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How to beat imposter syndrome

By Bill Marklein

sayhello@employhumanity.com

 

Imposter Syndrome can paralyze our workday and career. What is imposter syndrome? According to the definition from Oxford Languages, imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills. It can shake our confidence and our ability to think with clarity. It can put us in a numbing, endless loop of second-guessing our decisions. Our mind, heart and spirit can be suffocated with self-doubt. Commonly, imposter syndrome is intensified when we step outside our comfort zone such as a new promotion, new project or career pivot that will challenge our skill sets. Being uncomfortable is part of growth. Playing small inside comfort zones can be even worse than imposter syndrome. So how do we step outside our comfort zone to grow and flourish without being paralyzed with imposter syndrome? As an emotional intelligence expert and leadership author, I have some simple and helpful insight into how to defeat imposter syndrome once and for all.

1.  Embrace imposter syndrome

If people are being honest and authentic, everybody will admit they experience imposter syndrome when they are stepping outside their comfort zone to try something new and challenging. It is our self-awareness in doing just that. The goal is to embrace the imposter syndrome—not hide from it. Remember, it’s a normal feeling of uncertainty for every human that is passionate about doing good work and succeeding in discomfort. Next, lean into imposter syndrome by focusing on your self-talk switching your inner critic to an inner coach. Imposter syndrome is the irrational inner critic. Your inner coach is the way to paralyze the inner critic so it doesn’t paralyze you! For example, shift reckless thoughts of  “you’re a fraud” or “no one thinks I belong here” to thoughts of self-compassion “you’re courageously choosing this new growth opportunity” and “this current feeling shows I have pride in my work and for doing a good job.” When you are feeling imposter syndrome and switch your self-talk from inner critic to inner coach, that is a sure sign you have activated a growth mindset. And, a growth mindset is where greatness blooms!

 

2.  Talk to others about your imposter syndrome

Talk to a trusted mentor, coach or friend about your imposter syndrome experience. You will be relieved to hear their stories of imposter syndrome and the shared humanity. You will value their vulnerability and humility. The most decorated Olympians who have won multiple gold medals share stories of imposter syndrome during competition! That nerve-racking thought “Do I belong here?” Highly mature adults feel imposter syndrome bringing their first newborn home. That anxious (and exciting) thought on the way home from the hospital “Are we ready for this?” You learn as you go and there is no training manual. Imposter syndrome certainly happens everywhere in all major life transitions personal or professional. If someone says they have never experienced the slightest of imposter syndrome—there is a good chance they have always played small inside their comfort zone or have low emotional intelligence. Imposter syndrome is a universal human experience—if we are courageously showing up and growing. You are not alone.

 

3.  Find Creative Joy

Most imposter syndrome is irrational self-talk of projecting other people’s opinions. We put so much energy—mostly false narratives—into other people’s opinions. When I wrote my first leadership book I experienced intense imposter syndrome. Thoughts echoed like “Who am I to be an author? What if no one reads my book? What if I misspell something? The reality is, I started to find the most joy and creativity in writing when it was for my own heart and soul—and not anyone else. I certainly wanted other people to like and be inspired by my book—but that would be the icing on the cake. (Fun success story on my own imposter syndrome: I experienced by far the most intense imposter syndrome writing Endless Bloom out of all my leadership books and Endless Bloom still is the #1 bestseller out of all my books with the most positive feedback! I share this to inspire you! I have come to know that all great artists in any artistic form find joy in the actual real-time creation of the art. If the world happens to like it, great! If it helps or inspires just one person, great! This goes for trusting your gut, intuition and creativity. Find joy not only in the process of creativity but also your decisions. If you can live with the decision and back it with conviction, make it and move on. The lack of creativity, decisions and joy is from caring too much what other people think. Joy is inward.

 

Trust yourself. Believe in yourself and skills. Know that we all experience imposter syndrome and stabilize the imposter syndrome with self-compassion and a growth mindset. Consider sharing this article on your social media to normalize imposter syndrome and help others navigate it. Find creative joy. You’ve got this.

About the Author: Bill Marklein is a sought-after keynote speaker in the space of leadership, culture and emotional intelligence and invites you to Employ Humanity Leadership Day 2024 in Milwaukee at the iconic Harley-Davidson Museum. If you liked this article, please give it a share. 

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