What is Imposter Syndrome?
Merriam-Webster describes Imposter Syndrome as “a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.“ You feel as if you are not good enough at something, or that you do not belong somewhere and that other people will one day discover this and reject you. It manifests itself in chronic self-doubt.
This is common thought pattern with perfectionists, especially in careers and business.
In The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Valerie Young, Ed.D. addresses the problem with solutions. She refers to Carol Dweck’s study of the growth-mindset and says that,
“because growth-mindset people know how to learn from mistakes and failure, rather than withdrawing from difficult endeavors or becoming discouraged, they redouble their efforts. When you see yourself as a work-in-progress, you’re automatically less likely to experience feelings of inadequacy.”
That work-in-progess mindset has helped me to revamp this website and actually do something with it. Before, I thought I needed to present myself as an expert; my website just sat here gathering dust.
Since becoming vulnerable with you in May 2017, and telling you that I’m on a journey and I hope that you come with me, I’ve published at least one article six days per week. The plan is not to stop until I have 1000 pieces of useful content.
The author goes on to say,
“Instead of thinking, ‘I’m unqualified,’ think, ‘I may be inexperienced but I’m fully capable of growing into the role.’ In the past when you were faced with something you’d never done before, you thought, ‘Yikes, I have no idea what I’m doing!’ Now you tell yourself, ‘Wow, I’m really going to learn a lot.’ Words really do matter. Simply changing how you talk to yourself about a difficulty or a challenge changes how you approach it.”
For those who are like I am and feel the need to be the Expert before pursuing an endeavor, who pursue another degree in something before feeling competent, the author has this to say,
“I know you feel more ‘comfortable’ when you have a solid grounding in a field or endeavor. However, it’s also possible that you’re acting in part out of a hyper concern for how your work affects others. The more typically female compulsion to ‘go by the book’ credential-wise is partly a function of insecurity. But it also has to do with not wanting to act irresponsibly. You don’t want to go off half-cocked, especially if your actions impact other people. And you certainly don’t want to promise something unless you’re absolutely certain you can deliver.
“All of this is admirable. However, you may think that you’re protecting others when you’re really just protecting yourself – protection you wouldn’t need if you understood that it really is okay to pick up knowledge as you go along and that being an ‘expert’ often comes just as much from doing as it does from degrees.”
Ms. Young advocates an apprenticeship idea, the idea of learning as you go along. The object for the Expert is to practice being more comfortable with not knowing everything and going full force on what you do know.
I bring this up because Imposter Syndrome has kicked me in the teeth recently as I launch a new consulting/coaching service for this website.
Despite having two degrees under my belt and being licensed by the Profiting from Your Passions (R) coaching system, I struggle with feeling like an imposter in coaching/consulting.
This book reminded me of what I need to do. I need to practice, otherwise the service I’m building will never be launched; it will just sit there unused, just as my website did.
In the next few days, I will launch a consulting service for introverts who are considering a non-traditional career path. This service will be free of charge for a while because I will need beta testers to help me practice and to help me round off the rough patches of the service, making it as beneficial as possible to my clients.
Watch for the official announcement soon. In the meantime, if you also struggle with the Imposter Syndrome, I highly recommend The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.