I was mentioning to a friend recently that I felt like I was really just coming into my own as an author and speaker. Her jaw dropped and she looked at me with disbelief and asked “With all of your books, all of your presentations around the world, all of your media, all of your success, how can you possibly just be coming into your own?”
Well the truth of it for me was that I felt like a fraud or imposter for many, many years. Everyone else seemed to be more successful, know more, be more skillful, the lot. I had to have my public “mask” on to feel confident but I didn’t really feel like that was really who I was.
The more my public profile grew, the more I felt like an imposter who really wasn’t as good as other people said or I said. I found it exhausting going through life feeling this way, but one day I woke up and I didn’t feel like an imposter any more. That was a good day.
I think a lot of people struggle with this concept. We bluff our way through life in our business, wearing our public mask, undervaluing what we do, the skills we have, and the difference we make. It isn’t really bluffing at all, but often we are measuring ourselves against people with better marketing teams as opposed to people who are perhaps more skillful or capable.
The following seven strategies certainly helped me to overcome my own imposter syndrome, they might help you, too.
1. Talk to Others About It
It’s amazing how much better we tend to feel after admitting that we feel like an imposter. Generally people will laugh and say something like “Are you serious?” And often they will say that they feel the same way. An enormous load will be lifted from your shoulders simply by opening up and sharing your feelings with someone you trust and respect.
2. Look at the Facts, Not the Feelings
We need to turn off the emotions for a second and turn on the factual part of our brain. Look back at what you have achieved, overcome, mastered, delivered, and accomplished, and acknowledge every single thing. Make a list of what you can claim to own as your own successes and be immensely proud of them. The more you do this, the more your brain will start to acknowledge that you are actually very good at what you do, and there’s no way you are an imposter.
3. Ask People What They Think of You
This can be a hard one, but if you are brave enough, reach out to people you trust, tell them you are working on a personal development program and you would really value them sharing what they see as your three greatest strengths. Interestingly, most people will say the same thing. It’s hard to ignore this kind of evidence.
4. Stand Up and Share Your Flaws (Proudly)
As a presenter, I spent a lot of time being scared to admit the things I got wrong, my past failures, fears, and insecurities. I found as soon as I started talking about my inner insecurities on stage, they didn’t seem to be as powerful, especially when I shared what I learned from them and where I am now. In fact, my authenticity created very real engagement and many people come up to me to this day and share their own perceived faults and failings, often for the first time in their life. Once you expose yourself fully, the power of the fear of being “caught out” is taken away. I wrote an entire book about my mistakes and deep dark secrets, so there is nothing that anyone can find out that isn’t already in a bestselling book. This is very liberating and makes me feel very authentic.
5. Don’t Tell People What to Do, Instead Tell Them What You Do
I think this is a big one. If you are a person who has to tell everyone else how to do things and what they need to do, often without them asking for it, you put yourself under a lot of pressure to be perfect. So for starters, stop doing that (yes I get the irony). Instead of telling people what to do, I suggest you tell them what you do and why, and the rest is up to them. You don’t have to feel like the person with all the answers then.
6. Put Your Hand On Your Heart and Commit to Being the Best Person You Can Be
What more can we do than this? If you really are committed to being the best person that you can be, that is good enough. If you get things wrong, you have proven that you are human. But at least you’ve been brave enough to do something. It’s easy to snipe from the sidelines, but getting in the game is a little tougher.
7. Learn to Laugh at Yourself, But Don’t Put Yourself Down
It’s exhausting hanging onto the feeling of being an imposter. Once you can let it go, laugh at yourself, either in public or in private, it starts to lose its hold on you. Think about what it would mean for someone to find out that you are not as good as you say you are about something? Is it really the end of the world? I seriously doubt it.
I spent so many years of my life feeling like an imposter in what I did. I waited for someone to call me out, challenge me on what I was saying, get up at the back of a room and tell me that I had no idea what I was talking about. Now that mask is off, my life is much easier, richer, and far more fun. My business is more successful than ever and if people don’t like what I have to say or what I do, that’s OK with me.
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