An Imposter is; ‘a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain’.
Imposter is a powerful word and one that gives a flavour of something distasteful in your mouth. Say it out loud with me now. The way the P explodes mid way through the word always gives the word an unsavoury punch.
The idea of someone pretending to be something that they are not is something that we are fundamentally not okay with. So it’s a even more powerful when we use it in the context of imposter syndrome.
The idea of being unearthed as someone who is not worthy of the thing that we’ve been asked to do (or chosen to do), can be one of our biggest fears. The flavour of the word just about sums up the feeling.
It’s an interesting subject, self belief, and one that’s discussed when it comes to women as we are so dangerously afflicted with a severe lack of it. The truth though, is that most people will experience a lack of self belief at some time in their life. The moment that you are asked to do something, and then have a freak out about whether you are smart enough, capable enough, interesting enough, experienced enough and so on.
The whole thing is actually self sabotage. It’s convenient for us to see ourselves as ‘less than’ others, and like they have some kind of magical gift for brilliance that we don’t have. The truth is; we are all brilliant and can be great, but being great takes a lot of effort, and a lot of the time we choose a comfortable cocoon of doom over the chance to truly realise our brilliance.
Being really worried or feeling insecure about something and doing it anyway is a big deal, and one that should be celebrated. That’s a power move right there.
But an even bigger deal is when we are so worried that we don’t pursue something for fear of failure, and deprive the world of ourselves and the uniqueness we all bring. I don’t even need to begin to tell you just how many levels of wrong that is.
I don’t have a magic cure for this stuff either, but I can tell you what has worked for me. The first thing is saying yes to the things that scare or challenge me regardless of the feeling of vulnerability, and breathing through it. The second thing, is to rely on the belief that other people have in me, when I don’t really believe in myself.
The most significant real life example of this, would be when I started my role with Shazam. I had been tapped up for the role by someone I had been getting to know over time within my network, lets call him my Guardian Angel Slash Mentor (GASM for short).
The role was a no brainer, the business sounded incredible and the challenge sounded awesome. My passion was immediate for the role, but those flames were met with an immediate dampening from the awkward, uncertain, non believing depths of my core.
I managed to keep the fires burning long enough to attend the interview and I was completely bowled over to learn I had got the job.
When I arrived I was convinced that I would be found out, that people would unmask me as the charlatan that I knew myself to be, Scooby-Doo-baddy-like, in a team meeting.
Happily the moment my view shifted came quite early on, thanks to my GASM, when, after a brainstorming meeting with a bunch of different people, he said the following;
‘Do you realise just how good you were in that meeting? Can you see how much you owned it? You are a true leader. In fact; you are probably already a better leader than I am, because you truly possess those strengths. You should be doing my job.’
When he left a few weeks later for another interim role, it was the power in those words and his belief that gave me the confidence to throw my hat in the ring and secure my full time role.
Whilst I was very lucky to meet my GASM when I did, these amazing humans are all around us, the people who tell you – you can do it. Not just the people who will tell you what you want to hear. The real ones, the truth talkers – because you have to actually believe them and trust their judgement for this stuff to work.
It’s crucial to move through life with your eyes, your ears and your heart open, because you truly never know who you might be about to meet and what the significance will be for you and your journey.
It’s also important that you allow yourself to be one of them, and share your belief with the people around you in return, that you are the person who keeps saying to the people you come across; I believe in you.
The dreaded imposter syndrome is something that still challenges me from time to time, so I still rely heavily on my network of humans, and cherish their counsel. I’ve also got better at being my own cheerleader, largely through providing myself proof of my amazingness, by taking risks and staying yes to the things that scare me, and shockingly (for me) doing rather well at them.
Perhaps it’s time for you to start building your own case file full of evidence of your amazingness.
Indulge me for a moment. Let me be yours. That thing, that the person over there just asked you to do, or the job you keep looking at and then closing down your browser…?
I believe in you.