Is imposter syndrome a fraud?

Have you heard of this thing called “imposter syndrome?”

Imposter syndrome is the fear of being discovered to be a fraud. You, a competent, accomplished, recognized, high-performing professional.

Outwardly you are crushing it on all levels. But inside your head you’re telling yourself, “Yeeeaaah, it’s basically all a sham. They’re gonna find out soon enough what a big fraud I am. If they only knew! *sigh*”

You stay under constant stress with every project, wondering when the big Scooby Doo reveal moment might happen, leaving everyone pointing and gasping in animated horror.

And so this is how you spend your good mental energy every day: analyzing whether or not you are for real!

I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with how I feel about this one. I’ve certainly struggled with this mindset a lot in my own work life.

Early in my first career in communications, I was the Harbinger of Output. Don’t give me something unless you’re looking to do a silly victory dance with me in the end zone in pretty short order.

There was nothing I couldn’t take and run all the way down the field for you because aptitude is almost never a problem for me (exceptions: math and most likely, brain surgery).

But It took me many years to learn to accept my accomplishments purely at face value: I was, in fact, awesome at my job. At least that’s what people kept telling me.

I seemed always to have a, “Yes, but…” bouncing around in my head. I was unwilling to own my accomplishments and use the little bumps along the way as learning moments.

Instead, I used them to beat myself up, disregarding many of the things that had gone right. I remember always being worried that I had still somehow gravely disappointed people.

Great pattern, Lori. Good times.

So okay fine, imposter syndrome could be a real thing.

But I’m having trouble giving in to the idea of a full blown syndrome.

First of all, we may not need another workplace condition to worry about.

I already have my hands full trying to be one of the 15% who stays engaged, learning to explore my emotional intelligence and trying to keep my “monkey mind” from ruining my day.

So let’s not go looking for another thing to fret about in the workday, shall we?

Second, you’re in good company.

If I peek over the cubicle wall or leer around the corner, I’ll discover plenty of other folks who feel this way. Most of us struggle at some point with competence and skill.

That struggle may be an opportunity to consider investing in some training. This one has always saved me. It’s not that I don’t already know enough to be competent, but educating myself is a super confidence builder. I’m eager to get out there and use my new skills.

It could also be time to look for another position that can challenge you to learn and stretch in different ways.

Sometimes stagnation masquerades as imposter syndrome. If you have enough time to consider your “fraudulent” ways, you may not be challenged enough.

Plus, a job search can engage you to start thinking about your accomplishments and how you can best communicate your great work to others. If you actually snag a new position, you have to fully engage in that new work, which leaves little room for all of this peripheral stuff.

So instead of thinking of yourself as a fraud, you can simply choose to grow.

Third, you can defend yourself against your thoughts.

Let me ask you this. What if someone walked in your office and said, “You know what, sister? I’m on to you! You’re a big fraud! You’ve been fooling us all this time. You aren’t as great as you want us to think you are.”

Would you just sit there and take that? What would you say to that person to challenge those accusations, before you called security? (Feel free to write down what you would say. I’ll bet you would find at least 20 things real fast.)

Then why do you take such unproven accusations from your own thoughts without a fight?

You get to push back on that as hard as you can.

Respond back to your accuser with the reasons why you are great, competent and how you get crap done. (You can use the 20 things from your list. How convenient that you wrote them down!)

I’m being a little cheeky about this, but it really can be that simple. Don’t be lured into thinking you are stuck in a syndrome, especially one of your own making.

Challenge yourself to own and share your accomplishments, keep learning, and use your discomfort as a springboard to the grace and confidence you deserve.


Photo: Creative Commons “The Imposter” by Transport Pixels is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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