Imposter Syndrome is a hot topic right now; especially in the entrepreneurial space. It is a common experience that affects many successful people, from Nobel Prize winners to CEOs.
Even so, it is also misapplied, misunderstood, and often misrepresented. So, if you think you might be struggling with imposter syndrome, it's time to get clear on what it is and isn't.
There are a number of growing myths surrounding this phenomenon that can prevent individuals from seeking help or addressing their feelings of inadequacy. In this article, we'll explore some of the most common misrepresentations about imposter syndrome and debunk them once and for all.
1. Only High Achievers Experience Imposter Syndrome
One of the most pervasive myths about imposter syndrome is that it only affects high achievers. In reality, imposter syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of their level of success.
While high achievers may be more prone to imposter syndrome due to the pressure placed on them as “first, only and different” in a role, individuals in any profession or stage of life can experience feelings of being a fraud, one step away from being caught in the act.
Imposter syndrome can be particularly common among individuals who have experienced a recent success or promotion. If you feel as though your success was due to a random stroke of luck or that you don't deserve this success (without one more degree or certification, or that getting where you are was just too easy), you are experiencing that sense of fraudulence that is imposter syndrome’s hallmark.
Rather than assuming that imposter syndrome only affects high achievers, it's important to recognize that anyone can experience these feelings and that they are not your fault. By acknowledging that these feelings are normal and common, and often amplified by messages in our culture, on social media, and other channels of information we take for granted, individuals can begin to address them and work towards building confidence and self-assurance.
2. Imposter Syndrome is a Sign of Weakness
Another myth surrounding imposter syndrome is that it's a sign of weakness. Some may believe that individuals who experience imposter syndrome are simply not confident or strong enough to handle their success. However, this couldn't be further from the truth.
In reality, imposter syndrome is an inner conflict between your naturally high standards and a desire for excellence, combined with societal pressures from your peer group or authority figures that subtly communicate you are above your earned position. In its essence, Imposter Syndrome is a diversity and inclusion issue.
Individuals who experience imposter syndrome may place a great deal of pressure on themselves to perform at a certain level, leading to feelings of inadequacy if they fall short of their own expectations, and the perceived expectations of others—whether real or imagined.
Rather than being a sign of weakness, imposter syndrome can be a sign of strength and ambition that actually alters the “status quo” in an organization or industry for the better. By acknowledging these feelings and working to understand their underlying causes, individuals with imposter syndrome can build resilience and confidence in their abilities.
3. Imposter Syndrome Only Affects Women
One common myth about imposter syndrome is that it only affects women. While women may be more likely to talk about their experiences with imposter syndrome, this phenomenon can affect individuals of any gender, including Albert Einstein, Alan Alda, and Brendan Buchard.
Some research suggests that men (especially entrepreneurs, and underrepresented demographics) are as likely as women to experience imposter syndrome, but may be less likely to talk about their feelings due to societal expectations around masculinity and success.
Rather than assuming that imposter syndrome only affects women, it's important to recognize that individuals of any gender can experience these feelings. By creating a safe and supportive environment for individuals to talk about their experiences, we can work towards overcoming the stigma surrounding imposter syndrome.
4. Successful People Don’t Experience Imposter Syndrome
One of the most popular myths about imposter syndrome is that successful people don't experience these feelings. However, the truth is that imposter syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of their level of success.
Some of the most successful individuals in history have reported experiencing imposter syndrome at various points in their careers. From Maya Angelou to Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg, imposter syndrome has been a common experience for individuals who have achieved great things.
Rather than assuming that success eliminates feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, it's important to recognize that imposter syndrome can affect anyone. By acknowledging these feelings and working to build confidence and self-assurance, individuals can overcome imposter syndrome and achieve greater success in all areas of their lives.
5. If You Have Imposter Syndrome, You Are Stuck With It
Imposter Syndrome is simply a set of mistaken beliefs about our personal abilities and worth. And beliefs, by their nature, are chosen and can be replaced by a fresh set of beliefs when they no longer work effectively for us.
Some of the best ways to begin changing your beliefs is through affirmations. Of course, not just any affirmation will do. If you suffer from imposter syndrome you are already using affirmations – negatively. And if you have been dealing with this for a while, your brain is wired to go down the negative, fearful thought train automatically. When you realize this, and what that voice is subtly telling you – things like:
- I’m not smart enough
- I’m not experienced enough
- I will fail
- I am flawed
- No one wants to pay that much for my work
- This is the best I can expect
- No one wants to hear what I have to say
Then when you really hear those phrases you can build very powerful antidote affirmations to practice:
- I’m not smart enough becomes I am highly intelligent and can find a solution.
- I’m not experienced enough becomes I have a lifetime of experience I can bring to this situation.
- And No one wants to hear what I have to say becomes I have a unique perspective that deserves to be shared.
When you repeat these affirmations to yourself as much, if not more, than those old, negative phrases, you are literally retraining your brain to think differently.
6. You Can Fake Your Way Out of Imposter Syndrome
You can’t fake who you are.
It doesn’t work to fake your personal brand.
It doesn’t work to fake your ability to lead.
And it doesn’t work to fake how you see yourself.
However, you can change yourself, your brand, your leadership abilities, and how you view yourself, by doing the work. The first step, in any transformation, is to admit where you are, and embrace a desire to change.
If you would like to bust through imposter syndrome quicker than you can on your own, reach out for a complimentary strategy call and let's explore what next steps are right for you!