One of the major obstacles that impact our mindset is having the imposter syndrome. By having constant thoughts of yourself about not being good enough and lacking that right level of self-confidence, you may never be able to move forward at all. Aiming to eliminate this unhealthy thinking from your head, Jeffrey Edwards goes deep into the most important steps on addressing imposter syndrome, from simple journaling exercises to looking inward to resist the unnecessary feeling of perfectionism. He also shares a few impactful quotes from prominent people who, despite their huge successes in their respective industries, still saw themselves as individuals with so many things to prove.
Listen to the podcast here:
Imposter Syndrome: How To Dispel This Major Obstacle To Personal Growth
Welcome to this episode. It’s wonderful to be here with you. I’m truly grateful and thankful for allowing us to be a part of your day. To kick-off of this episode, I’m going to ask you a question. Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve felt like you were an imposter, that you felt that somehow you were fearful that people may find out about your skill, your ability, what you can do? If you have ever felt that way, you’re not alone. The reality behind the concept of the imposter syndrome, which is our topic, represents 70% of professionals who admit to that level of feeling they’re getting away with something. I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to dive into imposter syndrome a little more.
There are lots of literature on it, lots of speaking points on it. This is one more data point in an ongoing dialogue on this topic. What to focus on more on this episode is about you. How do you manage through this? What are some strategies for you to address that feeling when they do come up? Recognizing what those telltale signs may be, and working through a strategy that’s going to help minimize the impact on your performance and boost your confidence and productivity in working with others.
To give you a little history lesson here, I’m not going to bore you with details. It all starts with where this concept come from. It’s from the literature I’ve seen so far, which brought this topic out to the public forum, was based on a study back in 1978. It was a study that was done with 150 university women in academia. What the study was showing was this disconnect between these accomplished celebrate women in academia, who were published authors and done the research and were recognized for awards for all their work in their fields. When that was brought to their attention and you ask them to talk about it, they would say, “I got lucky or I happened to be on the right place at the right time.” They always seem to deflect the research and the whole project they came out with on an occurring theme that there was this deflection, “It wasn’t me, someone else outside my building, my skills. It’s something outside of me that created that moment.”
You think of yourself now, how often do you hear yourself say the same thing? When someone gives you a compliment, how quick are you to say, “It’s not me or it was nothing?” versus, “Thank you.” How many words do you think of the energy we put behind the deflection and how much easier it is to accept it and be a receiver? In leadership, it’s often the case where we talk about in terms of what we give to other people, how we support other people, what our role is in terms of mentoring, coaching and supplying all the resources of the people around us that give a side of the equation. Also integral to leadership is role modeling and being open to receiving. It’s much like you would be providing people feedback, acknowledgments and recognition for their work. We equally have to be open to receiving feedback, acknowledgment and recognition for our work.
What Are You Putting Out There?
When we allow ourselves that freedom, then we’re also reinforcing and role modeling behavior that others around us can see and copy. In actual fact, what it comes down to it, people do follow the leader. What are you putting out there in the world that you want people to follow? What are some things that you’re doing that you can change and adapt that will allow for your career satisfaction? Going back to the research saying that 70% of us at any point in our lives, us professionals, we have that feeling. It’s understandable. Think of times where you’ve been put in situations where you’re feeling you’re not ready, you don’t have enough knowledge. You don’t have enough training and not enough time. You might feel a little lost or you’re ill-prepared to take on that new task. Somehow, someway you get it done. It may not be in the way you imagined it to be, or it might not be with the actual results that you expected. At the end of the day, you get it done. From there, you can move on and build momentum from taking action.
Oftentimes, we can associate that feeling of being an imposter as someone who is more at this certain level. If I’m starting out or if I claim my own experience, gain more experience and growing as a professional, or either going through levels in an organization or building a company and gaining more knowledge and growth, I might think that I might be here at this level. Post syndrome doesn’t discriminate. People recognize it at any point in their lives and career, that they’re going to feel that way and they have those feelings.
