Conflicting ideas exist about impostor syndrome – Is it a real thing? Some people question if it even exists at all or if it is just made-up stuff. But the reality is that almost everyone has had a moment where they feel they have to justify their right to have a seat at the table–even though they already have one. You can’t get past the feeling that you are still battling for a position you already have.
One of the most significant issues stemming from imposter syndrome is its power to erode your confidence. When this happens, it is time to recognize it and step out of doubt and into leadership.
Stop Questioning Yourself
One of the classic symptoms of imposter syndrome is continually questioning yourself and operating in a constant feeling of doubt. Maybe you have a moment where you sit somewhere, and you think – I’m not sure what I am doing. Can I really be the boss? Do I have what it takes to run this project? Can I ask for the amount of money that I think I’m worth? What if somebody discovers the areas I am not good at? These questions begin to overtake your mind and allow the cycle of self-doubt to creep in, erode your confidence, and make you feel bad about yourself.
Often, these feelings come to light at night, when you should be sleeping, but instead, you pick apart every detail from the day and become angry at yourself for not being perfect and not meeting your high standards. Maybe you said something stupid, or you perceive you have said something that wasn’t that smart. And you just started to get mad at yourself for not being perfect. This cycle keeps imposter syndrome in your mind, but the good news is that you can learn to stop the power it has in your mind.
Overcome The Superhuman Paradox
I coined a concept in my book, Happy Woman, Happy World, that I call the Superhuman Paradox, which addresses the idea that you feel like you have to be the best at everything. Because of this all-or-nothing thought process, you never measure up. This paradox happens when you look at other people around you – one person is super fit, the other is an amazing chef, another is a fantastic parent – and you want to be like them. You see all of these things that they are exceptional at, and you begin to make a list – I want to look like her, I want to parent like him, and before you know it, you think you can become a compilation of the one thing someone else is fantastic at doing. How realistic is that goal? It’s not. These people are not great at everything; they are great at something, and you have to begin looking at.
When you can detach yourself from this false reality, it takes a great deal of pressure off you, and you can stop feeling the unrealistic pressure to be excellent in multiple areas.
Know What Strength Sets You Apart
The further you climb up the ladder, the more you know; at the same time, the more you realize the many areas that are not your specialty. You may know a great deal, but compared to other people, you may know much less than them. Observing subject matter experts with expertise in areas that differ from where you are a subject matter expert allows you to realize that you actually don’t know everything. So, does this make me an imposter? No, it makes you good at what you do. Stepping out of this imposter syndrome and into your leadership position begins with you clearly understanding your super skill and capitalizing on it. Know the strength that sets you apart, and refuse to let anyone take that away from you.
Double Down Where You Shine
Once you know your super-skill – the area where you are exceptional – it is time to capitalize on it. One way of accomplishing this is to double down on your super-skill and acknowledge your ability to surround yourself with teammates with expertise in the areas that are not in your wheelhouse. In the real world, this looks like making sure that if Excel Pivot Tables and Spreadsheets are not an area where you flourish, make sure you have a plan in place that allows the person on your team that lives for the organization of data on Excel to accomplish this task. When someone asks you to write something, and you are not strong in writing, you immediately go to the person on your team that can articulate your vision in words in a way you never could because it is their area of expertise.
Leaders always identify people on their team who are great at things they are not good at. So when the subject comes up, and somebody is trying to stick it to you about an area that is not your strength, give it a laugh and say, “I will take care of this! I have just the person that will knock this out of the park.” That’s how you start to step into leadership.
When you approach your strengths and weaknesses this way, it allows you to stop making excuses for what you don’t do well and then shine with your super-skill. This is how you stop imposter syndrome in its tracks and keep it from having a chokehold on your life and career. True confidence can then radiate, and the need to justify your place will officially be a thing of the past.
Craft Your Leadership Image
Your ability to lead is contingent on crafting your image – an image of how you want to be perceived. Great leaders don’t try to do everything; they surround themselves with people who complement the areas where they are not experts and allow those team members to shine. Do you think that Jeff Bezos wrote his advertising copy when he was the CEO of Amazon? No, certainly not. To be a leader, you must know your strength, allow others to be great in their area of expertise, craft the image you desire, and embody that image. And that is how you step out of imposter syndrome and into leadership.
I am here to help! At the Growth Architect, my job as a strategist is to help you reach your goals by understanding how your mindset, growth, and business strategies work together. If you want to hear more about overcoming imposter syndrome and stepping into leadership, watch my video.
Beate Chelette is The Growth Architect & Founder of The Women’s Code, and provides visionaries and leaders with strategies, blueprints and results-oriented, tangible tools and techniques that give clear steps to improve business systems, strengthen leadership skills and teams so that you can scale your impact.
A first-generation immigrant who found herself $135,000 in debt as a single parent, Beate bootstrapped her passion for photography into a highly successful global business and eventually sold it to Bill Gates in a multimillion-dollar deal. She is amongst the “Top 100 Global Thought Leaders” by PeopleHum and “One of 50 Must-Follow Women Entrepreneurs” by HuffPost.
Recent clients include Amazon, Reckitt (the maker of Lysol), Chevron, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, the Women’s Legislative Caucus of California Cal State University Dominguez Hills, Shelter Inc., Mental Health First Aid and thousands of small businesses.
Beate is the author of the #1 International Amazon Bestseller “Happy Woman Happy World – How to Go From Overwhelmed to Awesome” –a book that corporate trainer and best-selling author Brian Tracy calls “a handbook for every woman who wants health, success and a fulfilling career.”
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