“Management” was always a goal of mine. I wasn’t looking for prestige or authority and certainly not the overall responsibility and stress. I have a gift of seeing potential in others that they don’t see in themselves, and I wanted to use it.
I felt that if I could get into a management role, I’d have better success at helping others see themselves as I saw them. And, for the most part, that happened.
I was promoted to “manager” early in my career. It’s a bit surprising when it happens to you. One day, you’ve got peers. The next, you’re not just no longer on the same level they are, you’re also responsible for their success, performance, and engagement.
It was exciting. And terrifying. I realized – almost instantly – that I was not prepared to assume this new role. The responsibility for a financial budget, strategic goal attainment, and project management was daunting. What I thought was going to be easy suddenly became overwhelming.
Despite my enthusiasm and drive to succeed, I was filled with doubt. The grass was certainly not greener on the other side of the fence.
Enter: Imposter Syndrome. Originally called impostor phenomenon, impostor syndrome is commonly understood to be a false, and sometimes crippling, belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill.
Many first-time managers are excited to be promoted and want to make a difference in the lives of those they lead. Read this carefully:
Every. Manager. Makes. A. Difference. In. The. Lives. Of. Others.
Read that again – Every manager makes a difference in the lives of others!
But what kind of difference? I don’t believe any of us get promoted to be the detriment of others. We envision “our greatness” being poured out over others, creating a magically wonderful environment!
While reality is usually a bit different, reality and our visions don’t have to be mutually exclusive. They can actually complement each other.
When imposter syndrome speaks, it begins with self-doubt. It took me a very long time to get through the self-doubt, wondering when my lack of leadership qualifications would be “found out.” At least, that’s the story I told myself. Self-talk – the words we use and the stories we tell ourselves – matters.
At its worst, self-doubt, isolated from reason, logic, and action, can completely stall forward momentum and hinder self-development – which can make you feel and act like an imposter. In a positive light, self-doubt can be a driver of learning. Knowing that you don’t know it all can propel you into developing less-used skills.
Oh… and part of feeling like an imposter has to do with our comparison syndrome. We compare others’ journeys against ours and wonder why “they have it all together”. It’s a silly, but very serious, condition that adulthood plays into. Nearly 82% of people face feelings of imposter syndrome, struggling with the sense that they haven’t earned their achievements and are frauds.
Here’s what I think...
“Imposter Syndrome is when we’ve leveled up and been given opportunities to learn shiny new skills.”
How can you use these feelings of inadequacy to turn self-doubt into confidence and overcome imposter syndrome?
- Since imposter syndrome drums up “negative” feelings and emotions, step back and look at the facts. What does the bigger picture look like? What is the story you’re telling yourself? Is it true?
- Celebrate your successes. Oftentimes, leaders are quick to judge their failings and slow to recognize their successes. Note at least one success a day.
- If uncertainty still reigns, talk with a trusted coach. Share your feelings on when you feel like an imposter, and what you felt before, during, and after the event. Your coach can help you unpack why you feel that way.
- Is comparison syndrome taking over and causing you to see your colleagues’ work as something to emulate rather than focusing on the gifts and skills you have? Whoever you’re contrasting to, they are not perfect. No one is. Give up the lie of “perfectionism”.
- Give yourself some grace. Self-compassion is a learned skill. Practice it daily.
- Embrace your failures. “Fail forward” as John Maxwell says. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know”.
The vast majority of people have faced or will face imposter syndrome. Remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be fatal. Feeling like an imposter doesn’t mean you are one. When you find your inner monologue telling stories like “I’m not enough!”; “How did I even get here?”; “Who am I to lead this [team, project, department, company]?”; remember that this is only part of your development and growth journey.
It’s okay to recognize those feelings. It’s much more important to move forward.
Take that one big, often scary, difficult step forward toward self-development. Embrace the gifts you have now and lean into the journey ahead of you.
If you need help getting started or moving forward in your journey, talk with a trusted coach. Trained and certified coaches can help you break the barrier of the “false and sometimes crippling belief that [your] successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill”.
As a certified coach, and an executive with three decades of business experience, let’s chat. Schedule a call now, and let’s get you focused on the right things.
P.S. Book a Complimentary Strategy Session so we can get you moving in the right direction; click on my Complimentary Strategy Session calendar link hereand let’s book a time together so you can get started today!
P.P. S. With over three decades of professional experience in corporate operations and executive human resources, I am a proven results-driven leader. My expertise includes strategy, change management, talent management and organizational development, employee relations, and executive and leadership coaching. I am a highly effective communicator and team leader with demonstrated ability to build long-term relationships across internal and external customer environments built with integrity, confidence, authenticity, and trust.
 What is Impostor Syndrome? | Merriam-Webster 4/26/2022
 How to overcome impostor phenomenon (apa.org) 5/3/2022