Why You’re A Fraud, And How To Stop It

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You’re a fraud. That’s the bad news.

You’re not very good at your job. Sure, you’ve been lucky so far. You’ve gotten away with it. You’ve managed to fool everyone around you.

But sooner or later they’re going to find out. You know this, right? The charade can’t last forever.

Sooner or later, they’re going to figure out that you’re a fraud.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that, in all likelihood, none of this is true.

Welcome to Imposter Syndrome.

Here’s my question: As you read the first ten sentences of this article, was there a part of you that thought, nervously, “How could he possibly know this? Is it my deepest fear and my most closely-guarded secret!”?

Chances are you felt at least a twinge of self-recognition. How do I know this? Because Imposter Syndrome is prevalent in high-achievers. Studies show that up to 75% of high-achievers have this feeling of Imposter Syndrome at least occasionally; my own research indicates that the percentage could be even higher.

Tina Fey. Meryl Streep. Denzel Washington. Maya Angelou. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. And Bill Stainton. With the possible exception of that last guy, this isn’t such a bad group to be associated with, right? And all of us have Imposter Syndrome, at least from time to time.

Welcome to the club.

“But I don’t want to be in that club!” I get it. Neither do I. So what do we do about it?

We break out.

I mean that quite literally.

See, Imposter Syndrome only happens when our attention is focused inward, on ourselves:

  • I’m a fraud.
  • I don’t deserve my success.
  • What do they think of me?

So, since the root of Imposter Syndrome is an inward focus, one solution is to adopt an outward focus. Rather than focus on yourself and what others think about you (and, by the way, most of the time they’re not thinking about you), focus instead on providing value. Providing value to what? Here are a few suggestions:

  • the project at hand
  • your team
  • your customers
  • your family
  • your company
To eliminate Imposter Syndrome, focus outward, not inward. #Leadership Click To Tweet

When I was producing my weekly comedy TV show Almost Live!, there was a lot of pressure on me. To be honest, I wasn’t always sure that I was up to that pressure—especially when things went wrong. I didn’t think I was good enough, I felt like a fraud, and my biggest fear was that “they” were going to find out. Sound familiar?

But when I stopped feeling sorry for myself and focused instead on the work, those feelings disappeared. There simply wasn’t time for them. I was no longer thinking about myself; I was thinking about the audience, my team, the show. My focus was outward.

And it worked. We got through the show. And the more shows we got through, the less I felt like a fraud. There was simply too much evidence to the contrary.

Bottom line: If you want to get out of the Imposter Syndrome club, get out of your head.

If you want to get out of the Imposter Syndrome club, get out of your head. #Leadership Click To Tweet

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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  • Angi says:

    Yes, yes, yes. All the yesses!

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