Here are some examples. These are people who are in the public spotlight recognized for their accomplishments and in their field. These are some of the quotes that they had to share when they’re talking about imposter syndrome. One person that drew my attention, Jodie Foster. She is an accomplished actor, producer and director. She started off in the entertainment business at a very young age. It was in an interview back when she won the Best Actress category for her role in the movie, Silence of the Lambs. She had an interview within 60 Minutes. This is what she said when she was asked after she won the Oscar, “How did you feel?” Here’s her quote, “I thought it was a fluke. I thought everyone would find out and they take it back, come to my house, knock on the door and say, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else.’ That was going to Meryl Streep, another famous actress.”If you can name your good traits, you can claim them. Click To Tweet
Imagine that with Jodie Foster, and you’re thinking, “Jodie Foster?” This is what she’s saying in terms of how she perceived her contribution, her performance and always thinking, “I better get this Oscar and run as fast as I can, and in case they try and knock me down off the stage, I’m getting out of the building.” Here’s another person, Michelle Obama, you might have heard of her. She was sharing with a group of students in the UK, referring to that feeling of imposter syndrome, “It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me seriously. What do I know?” I share that with you because we all have doubts and our abilities about our power and what that power is. Here’s a woman who was the former first lady of the United States who championed education, health and wellness. All of the initiatives that she did, yet she’s feeling like, “Why would people believe me? Why do people listen to me?”
I’ll share with you one more. You’ve heard of Albert Einstein, and I love this quote that he had in regards to his recognition of his work and his role in all of this. He says, “The exaggerated esteem in which my life work is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.” The guy is smart. He comes up with great ways of expressing himself. When you compare all three, what are some of the common factors that they’re expressing here? One is, “Why would anyone listen to me? What do I have to say? Why would people want to listen to me? What do I have within myself that would be a value to other people?”
The second one is, “There are other people better than me. Did you see my performance? Did you truly see what I was doing compared to all these other well-accomplished and established people around me? You still chose me to get the Oscar? Really? Come on, what’s going on here?” You hear it and think, “Come on.” Does it sound a little ridiculous when you hear someone else say it? How often are you saying it to yourself each and every day? How often are you hearing it in the people that you work with, either your direct reports with your colleagues, with your peers each and every day? As we recognize that imposter syndrome doesn’t go away, there’s always going to be that time of doubt, fear, and trepidation that will creep up in those moments where we’re feeling a little unsure about what’s expected of us and how we’re going to perform.
There are different ways in which we demonstrate that. Think of that feeling of, “I’m not sure I can do this.” We will overcompensate, and that’s one of the tendencies. We will overcompensate to that feeling of overboard to make sure that I give everyone reason to believe that I’m the perfect person, that I can get this done. How does that show up? It shows up to be perfection. How many of you are seen to be a perfectionist that everything has to be perfect? If it’s not perfect, it becomes more of a reflection on you. Perfectionism is a myth. Can you think of any one thing that’s perfect that is made by a human being that could not be adjusted, changed and modified down the road? Why are you putting yourself in that situation? I can’t think of it. If you can think of something, I can’t think of why of anything that surrounds me each and every day that I could think, “I could use that adjustment here and there.”
Why put yourself through that? Will there be mistakes? Absolutely. Will you learn from them? Hopefully. Will the people around you make mistakes? Yes. Will there be learning opportunities? Yes. That’s where your role comes into play. When you take a look at some other ways, people will overcompensate. Think of the superhero, that person that seems to get everything done, they do it, the go-to person for everyone on the team, and they’re working crazy hours. They’re pulling in all the stuff because they feel that if they don’t contribute at that level, then they’re not truly contributing at all. You can only do that for so long until your body and mind start to burn out.
Thinking Like An Expert
Another one thinks of as the expert. You take a look at how the person has to know everything before they get started. There’s a whole lot of information out there in the world. How much do you know now that’s going to be good enough? How much do you know now that can be enough information that allows people to take action? The final one I pull-out is the soloist. They are these personas come out of how we manifest this imposter syndrome. We do that in different ways. One is the perfectionist. We overcompensate to make everything as perfect as possible. Coming across with no flaws means that we are good enough. Look around the room you’re in right now, there’s space. Is there anything that has been handmade, machine-made that couldn’t be modified or changed? If there is, then great.
