Are you an Imposter too?

In the immortal words of philosopher/social critic Bertrand Russell, “The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.”  There are times I feel like a complete imposter and when I get out of bed today, the world is going to figure out my little game.  I especially feel that way when I am about to share something personal about myself.  Apparently, I suffer with a syndrome – Imposter syndrome!  

Famous people also suffer with my malady.  In the words of Tina Fey, “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.”  Another famous lady, Maya Angelou is quoted to have said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think,  ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now, I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out'”.  Indeed, I am in some excellent company!

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Take this little quiz:

  1.  Do you attribute your success to luck?  Someone’s mistake?  A lottery winning?
  2. Have you ever said to yourself or to another human being, “I did it, so anybody could…”?
  3. Are you hypersensitive if your work is criticized or if you make a mistake?
  4. When you get recognized for your outstanding work do you feel like you fooled someone?  
  5. Do you fear you will be discovered for being the imposter you are?

There may be hundreds, thousands of people out there in the world that think you are brilliant.  However, if you answered a yes to any of those questions, you are probably not included in that group.  

What’s a woman to do if she feels like an imposter?  A fraud?  

Five Simple Steps (Probably not that simple, but its a start!)

1.  Name It

Call it what it is – Imposter Syndrome.  Once you name it, you can claim it!  Almost all monsters are less fierce once we put a name to them.  When it has a name, you realize other people may suffer from it also.  Maybe your not so weird after all!  Sorry, that feeling you get that you are a fake, just not that special.  This little group you are in with me has millions and millions of members.  Although, I suspect, women are in the majority, there are many men and women of all walks of life.   Those feelings of self doubt has a name, so name it.  My Imposter Syndrome will often pop up when I am facing a new challenge or stepping into unfamiliar territory.  I am often sure someone will see right through me and send me back to the starting line.

Now that you have named that feeling, its time to let yourself know you really are an intelligent, competent person!

2.  Share It

Start to share Imposter Syndrome feelings with someone you trust.  Just say it out loud, “I think I’m a fake”.  Hopefully, the person you tell will probably not agree with you.  If that person responds, “Yes, you are totally a fake, I don’t know how you get away with it” you may need new friends.  Getting someone else’s validation is not why you say the words.  Mostly, you say them so you can hear them in your own head.  Oh, yeah, that’s Imposter Syndrome again, I know what it is.  

My mother had divorced before marrying my father.  Together, my parents had five children.  While going through my first divorce (yes, I have my married wings – I’m a frequent flyer), I was very emotional and crying.  My mother comforted me.  She shared that she had been married and divorced before marrying my father.  I was shocked. The next day I endeavored to get more details about this secret and she said, “oh, I made that up to reassure you that everything would be okay.”  I didn’t buy it.  I tricked my nana into telling me.  Yes, I can be sneaky.  

The moral of the story is sometimes we get unstuck by being honest about what’s inside.  Both my parents are gone, but I think we would have been a whole lot closer as a family if we were honest with each other.   And those five kids, I was not the only one to get divorced, not even multiple times.     

3.  Shake it Off

While surfing the web I get a definite message.  I am inundated with the message that everyone knows what they are doing!  Except me!  Those people that tell you they have all the answers, just dumb liars!  People, businesses, marriages, you name it, fail all the time.  You and I are going to fail plenty.  That does not make us fake!  It makes us human.  The sorry fact is we make progress by failing.  Progress is made because you accept a challenge, half the battle!  Or, quite possible, the battle was not accepting the challenge.  I often feel like an imposter when I have a perception that some level of perfection existed that I did not live up to.  Those ideas of perfection do not exist, or if they do, just in our minds.  

Owning our successes seems easier if we also know we are going to own our failures.  They are just steps we take in moving forward.  And by forward, I think I mean just moving.  Sometimes the best way to move is backward or sideways. 

4.  Do Your Best 

Or do good enough.  When I feel like an imposter I am usually focusing on me, not the task at hand.  It’s really that I am worried what they will think of me.  Trying to help the effort, focusing on doing well, will often help me get through those feelings of being a fake.  

However, never forget, if your best is not good enough and you fail, that does not make you an imposter.  An athlete knows he or she will not win every match.  A baseball slugger still misses the ball a hell of a lot more than they hit the damn thing.  The entry fee to living:  a swing and a miss.  

I am sometimes very surprised that a client will not select my favorite image from a shoot.  That amazes me, because I probably spent way more time editing that picture.  After all, I liked it so much!  Different aspects of a photo resonate differently for people, and I just have to accept this fact.  It doesn’t make me a fraud, it just makes me wrong.  However, I will probably continue to try to get into the minds of my clients. 

5.  If All Else Fails, Fake It!

After all, you have Imposter Syndrome!  Lets get over the idea that there is a real you.  You are a lot of people.  You are one person with your children, another with your spouse.  When you sit down to dinner and margaritas with your best girlfriends, you are a lot different than the person that sits down to discuss taxes with the accountant.  We are always changing, meeting the moment, gauging our words.  My thoughts on religion have changed drastically over the years.  My addiction to news has also seriously changed.    

If I plant a smile on my face when I really don’t feel like smiling, I may just start feeling happier!  We can make a difference in the dialogue in our head, its just a fact.  We can shape our  brain, how we think, how we react.  

Soooo, there you have it…fake it till you make it!

Go ahead and let me know if you have ever felt like an imposter, and what you did with that feeling.  Leave your story in the comment section below, I’d love to read it!

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