IMPOSTER OR POWERFUL POSTER
You have an interview you have sufficiently prepared for and on paper you are more than qualified, with both education and experience. Perhaps you have to make a presentation to get an investment broker on board your entrepreneurial project. You have heard several times from previous bosses or previous clients how good you are at what you do and yet, as you head into your interview or develop your idea to start your business, a pool of self-doubt floods your mind. Although it is obvious you are a perfect fit for thatjob or the best person to begin and manage a business, you question whether or not you are competent enough to take up the role – and you start to feel like a fraud whose performance is not convincing enough.
The feeling of self-doubt and incompetence creeps up on us every now and then. These are normal human emotions we feel when we fail at something in our work, business and lives. Sometimes, the negativity we entertain often gets the better part of us and makes a home in our minds. These emotions negatively impact our careers and make us counterproductive. I am talking about the imposter syndrome defined by Scientific American as a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The imposter syndrome is not a respecter of class, age, gender or educational qualification. It hits anyone and it can hit really hard. The best in their fields such as Tom Hanks, best-selling author Neil Gaiman and business leader Sheryl Sandberg have had their own share of struggles with this. A 2011 research indicates that roughly 70% of the world’s population will encounter at least one bout of the syndrome in their lives. While it was a term originally coined from researching female achievers, the label now applies to both male and female achievers.
In trying to find a solution to this syndrome, we need to first address the causes and triggers. What is it about us that makes us feel like we do not deserve what we have worked so hard to achieve? How can you ascertain whether you are susceptible to experiencing this personality invading disorder?Given the knowledge we have about it, what power do we have to avoid or control it when it hits us?
According to Carr, childhood experiences can also make you predisposed to impostor syndrome. People who are very driven, success oriented and work hard for achievements can often become frightened once they accomplish what they set out to do. “Achievers might describe their success as ‘luck’ because they have been taught to not bring attention to themselves or not promote themselves as being better than others,” she explains. “Alternatively, an achiever’s thoughts of being an impostor can also stem from mixed messages during childhood where accomplishment was a requirement for love, approval and achievement.
Dr.Valerie Young also shares her thoughts on the categories of people in danger of encountering the syndrome. The first category houses perfectionists – usually very controlling, high goal setters who are fond of micromanaging things. And when they fail, they drown themselves in self-doubt and worry. They leave no room for failure and pressure themselves to be a 100% perfect always. For perfectionists, success is rarely satisfying because they believe they could’ve done even better. The second category of individuals are superhumans. “Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced, they’re phonies amongst real-deal colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up. But this is just a false cover-up for their insecurities, and the work overload may harm not only their own mental health, but also their relationships with others” – The Muse.
Another category is the natural genius. The natural geniusjudges success based on their abilities as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they have to work hard at something, they assume they must be bad at it. These types of impostors set their internal bar impossibly high, just like perfectionists. However, natural genius types do not just judge themselves based on ridiculous expectations, they also judge themselves based on getting things right on the first try. When they are not able to do something quickly or fluently, their alarm sounds.
Do you frame requests in terms of the requirements of the project, rather than your needs as a person? Do you firmly feel that you need to accomplish things on your own? If you feel asking for help makes you look phony, you may fall under the umbrella of the rugged individualist. The fifth category of people susceptible to the syndrome considers themselves as experts. These people who fall into this competence type may feel like they somehow tricked their employer into hiring them. They deeply fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.
Our mental and emotional challenges do not define us. If we are truly willing, we can overcome the imposters within ourselves and express ourselves as bold posters. With these 4 keys points, we can start our journey of transformation:
The African culture and its takes on expressing respect has to an extent influenced our inability to freely voice out our opinions and speak up when we need to – a habit that I believe is a contributor to the imposter syndrome in our society. One of the sure ways to overcome the inner critic in you is to speak out loud about the negativity going on in your mind. You are not alone and expressing how you feel with people you trust, a mentor or trusted friend, will reveal to you that others have been through this war and come out victorious. Speaking your truth and addressing your vulnerabilities will open up other sides to you so you can focus on your accomplishments and help you believe you are worthy. If you are in doubt about who to speak to, write your most ridiculous beliefs, your most terrible thoughts and your biggest fraud! Exposing yourself is a good way of creating a saner perspective.
Get to the Root
Recognize that the way you feel has a deeper cause than what you are expressing on the surface. An example from Medical News Todaycites that children who are told that they are superior in intellect, talent, appearance, and personality may also develop impostor syndrome. You need to address what is shaking your self-esteem and why you have that inner voice invading your confidence in yourself. With understanding comes a possible solution for you to combat this syndrome head on and live your best life.
The battle of the mind is a tough one to fight, but with the right practices, you can control your thoughts and the way you feel about yourself. We have a tendency to dwell on the criticisms rather than the victories. “Once you’re aware of the phenomenon, you can combat your own imposter syndrome by collecting and revisiting positive feedback,” Cox says. Making a concentrated effort to listen to and reflect on words of encouragement can help sooth anxieties the next time self-doubt pops up.
Set Expectations You Know You Can Achieve
If you still cannot shake the feeling of imposter syndrome via the previous steps, then set yourself up to succeed regardless of how you are feeling. For example, you might set the expectation that you are looking to fail quickly so that everyone can learn from the experience. That way, you no longer fear failure and instead are proactively looking to learn from any and all mistakes that you make. It also frees you up to be upfront about any mistake made and removes the stigma from making one in the first place. (Forbes)
Your ability to be self aware of your thoughts and actions, and renew your mindset is the first big step to take. You may fail sometimes, but you will also rise up and follow through with persistent affirmations and actions.
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Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.