Perfectionism is a whole lot of energy and it’s a myth. It’s a fool’s journey that, “Eventually, I’m going to become perfect.” That will never happen. How about speak out what you do and help others also become efficient professionals? Be excellent in what they do and acknowledge first what that is. You’re constantly looking at what you do in comparison to others. There’s always going to be that feeling of, “I’m not feeling good enough. Am I ever going to get to that point? No. Do I need to? No.” When you look at yourself, what is it that you bring to the table that works for you and for the people around you? How often do you acknowledge that? Do you know what those elements are?
Have you ever experienced that time where people give you a compliment and you brush them off? They come back and will give you another compliment and you keep brushing them off. Eventually, they stopped coming, “Why aren’t they coming by?” They start looking for recognition, but then you’ve already pushed enough people away. They recognize, “You don’t like getting it. Why do we bother?” Which then reinforces that feeling of, “What am I doing wrong?” The whole reason behind all this is that you’re in a position of leadership for a reason. Somehow, somewhere, someone looked at you, someone read something you wrote, or someone interviewed you or someone bought or worked with you and said, “I can learn from this person. I can gain new knowledge, new abilities, new skills that I currently don’t have from this person or group of people.”You can always gain new knowledge, abilities, and skills that you currently don't have from the group of people you belong in. Click To Tweet
Traditional Job Interview
You may ask, “How do they know that?” Let’s go to your traditional job interview. I always remember a conversation I had, “They don’t know who I am.” “Why would they hire you?” “I don’t know.” These are real conversations that I have with people. Think of the conversations you have with colleagues, friends, and family. It doesn’t even make sense. What’s one of the things that we use to demonstrate our skills, our abilities, our knowledge to other people? One of them is a CV or resume. Anytime there is an opportunity if you’re looking at joining a company, the first thing that they’re asking you for is send in your resume. What is your resume or CV? It’s a datasheet of your skills, experiences, knowledge, learning, that you are promoting to other people for the opportunity to work with them. It can be a form of CV or it could be a form of a proposal to a client as looking into working with you or your company, or going out there. If you’re looking at funding, it’s looking at providing that information from a management perspective statement that lends credibility to how you imagine how you lead your organization.
Any one of those situations you’re pulling from somewhere. Those experiences of that data are coming from you. Where are you putting out there in the world that people are believing? If this is the information that people are going with and they’re making decisions to hire you or to work with you, then there must be something in the information you’re giving to them that says, “This person fits the bill. This person is someone we want.” Isn’t that the truth? When was the last time you’ve looked at your resume or CV or a client proposal, any document you’ve sent to someone?
Where do we go from here? We’ve been talking about how it feels to be imposter but then I’m sure you’ll say, “How do I address this? What can I do for myself or for the people in my team or people I know that could benefit from this?” First off, it’s taking a step back. When I hear myself, when someone says something to me, usually in the form of a compliment and I’m quickly deflecting it, the question is, “What am I doing? Why am I saying that?” First one is being aware of what your thinking is. How often are you saying ‘thank you?’ How often are you deflecting other people’s comments, acknowledgments information, and owning your work and what you’re doing?” What are the thoughts and feelings that are going through your mind?
One way you can move forward is acknowledge how you’re feeling. What are some of the thoughts and feelings you have? By expression, “If you can name it, you can claim it.” When someone gives you a compliment, “You did a great job.” That feeling, “I don’t feel like I did one.” What is it you’re feeling at that moment? You feel like you’re not doing enough. It’s being in tune with how you’re reacting. When people are telling you things, why are you reacting? When you can label it, the better. Are you doing it because, “Am I trying to be the perfectionist? Am I trying to be the person who is the soloist? Am I trying to be the expert? Am I trying to be the superhero?” What are ways that you’re starting to point out within yourself that you can start to hone in on.
