedback. Since Impostors are high achievers who also “make unreasonably low assessments of their performance”
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome as a Leader
1. Take a Strong Inventory of your Skills and Interests
You are unique. And you, unquestionably, have skills and interests that others don’t. Throughout my journey as a wartime leader, I learned and accepted that one of my greatest strengths as a troop leader was being personable and investing genuine trust in my team leaders. Something I struggled to wrap my mind around because of how EASY it comes to me, I never chalked this up to being a valuable part of my success.
What do you have inside of you that comes easy? However this trait, interest, or skill helps define who you are and where you’re going, understand that not everyone shares in it.
Recognize and become acutely self-aware of where God has blessed you, naturally. This is not an exercise that requires deep imaginative thought. Rather, it is deeply ingrained in your DNA and should come to the surface by taking an introspective look at yourself and outside interactions.
Own your strengths.
2. Understand You Set a High Standard
Great leaders set a high standard for themselves, first.
The solution: Give yourself some slack, man. To maintain a high level of achievement demands a high level of goal-setting. But it doesn’t mean you need to treat yourself like a punching bag. You may have come from a family or group of friends that cultivated an ecosystem of achievement-based living, and that’s a good thing.
But burnout is inevitable if you allow Imposter Syndrome to suffocate your aspirations as constantly not good enough. Do not revert to overworking. Revert towards self-acceptance.
3. Learn to Love Failure, Learn to Define Results Even More
You’re human. And humans crave social validation. It’s the acceptance from our groups, tribe, and society that give us a thumbs up for what we have decided to set our minds too. Especially, if that acceptance is coming from stepping outside our comfort zone.
On Episode 48 of LSG, I speak with 26 year-old Co-Founder and CEO of the home-designer app Hutch, Beatrice Fischel-Bock, whose app has secured $17M in funding in 5 years. Now on the third iteration of her company, she and her company cite the mantra of “fail fast, fix fast, learn fast” as the guidepost for their success.
As Beatrice puts into words her thought on overcoming imposter syndrome, “It’s results…but it’s getting feedback from your team, seeing how you make other people feel.”
Let’s learn to love failure as a means to success, and take validation from growing your team as the intrinsic and extrinsic means of success. Results matter. But people matter more.
How do you overcome Imposter Syndrome?