A good friend who is very well connected in government, academia and business, who has managed the distribution of billions of dollars, and whose expertise has been put to good use around the globe recently said, “I am a failure.” No less true statement was ever uttered, but this is a prime example of the impostor syndrome.
Many of us have, quite unjustifiably, felt the same way. Even as we are successful, we keep telling ourselves what external evidence has proven to be false such as, I can’t really do this job, run this business, or take this responsibility. It used to be thought that the impostor syndrome only affected women, and primarily young women. Now we know men are affected too, (although they are often better at hiding it) and it does not always disappear as we mature.
The impostor syndrome struck me hard when I started a business, even though I was already in my prime years. Here are three steps that I used to overcome it. You can use them too. Soon, you will stop feeling like an impostor and start feeling like a superwoman.
First, we panic. This is the impostor syndrome going into action when we are faced with anything that is different or difficult. The emotional, ‘I can’t do this’ response hits us hard.
Now, we take a deep breath and let our rational mind take over as we examine the challenge before us. A closer look may tell us that we actually can do it – no problem. Or we may need help. So, this step is to get that help. The Internet makes it easy. You can find a YouTube video on just about anything from fixing a doorknob to the latest fine points of hernia repair surgery.
You can also use the Net or your own network to find legal, accounting, technical or other expertise . If what you really need is more time, you can find people to help you out.
This is the easy part. You know that with any help you have lined up, you will succeed. You are not an impostor. You are a superwoman.
A word of advice: Just as women are more likely to display the impostor syndrome, we are less likely to display our superwoman side. This is a good thing. We don’t want to go too far to the other side and fall into the super woman syndrome. Better to be a secret superwoman. As we use the steps above and succeed at task after task, two things will happen. First, the panic phase will disappear as the impostor syndrome fades away. Second, with each accomplishment, our family, friends, colleagues and competitors will see us for the superwomen we really are.