2 Big Ideas, 3 Simple Actions, and a Secret

A lot has been written about impostor syndrome, it seems to be a common feeling across all career levels. It’s a crippling belief, and I think it can crater careers, and limit potential.

I am almost embarrassed to say this, because it seems as though everyone is suffering with this feeling, but… I don’t suffer from this affliction!

Well, I should clarify – I used to feel this way. Every day in my university days, it was horrible to think that I didn’t belong in a degree program that was 90% male (Computer Science), and everyone seemed to understand the subject matter with ease.

Often in my first professional role, I was convinced that I would be found out as a fraud.

I think that a big part of why we feel this way is due to comparison. We observe others, and make judgements about their competence, and compare against our beliefs of our own competence. 

~Comparison is the thief of joy ~


~You do you. ~

2 Big Ideas 

  1. You can not solve an emotional problem with a logical solution. 
    • This affliction is an emotional issue. “I feel like a fraud”, “I feel like an impostor”. So applying logic to this does not address the issue. We compare ourselves against others logically, but we judge ourselves emotionally.
  2. This is solvable. 
    • An actionable solution for defeating impostor syndrome, is to cultivate leadership capabilities, get comfortable with change, and see failure for what it is – opportunity. 

3 Simple, but not Easy, Actions to remove the Impostor

  1. Know Yourself. Figure out your strengths. Find time for silence.
    • Everyone has strengths set that are unique and amazing! There are many ways figure out what your strengths truly are: from a clinical ‘take an online test’ approach, to a more vulnerable ‘ask the people close to you as to when they think you are at your best’ approach.
    • HOW: Cultivate a meditation practice based on where you are in your life. Whatever your spiritual practice, whatever your beliefs, there will undoubtedly be a way for you to sit in contemplation, and genuinely take a non judgemental look at yourself. Whatever your preference, this is the way to truly learn about what makes you, you!
    • Whichever way you address this self-contemplation – make sure that you do so with kindness and empathy to yourself. It can be hard to really and truly look in the mirror, but the results are a better relationship with yourself. It is worth it.
  2. Embrace Change: Try something completely new and focus on the process, not the outcome. 
    • If you view change as an everyday event, rather than a gloomy black-swan event that happens at random, you become insulated and desensitized to change. This mind-shift makes it easier to manage change emotionally. 
    • HOW: Shake things up: Take a different route to work.Decide to talk to one random person while waiting in a lineup.Try a new sport or hobby, and embrace the learning curve that it requires.
    • The purpose of this exercise is to get unstuck. We are creatures of habit, so make change part of your routine.
    • When you try new things, you are training your mind to accept change as a regular occurrence. This mind-shift with change allows you to roll with the punches. So when a work challenge comes up, it is easier to brush it off as an event that occurs as independent of you – rather than internalizing this as something you can not deal with (and are therefore, an impostor). 
  3. Practice Failure. Actively pick an activity or task with the sole purpose of experiencing failure. 
    • HOW: One of my favorite ways to experience this is to go to an art class, paint night, or ceramics class – and purposefully complete the target project in a backwards way. 
    • If you are athletic – run a local running race, and purposefully come in last. 
    • The purpose of this exercise is to get comfortable with mistakes and failures and realize that, emotionally speaking, it is not that big of a deal. Also this will give you the experience of being comfortable with un-comfortability – this is called: growth!
Guess which painting is mine?

And finally…. The secret…. Are you ready?

No one really knows what they’re doing.

No one knows if the strategy they picked was the right one. 

No one can be certain that the way they ran that meeting was the best way to do it.

No one can accurately predict the future.

That CEO that you see, confidently delivering a keynote at a huge conference? 

They don’t really know what they’re doing.

Sure they have a plan, and confidence, and an expectation of themselves that they will be able to deliver. Sure they can answer tough questions from the audience, or a board member. But this is a learned technique. This capacity is available to all of us.

We are all stumbling towards the uncertainty of the next moment.

We are all participants in this weird and amazing thing called life. 

Don’t waste one more moment of this wonderful existence, thinking you are an impostor .