By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “imposter syndrome” or “imposter phenomenon.” Yeah, it’s a real thing.
A relentless fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Essentially, it’s what happens when a high-achieving person doesn’t internalize their lifelong accomplishments and continues to think of themselves as who they were “way back then.”
As humans, we form our identities in late adolescence and early adulthood, so regardless of what comes after that, we still think of ourselves as still being at that age. (Which explains why I’m so shocked when I look in the mirror and see my mother looking back at me.)
Just about everyone has experienced the effects of the imposter phenomenon at some time in their life. You’ll recognize it if you have any of these internal thoughts:
- Who do you think you are?
- You’re not good enough.
- You’re not fooling anyone.
- You’re the only one who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
- You have no idea what you’re talking about and they’re all going to find out.
But let’s be clear on one thing: that nasty little voice in your head is a bully and it’s been lying to you your whole life.
The imposter syndrome often shows up in the form of perfectionism.
Being a perfectionist (guilty!) keeps lots of us stuck because we think everything has to be perfect in order to move forward. But that’s simply not true.
What is true is that as soon as we begin to move forward, we discover we know a lot more than we thought. The simple act of moving puts the imposter syndrome in its place.
One of the ways to combat the imposter syndrome is to re-frame the way you think about yourself.
I’m a big believer in the power of questions because our brain is wired to answer the question it is asked. As an executive coach, I use extremely targeted questions to help my clients experience clarity and insight, sometimes instantly.
So the next time you feel stuck, this is a great question to ask your “inner imposter:”
“Do I know enough to start?”