If you haven’t read the previous post, please do so first.
So the downfall of believing you’re an impostor, other than being a Negative Nancy, is that you get in the way of your own success. Can we say self-fulfilling prophecy? We cope by procrastinating, not asking questions or challenging others, not finishing projects or even actively sabotaging ourselves. We miss out on opportunities to grow, learn and to share our knowledge and ideas (often to the detriment of others).
According to Dr. Young, addressing our impostor tendancies is all about understanding how we define success and then redefining it. Here’s how she breaks down impostor tendancies:
The Perfectionist believes that success means that everything they do must be flawless, every time. But ultimately it just becomes a reason to be stuck, to not complete things because they’re never perfect.
Battling the Pefectionist: don’t agonize, it just slows you down. Finishing something, even if it’s not perfect, is better than doing nothing. Dr. Brene Brown, an expert on authenticity and fear, wrote a book called The Gifts of Imperfection. I love the idea of imperfection as a gift.
The Rugged Individualist doesn’t believe in asking for help because ‘if I was really smart then I could do it all on my own’.
Battling the Rugged Individualist: acquiring the right information and resources to continue to learn means you must ask other smart people for help. If you let them, their different perspectives can help drive your curiosity and provide direction for seeking out new knowledge.
The Expert thinks that they need to know 150% of any subject to be considered remotely qualified to comment. One day they will wake up and be an expert – after one more graduate degree, reading one more book – not before.
Battling the Expert: Will Rogers said it best, recognize that “everyone is ignorant, only on different subjects”.
The Natural Genius believes that true intelligence is innate, easy. They swing between frustration over not having a natural mastery and dismissing those things that do come naturally to them – ‘if I can do it then anyone can’.
Battling the Natural Genius: understand that mastery is not easy or innate for anyone. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and pay special attention to those 10,000 hours.
The Extremist is tricked by their moments of brilliance, since we all have those days where we shine. But they believe that if they’re not brilliant ALL the time then they must be stupid.
Battling the Extremist: most of us, even the really brilliant ones, spend our days in the middle of the brilliant-stupid scale. Learn to savor your shining moments and forgive the inevitable foggy-headed days.
The Superwoman/man/student believes that in order to be successful they must be amazing at EVERYTHING: businesswoman, mom, artist, board chair, co-op member, exercise nut…what am I missing?
Battling the Superperson: trying to do too much means spreading your attention and resources very thin. Prioritize the few things that are most important to you and focus your energy on doing them with gusto.
Personally, I’m a recovering Perfectionist and a Rugged Individualist with a little Expert thrown in for good measure. As I shift from academic life to building a new professional persona, I battle my impostor voice almost daily. Mostly, I’m just trying to take life a little less seriously and reframe my point-of-view: failure as opportunity, fear as excitement, lost as exploring. And if all else fails, fake it ’til you make it. Right?
What do your battles with Impostor Syndrome look like? Are there ways you can shift your internal dialog to be a more successful and full you?