Life Design and Strategy - Chapter 2 Bonus - Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is the feeling we get when we feel undeserving of something. For a lot of people this one creeps in when they are succeeding or have achieved a significant goal of theirs. A common example is receiving a promotion of some type, “oh crap I don’t know what I’m doing, what if someone finds out I’ve never done this role before”.
It is also linked to the ‘slingshot effect’, this is commonly experienced by lottery winners, whereby the lottery winner will subconsciously self sabotage themselves by squandering their winnings in an attempt to return to their previous more comfortable life and to feel connected with their tribe who may resent them for their winnings. We are primarily pack animals and the majority of us feel quite uncomfortable when we separate ourselves from a group that we previously were a part of.
Imposter syndrome occurs due to our desire to try and control what others think about us and for us to over analyse the perception of others. But here’s the reality, and it took me a while to work this out. People, for the most part, are so focussed on worrying about themselves that they generally don’t have much time to think about others.
If you do find yourself in a fortunate situation, share the abundance you’re experiencing with the people closest to you so they feel like they are a part of it. Some of your tribe will be genuinely appreciative and others might continue to despise you. Either way you will be able to figure out who the most special people in your life are.
Here’s a situation where someone close to me believed she was unqualified to speak in meetings, which was leading to anxiety.
If you are in a meeting with 10 of your colleagues, where do you rank in terms of your ability to communicate?
"Well I work with a lot of older academics, who for the most part don’t seem to focus too much on the way they communicate. And because of my fears I only speak on the topics that I know a lot about. Now that I think about it, I would say I’m in the top 1 or 2 in most meetings."
When you’re in meetings and you speak on a topic do your colleagues struggle to understand you, do they question the credibility of your knowledge or do they disengage when you are speaking.
"Well because I’m a bit scared of not sounding intelligent, I spend a fair bit of time preparing what I’m going to say and only really speak on topics that I know about. If I truly think about it, I usually get positive feedback and my colleagues are interested in further exploring my ideas."
Conclusion: This was a pretty easy one to solve by asking a couple of questions and gaining some new perspective. Prior to this, the fear, anxiety and imposter syndrome was very real.
After we did this quick exercise, I saw a smile come over her face and she finished with the following. “Ali, One of my biggest fears is completely imaginary isn’t it, I’m actually pretty good at what I do, but for some reason I don't want to admit it.”
The lesson here is fear and self doubt are a natural human response, when you feel either of these just ask yourself a couple of questions to see how imaginary or real the fear and doubt really is. If it is imaginary, don’t dwell on it, take the actions required to overcome your fear, don’t let it cripple you or hold you back, use it as fuel so you can continue to keep growing.