The second step is you might get those feelings that come up. It’s like, “I’m feeling this way.” What is that? What’s that phrase that you can put on your mind? You think of a motivational mantra or caption that becomes your inner guide. For myself, I think of a time when I had to do public speaking for the first time in a large room, and I was terrified out of my mind. I thought, “There were more qualified people in that room to speak than me. Why would people want to hear from me?” Does this sound familiar? What worked for me at that time was taking a step back and recognizing, “Why am I feeling this way?” The second part was like, “What gets me going? What’s my caption? What’s my groove that gets me up and rolling?” I have some expressions I come up with. One is, “You’ve got this.” I keep saying that. It gets the juices flowing. It’s like, “I do get this.”
We’re looking at it from the point of view of, “What is that voice that you put behind your actions?” Michelle Obama is like, “I am good enough. That’s why I’m here.” What’s that positive reinforcement? What’s that positive statement for you, that statement of validation of who you are? The third step in this is for you to take an inventory. It’s healthy for all of us at some point in our professional life to take a step back and reflect, “How did I get here?” Look at the inventory of all the skills you’ve developed over a certain period of time, your work experiences, it might be volunteer or paid.
It can be the people that you’ve met and what you’ve learned from them. The education that you’ve been able to participate in, whether it’s been through workshops or it’s been through formal education or things that you’ve done on your own. It’s all different data points that you pull together. Pulling all those data points together gives a wider perspective as to why people come to you or why people look at you in the role of a leader, and why you were considered to be a leader in your organization, among your peers or your community.
Most importantly, who are the people in your inner circle? Someone you can reach out to, who can hold you accountable, and someone who can be an anchor for you who’s going to talk you off the ledge. It’s someone you can confide that says, “Those moments where I’m about to go on, can I phone a friend?” That’s who that person is for you, and that person can be anyone. I know for myself, my wife is one of those champions for me. Regardless of where I may be in the world and traveling, it’s even through texts or through a quick phone call, “I’m just checking in. This is what I’m feeling. Tell me what I need to hear. You know I can do this. I need you to tell me that.” She does. That’s me, but what about you? Who is that one person in your life that can be the anchor, that positive reinforcement? Who’s that person who truly understands who you are and believes in you and knows fully well why you are in the role and the position that you’re in, and will be there to support you and be straight and honest with you too? Who would that person be? Write that down.
The last one is when you have those thoughts, record those thoughts down on a paper somewhere. Identify them, and I’m talking about naming it. The second part is write it down and put them away. You don’t need to dwell on them, just write them down and put them in a spot where you go, “What’s going on?” Part of that process is making time at the end of the day to reflect. If you have a journal, use a journal, sit down and reflect on what’s the power that you’re putting? Why do you put as much power in those feelings when the proof on the outside is different?
This tour of imposter syndrome is maybe a little different than what you might be used to or maybe accustomed to. This episode is more about taking a step at you, and you as a leader, as that person who’s going to be the role model for people that are going to follow your actions. Imagine if you’re feeling this, what’s the likelihood that someone else on your team is very real? If you’re taking action for yourself and taking steps to fortify or strengthen your foundation, how great will that be for others to learn from you? How great is that for others to have a role model like you to follow and to ask questions to learn from, and to help them navigate through those moments where they too feel like an imposter? They know full well that they may be feeling the way you’re feeling. With your help, you’re helping them come and see their power, influence and skill. You’re helping them see their power, recognize their skills, experience, building, owning their space and honoring that within themselves.Perfectionism is a whole lot of energy, and it's a myth. Click To Tweet
Thank you for this episode. Imposter syndrome is one of those things like, “How do I know more information on that?” There are plenty of it. Check out our past episodes. We’re also looking forward to bring you new episodes as we continue to build our new platform, and also continue to bring in guests and information that help you be your best self. We’re always here and we’re open to your ideas and your suggestions to help us make this show as relevant and practical for you, in the end, to help you to excel in your role as a leader and helping others do the same.
You can subscribe to this show. Check out our episodes on our page. You can subscribe to the show, which you can find on the Apple Podcasts platform, iHeartRadio and Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast shows. It’s wonderful to be spending this time with you. Thank you for allowing us to come to your world. We look forward to the next time when we get together again, talk leadership, and have you enjoy your seat on The Leader’s Chair. Until next time, be good and lead well.
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join The Leader’s Chair Community today: