Health & wellbeing

No more imposter syndrome. Choose vulnerability instead

- November 11, 2015 4 MIN READ

Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome at some point, but is your fear of being exposed preventing your success? Vulnerability is the key to showing you’re not a fraud.

I want to deal with YOU. Not the pristine, shiny-haired, sleek-figured, impeccably dressed you at the peak of your career with the seemingly perfect life. I want to deal with the imperfect, slightly frazzled, whatever size you are, struggling with your business like me YOU that you truly are, with all of life’s imperfections and challenges.

So many soloists that I speak to, suffer from imposter syndrome– the fear of being found out as a fraud.Those nasty little mind monsters saying things like:

“you’re not as good as you think you are”

“competitor x is far better than you”

“everyone will find out you are a big fraud”

We think if we come across as all-knowing, perfect, professional and highly articulate business people, that we can convince others we are worthy of their business. Of course, it’s never the ‘other’ people we are trying to convince. It’s ourselves.

Some of our brightest stars and greatest innovators have exactly the same fears.

“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”
~ Meryl Streep (Oscar winning actress)

“There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
~ Dr Margaret Chan (Chief of the World Health Organisation)

“Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”
~ Maya Angelou (American poet and author of eleven books)

“It’s the unshakable feeling that you are there by mistake and that at some point, someone will discover that you don’t belong and will expose you.”
Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook)

So, what can we all do to turn imposter syndrome on its head? I have these seven things to offer:

1. JFDI – Just Flipping Do It

We can sit, ponder, ruminate and dream forever, but the only true path to success is to tell those mind monsters to shut up and put yourself out there for all the world to see. I’m not going to tell you it will be easy because it won’t. It will be terrifying, unnerving, overwhelming and all your common sense will tell you it’s the wrong thing to do. It will also be one of the most empowering, uplifting, courageous and fulfilling things you will ever do.

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And remember this: the problem with putting on a fake persona of perfection is that you never quite know whether people are dealing with you because of who you are or who you want them to think you are. When you allow yourself to be seen, you know that the interactions (good or bad) are because you spoke your truth.

2. Stop looking in the mirror and instead look through the window

Instead of focusing on what other people will think about you, fearful of your clients and competitors finding out that you don’t know everything there is to know about your business, focus on what you do know and how you can help those that need you.

To have knowledge, skills or experience that may impact the life of another person in a positive way and to not give that gift to the world, is a tragedy. Look at ways you can be of service to others and always give more than you think you should.

3. Give up comparing yourself to others

No-one else has walked your path, no-one else has your experiences, opinions or knowledge and no-one else will deal with a situation in the way that you will. Find your tribe – find those people that speak your language, be they customers, suppliers, mentors, friends or peers. Find those people that love the real you and how you work, live and love. Find the customers who totally get you, warts and all and who will be the cheerleaders for your business.

4. Say “I don’t know”

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t have all the answers. I would much rather someone say “I’m not sure, but let me find out” or “I haven’t come across this problem, but we’ll work it out together”.

I’m not stupid and can usually tell when someone is lying. I will have more respect for you and be far more committed to our business relationship if you value me enough to tell me the truth.

5. Ask for help

In order for others to truly know and understand us, we have to let them know when we need help and be open to receiving it. No man (or woman) is an island and we simply cannot survive without the support of others. Seek out a coach or mentor, or simply a networking group of your peers. I can guarantee that they will have or have had in the past, exactly the same fears and challenges as you. “I need help” are three of the most empowering words you can use in your business.

6. Don’t look externally for validation of your worth

I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t matter how great or accomplished other people think you are. If you yourself don’t believe that you are worthy of success, acceptance and love, no amount of external gratification will ever be enough. You could have a PhD, a plethora of fabulous testimonials and a successful career as a published author – none of that matters if you don’t have self-belief.

7. Remember we are all the same

I don’t believe there is one person on earth who does not want to feel accepted, connected, valued, worthy and loved. Often those we look up to and who are revered among society are those that are most afraid of being rejected.

So, next time you feel an urge to pretend to be something that you are not, or are not doing something because you don’t believe you are as you ‘should’ be, please remember that you are enough, just as you are … warts and all.

Is there anything you tell yourself when you catch yourself feeling like an imposter?