Throughout our new book, Winning Well, David and I talk consistently about the importance of confidence, humility, results and relationships.
So many of the managers we work with tell us that the hardest part to master is confidence.
Even those highly successful managers who appear to be Winning Well and making a difference will often take us aside and admit that they sometimes feel like a fake.
They feel as if their success rests on a knife’s edge. One false move, one tiny mistake, and everyone would know they were nothing but a well-spoken fraud.
This is what’s known as “impostor syndrome.”
Imposter sydrome describes that feeling of strong self-doubt that you’re a fake, that your success is due more to luck or your ability to fool people than it is due to your work, and it often comes with your fear of being found out.
If you let it, imposter syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your people and achieve your goals–not to mention screw up your life in many other ways.
We know. We’ve been there too.
At earlier times in our lives, David and I have felt as if we didn’t belonging that boardroom, didn’t feel that others would take us seriously, that we weren’t as smart, as proficient, as musical, or as experienced as we needed to be compared to that group we were working with.
The brutal truth is that you can’t be the manager you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate, or you’ll stay silent when you should speak. Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence.
There are several tools you can use to overcome this self-sabotage. Here are just a few.
5 Ways to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
1. Honor Your Past and Your Present
One of David’s mentors said, “It’s a good thing to remember where you came from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there. ”
His point is that your experiences in childhood and earlier life can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind. But it would be equally foolhardy to not acknowledge today’s circumstances. That’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.
2. Remember that You’re Always “Too Something” For Someone
These wise words came from 1999 world champion of public speaking and motivational speaker, Craig Valentine. “You’re always too something for someone” gets at the absurdity of it all, because once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.
3. Laugh at Your Doubts
When David writes and self-doubt begins to wrap him in its constricting coils, telling him he can’t write anything unless it’s absolutely perfect, he can almost hug that little voice, laugh at it and say “Aren’t you cute?It’s hard to be critical when you’re adorable.”
4. Examine it Before You Swallow It
Sometimes your doubts might have something to tell you. Maybe there is a new skill you need to learn or a true mistake you can avoid. How can you tell the difference between legitimate self-doubt and useless insecurity?
Picture someone tossing you an apple. You don’t catch the apple with your teeth, immediately chew it, and swallow it. You catch it in your hand; then you might inspect the apple and decide if you want to eat it. Treat doubts and criticisms like the apple. Don’t automatically swallow them. Ask yourself if there is something of value for you here. Create space for curiosity. See what happens. You get to chose whether you take a bite from the apple and internalize the concern or toss it away.
5. Leverage Your People
One of the most effective tools for dealing with impostor syndrome is simply to focus on the team you serve. They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether you have a big house, a small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else. What they do care about is you you can help them succeed today.
It’s nearly impossible to trip over your own insecurities when you’re serving others. This is the reason volunteering is such a powerful experience and why you hear volunteers say they received so much more than they give.
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