Imposter Syndrome was first described by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes as ‘Occuring among high achievers who are unable to internalise and accept their success. These high achievers will often contribute their success to luck rather than accomplishment and fear that others are going to unmask them.’
It is very common in high achievers, and more common in women than in men.
Jodie Foster, feared she’d have to give her Oscar back after winning it for ‘The Accused’. “I thought it was a fluke,” she said in an interview. Another extraordinary actress Kate Winslet, said “fame doesn’t give you confidence.” And Maya Angelou, an incredible woman who was a fount of wisdom, knowledge and extraordinary insight, suffered with it as well. Even though she wrote 11 books, she still feared she would be ‘found out.’
If you ever feel like you’re a bit of a fraud, if you ever achieve great success but try and write it off as luck or being in the right place at the right time, you’re in really great company.
Imposter Syndrome is a horrible feeling. A strong sense that you’re a fake, or an imposter. That one day you’re going to be found out.
This feeling stops us stepping into our greatness. Every time I up-level I get this feeling. It’s so powerfully uncomfortable that sometimes we avoid taking the steps or embracing the opportunities that may come our way in an attempt to avoid it.
It has us play small. It has us not be bold for fear of being found out.
It affects many of us – small business owners, big business owners, celebrities and also successful corporate employees. As entrepreneurs it stops you owning your talents and promoting yourself. As a corporate it stops you putting yourself forward for promotion because you don’t even feel like you should even be where you are.
I truly believe that your hearts’ desire and the will of source are one and the same.
The etymology of desire is de sidere which means of the stars.
If you long for something, wish for something or even just hope for something. It’s because it’s destined. It’s supposed to be. I call them your marching orders.
Many of us don’t go after our desires because we feel like we’re not big enough or bold enough for it. We feel like an imposter. The fear of being found out, and the shame that would result in stops us.
Brené Brown has made an amazing contribution in the psychological field in relation to shame and guilt. She suggests that vulnerability is the key to getting past these limiting feelings and that we have to go through shame, through the vulnerability to get to whole- hearted, to get to the feeling of joy and living on purpose.
This is reflected in the common call for women who are further along in their careers to share their vulnerabilities, in order to help those below them to be bold enough to step up. It’s common to look at those ahead of us and think they have everything sorted, or that is was easy for them, which is usually not the case at all.
Personally, I go through cycles. I’ve been up-levelling lately and it always raises the familiar old feelings of discomfort. Increasingly I become bolder as I am prepared to be vulnerable and step into the discomfort that arises as I embrace what I am inspired to do in the world.
Recently two of the women in my mastermind were on Necker Island with George and Amal Clooney, some other extraordinary people, and of course Richard Branson.
I got an invite for that trip and I didn’t go. The topic was interesting but wasn’t particularly my bag, they were discussing politics and criminal justice. But was that the only reason I didn’t go? It did make me have a look at my imposter syndrome. I found underlying was a fear of going and being the dumbest and least successful person in the room.
My fellow master-minders shared that they went exactly for this, knowing they would be the dumbest and poorest people in the room, but in doing so they would be able to be the greatest students.
How can you overcome Imposter Syndrome?
Reach out to someone.
Find sources of support that you can turn to in those moments of fear. The people who will champion you, encourage you and remind you how great you are. I feel truly blessed to be surrounded by the most amazing supportive people in my life. We all need support and encouragement.
Remind yourself what you have achieved.
Read over your bio. I often do this when I have Imposter Syndrome moments. It’s really great to remind yourself of all the things you have done and achieved in your life. Don’t forget the small things either.
Create an ‘I rock’ file
Create an ‘I rock’ file by collecting clippings, thank you cards, notes, messages on facebook or emails of congratulations or thanks. Have a look through your I rock file when you need reminding of the positive difference you’ve made to other people and the things you’ve achieved.
Own your success
Accept that you have had some role in your success. Yes you may have had an opportunity that others didn’t have but there are plenty of people born with a silver spoon who mess it up. Life’s not fair but you did do something to get where you are.
Shift from ‘me’ focus to ‘other’ focus
There’s nothing like shifting your focus from yourself to others to overcome Imposter Syndrome and discover the impetus to go for it.
I’m passionate about The hunger project (an organisation committed to the sustainable end of world hunger). When Imposter Syndrome rears its head I think of all the women, their families and communities that we have helped so far.
Stop comparing yourself to little miss perfect
Drop the idea of how you think you should be and stop looking at other women from the outside. I was really surprised to discover my coach Ali Brown also has Imposter Syndrome, she’s achieved some remarkable things and is an extraordinary woman. Yet every single human being is vulnerable is some way, it’s good to remember that.
Be unafraid to feel it
Get out there and be vulnerable. Claim it, be bold, get out there and do the thing that makes you feel vulnerable. Remember Brené Brown’s research that in order to get past shame you need to feel it.
When you next feel like a fraud remind yourself that it is just a feeling. You are not a not a fraud, you are just feeling like a fraud. Phone one of your support buddies and say “I’m having a moment of Imposter Syndrome.”
I hope you find those strategies helpful. Take a moment right now to consider what opportunities are you not stepping into because of the fear of being found out?
I’ve got 2 challenges for you this week, firstly I invite you to find the support that helps you to move forward when Imposter Syndrome sneaks up on you.
Second ask yourself what could I be doing if imposter syndrome wasn’t holding me back?
Remember Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet feel it too and it doesn’t stop them, so don’t let it stop you.
I look forward to hearing about your breakthroughs. Share them in the comments here or in our BeOne community.