How To Conquer The Vicious Cycle Of Impostor Syndrome

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I’m going to let you in on a secret.

But before I do, I need to give you some facts:

  • Fact One: I’ve won 29 Emmy Awards for my work in television.
  • Fact Two: I led my team to more than 100 Emmy Awards of their own.
  • Fact Three: Virtually everyone who knows me is sick of hearing about Facts One and Two.

Now, keeping these facts (well…Facts One and Two) in mind, here’s the secret:

I had no idea what I was doing.

At least, in the beginning. I was new, I was inexperienced, and I felt like a fraud.

You’ve probably felt this way too. In fact, it would be kind of disingenuous if you didn’t. Because in the beginning, you are inexperienced. You don’t have all the answers. And because of this, you may feel like you don’t really deserve to be there. This feeling is natural, and somewhat justified.

In the beginning!

But for some leaders, that feeling never goes away. Or, if it does, it creeps back in from time to time. In fact, according to the Journal of Behavioral Science, this feeling hits at least 70% of us at some time or another.

70% of people have felt Impostor Syndrome. Are you one of them? #impostorsyndrome #leadership #producingunderpressure #leadingunderpressure #pressure Click To Tweet

It’s called Impostor Syndrome. It’s that feeling that everyone around you has earned their success, but you…well, you just kind of lucked into it. And again, that’s somewhat natural—in the beginning. But if you don’t do something about it, it can lead to a vicious cycle. Here’s what it looks like:

  1. You feel like you just kind of lucked into your position, and that you don’t really deserve to be there. Because of this, you start to…
  2. lose confidence in yourself—especially if you keep reinforcing this feeling that you don’t deserve your success. And because you have a lack of confidence, you…
  3. don’t try new things. You avoid (as much as possible) more challenging assignments. And because you’re not trying new things and taking on new challenges, you…
  4. don’t learn. You don’t grow. And you don’t get promoted. And because you’re not getting promoted (or getting the cool assignments) like the others, you…

  5. feel like a fraud, like you don’t really deserve to be there.

Now, let’s go back to Step 4 for a moment. If you’re not learning and growing, you’re not gaining new knowledge and/or mastering new skills. The irony is that that’s exactly how you gain confidence—by gaining new knowledge and mastering new skills!

#Experience leads to #confidence. #leadership #impostorsyndrome #producingunderpressure #leadingunderpressure #pressure Click To Tweet

So how do you conquer this vicious cycle of Impostor Syndrome? Try these three steps:

  1. Open yourself up to new ideas, new information, and new challenges. Yes, even if you feel like you don’t deserve them. Even if you’re nervous. Even if you’re scared. Nothing builds confidence like experience, and in order to gain experience, you have to actually experience
  2. Keep track of your successes. Write them down. Review them often. You need to remind yourself of your competence because competence and confidence go hand in hand.
  3. Figure out what you learned from your “failures.” Look, when you’re trying something new, it isn’t always going to go the way you anticipated. But no matter what happens, it’s an opportunity to learn. But you have to seize the opportunity. You have to look for the lessons.

Impostor Syndrome sucks. I know—I’ve been there. But here’s the secret—and I want you to remind yourself of this whenever you start to feel like a fraud: Most of the people around you (at least 70%) are probably feeling the exact same thing.

Chances are, they’re not frauds. And neither are you. You deserve to be there.


About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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