Defeating imposter syndrome
You’re a fraud. All of your accomplishments to date are the result of dumb luck.
You’ll never replicate past success again.
If this sounds a bit like your internal narrative at times, you might be suffering from so-called imposter syndrome. It’s fairly common, especially for high achievers.
In this video, understanding and, most importantly, defeating imposter syndrome.
Let’s talk about defeating imposter syndrome.
If you feel like a fraud or that your accomplishments are the result of luck, there’s a good chance that you’ve experienced this psychological trait. I know that I have. In fact, I have a brush with imposter syndrome on a regular basis.
I know that’s something I share with lots of Financial Planners; in the past few weeks, I’ve seen several ask about imposter syndrome on various social media platforms, so I wanted to devote some time in this video to talk about it.
Imposter syndrome is a belief that you’re inadequate, that you’re incompetent or a failure. This belief, this internal narrative, comes along despite all evidence to the contrary.
Some of the most successful people I know suffer from imposter syndrome. Successful investment managers and entrepreneurs, people who to the outside world absolutely radiate confidence and all of the trappings of success.
There’s actually more than one form of imposter syndrome. Depending on your background, personality and circumstances, imposter syndrome can manifest itself in several different ways.
So a good starting point for defeating imposter syndrome is understanding what you’re dealing with. Know thy enemy.
According to leading psychologists, there are five types or subgroups.
Dr Valerie Young, a leading expert on imposter syndrome, wrote a book on the subject and came up with the titles – perfectionist, superwoman/man, natural genius, soloist, and expert.
These are ‘competence types; internal rules we attempt to follow when we struggle with confidence. By understanding these competence types, we can tackle them more effectively.
The Perfectionist competence type sets incredibly high standards. When they fail, for whatever reason, to reach that stand, they experience massive amounts of self-doubt, and the imposter syndrome creeps in. If you’re a bit of a control freak, there’s a chance you’re in this subgroup.
Dealing with imposter syndrome as a perfectionist means celebrating achievements. It means finding contentment in what you do, rather than punishing yourself for failing to live up to a higher standard.
Making mistakes and falling short of high goals is natural. As Jason Mraz said, you win some, you learn some. As long as you’re learning from your mistakes, don’t allow them to force you to pursue the usually unachievable goal of perfection.
The superwoman or superman subgroup convince themselves they don’t measure up to others.
You might display this competence type if you’re always pushing yourself to work hard to keep up with your colleagues or others in your profession. If you set your personal standards by the perceived achievements of others, that’s when the imposter syndrome rears its ugly head.
Social media makes this all too easy. We see other people’s highlight reels, not their real lives. People rarely post on Instagram about a shitty day they’re having. But we all have a mix of good and bad in our lives.
Getting over imposter syndrome as a superwoman or superman means moving away from the need for external validation for your achievements. Maybe consider a social media diet for a day or two each week, so you can reassess what’s really important.
What about the genius subgroup?
If you believe that you’re a natural genius, everything should be easy, right? If something is hard to achieve, or takes a long time to master, that’s when imposter syndrome arrives.
According to psychologists, this one often sets in at school. If you’ve got a history of getting straight As, then you might have forgotten about the work and effort that went into those achievements, instead attributing them to a natural ability.
Or perhaps you’ve got a track record of only taking on challenges where you know you’ll excel?
We’re all a work in progress, and things worth doing always require a lot of hard work, even for people who are naturally talented in certain areas of life.
The soloist finds it hard to ask others for help. They are desperate to accomplish things are on their own, never needing anyone’s help to get stuff done.
It’s always OK to ask for help. Humans are, by their very nature, a social species. We survive and thrive because we create communities, share resources and support each other.
A little independence is a good thing, but it’s also quite limiting, especially if it results in imposter syndrome when you get stuck on your own.
The final subgroup is the expert.
This competence type measures their ability based on what and how much they know or can achieve. Imposter syndrome for the expert comes about when they don’t know enough about something and fear being found out.
If you’re constantly validating yourself by studying for a new qualification or signing up for a new training course, this one might be you.
Nobody knows everyone. Even the most knowledgeable experts have gaps in their knowledge. Learning should be a lifelong activity, not a one-off event.
And we often learn through failures. That’s not to say we should intentionally fail as a learning activity, but when failures do occur, they are fine as long as we learn from our mistakes and approach them differently next time.
So that’s the five competence types that can result in imposter syndrome and feelings of inadequacy.
Studies suggest that around 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. In my experience, those of us responsible for businesses and sales targets are more likely to face imposter syndrome. That means understanding the reasons and how to deal with it are so important.