You do yourself a profound disservice when you talk yourself down

By Margie Warrell | Jul 07, 16 10:34 AM

"Impostor Syndrome is the domain of the high achiever. Those who set the bar low are rarely its victim."

Andrea, the HR Director for a global cosmetics company, once confided to me she is sure that any day executive management will realise she wasn’t fully qualified for her role. Along the same vein, Debra, a respected attorney, shared with me that the areas she feels the most insecure in her job are those she has the greatest expertise.

The sentiment these women shared is one I’ve heard many times, and more often by women than men. That is, they feel undeserving of their success and often fear being ‘found out’ as not smart or talented or deserving or experienced or (fill in the blank) as other people think. Accordingly, it chips away at their self-confidence and holds them back from reaching higher, where they are at even more risk of being 'found out' or exposed as an impostor.

Impostor Syndrome is the domain of the high achiever. Those who set the bar low are rarely its victim.

Researchers believe that up to 70% of people will suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point in their career. Of course, no-one (apart from serial narcissists) is immune to self-doubt. It’s very human to occasionally wonder whether we really have what it takes to accomplish our goals and fulfill the expectations others have of us. As acclaimed novelist Maya Angelou once wrote, "I have written eleven books, but each time I think, 'uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.'"

What matters most is not whether you occasionally (or regularly) fear failing, looking foolish or not being ‘enough'; it’s whether you give those fears the power to keep you from taking the actions needed to pursue your ambitions, achieve your goals and fulfil the potential still dormant within you.

Unfortunately, too often people do.

1. Focus on the value you bring, not on being perfect

If you are relating to what I’m sharing, then just know that it’s because you are someone who isn’t willing to settle for mediocrity. Rather you're a person reaches high; who wants to do your best at work and give your best to the world. A noble aim to be sure.

But, as I wrote in my book Stop Playing Safe, there’s a distinct and crucial difference between giving your best and being the best. Likewise there’s a difference between trying to better yourself and being better than every one else on the planet. Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome requires accepting that you don’t have to attain perfection or achieve Da Vinci like mastery to be worthy of the success you've achieved and any accolades you earn along the way.

It’s not about lowering the bar, it’s about resetting it to a realistic level that doesn’t leave you forever striving and feeling inadequate. 

2. Own your success

Those who often fear being ‘found out’ have a tendency to attribute their success to external factors – like luck or a helping hand. Unsurprisingly, women tend to do this much more than men who are more likely to chalk up their good fortune to a combination of internal factors, like grit, talent, brains and sheer hard work.

Just as we owe it to ourselves to take responsibility for our mistakes and failures in life, we must also take responsibility for our wins and successes. Minimizing them doesn’t serve anyone. So if you sometimes feel undeserving of your success, try writing a list of all that you’ve accomplished (including all the challenges you've overcome) over the last 12 months. We may have never met, but I would hazard a guess that even the fruits of 12 months effort will help you realize that you’ve earnt every bit of the success, influence and respect you enjoy.

3. Be wary of comparing!

Too often we compare our weaknesses to others strengths; our insides to their outsides.

Author Iyanla Vanzant has written that comparing ourselves "is an act of violence against the self." She's right. Innately biased as we compare our weaknesses with others strengths, our comparisons tend to fuel any nagging sense of inadequacy. 

Likewise, we also often compare our insides with others' outsides. Acutely aware of how hard we’re working to keep our head above water and enjoy confidence, clarity and courage we want, we often assume others are getting by effortlessly. The reality is that most people are struggling just like you. Perhaps not in just the same way or with the same gremlins, but in their own way with their own unique set of challenges, insecurities and internal struggles.

4. Don't downgrade your ambition

You do yourself a profound disservice when you talk yourself down and diminish your success.

While playing safe removes the immediate risk of exposure, it opens up the greater risk of never knowing just how capable, deserving and “more than” worthy you truly are. The truth is that you do deserve to be where you are, you are worthy of all the success you've had, and most of all, that it is not just 'good luck' that's landed you where you are today! It's because of the opportunities you've created, the work you've put in and the trust you've earned from those around you. Period! You do yourself a profound disservice when you talk yourself down and diminish your success.

In Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In she encouraged women to lean in to their ambitions, their challenges, and in to themselves! Whether you are a woman or man, only when you dare to do just that - to take a risk and back yourself - can you ever know just what you're capable of doing and becoming.

Sure, it takes courage to take on challenges and pursue aspirations that leave you vulnerable to being exposed as unworthy. But in refusing to let your inner gremlin dictate your choices, you open new doors to discover new strengths, reinforce old ones and validate the unique value you have to bring. And even if you never accomplish all you aspire toward, you will accomplish so much more than you otherwise would and, in the process, come to realize that the only impostor you’ve ever had to worry about is the fear that has tried so hard to take up residence in your life.

Margie Warrell is an ICF certified leadership coach, Forbes columnist, bestselling author and internationally renowed speaker, and she's taking to the Business Chicks stage this July! Grab the chance and your ticket here


A version of this article was originally published on Margie's LinkedIn page, which you can read here.

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