Banish Imposter Syndrome & Claim Your Greatness

  • Published on:
    November 6, 2018
  • Reading time by:
    4 minutes

No matter how talented and inspiring you are, or what levels of success you reach in your career and your life, chances are that you find yourself questioning your own abilities and feeling like a fraud – like somehow you’re faking it all and someone is going to find out that you really don’t have the faintest idea of what you’re doing. This nasty little mind-gremlin is called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and you’re not suffering alone! 

Although it isn’t classified as an actual mental health ‘disorder’, Impostor Syndrome is a well- documented psychological phenomenon that leads perfectly competent and successful people to think or believe that they are in fact, the very opposite and will be exposed as a fraud. They doubt their accomplishments and even when confronted with the facts of just how well they are doing, they still have difficulty breaking free from the belief that they’re not just a massive phony who happened to’ get lucky’ and strike upon success.

Some really famous women who have spoken openly about their own Imposter Syndrome, include Tina Fey and Kate Winslett.  But don’t allow the patriarchy to let you think that this is a ‘girl thing’! Men suffer from this too – including Seth Godin –  one of the most uber-successful writers I follow. 

The first time I actually felt this nasty little syndrome creeping up on me, I was in my mid-twenties. I had a kick-ass job with a lot of responsibility and many people considered me to be ‘too young’ to have advanced so far in my career, already.  Perhaps, to an extent, I was internalising their negativity and outdated thinking, which, in turn, had me questioning my own competence and suitability for the job.  I caught myself thinking that I’m nothing more than a teenager in a business suit, pretending to have my shit together.  Here’s how I learned to banish Imposter Syndrome and how I still deal with these feelings of inadequacy, today: 

Recognise it for what it is: BS

When you start feeling like a massive fraud and like you just got ‘lucky, the best thing you can do for yourself, is to be realistic about things. Firstly, ask yourself if this is the truth or whether it is your Imposter Syndrome rearing it’s ugly little head. Nobody just ‘gets lucky’. There is always, always, a ton of hard work that has preceded success and you should acknowledge your own journey and your hard work in getting to where you are right now. Make a list of your hard work and your struggles and your accomplishments if you have to, just to remind yourself that your career and success to date has been a hard road and definitely not ‘lucky’. 

Never stop learning and growing 

A major contributor to our collective Imposter Syndrome, is often that we feel inadequately knowledgeable or prepared for a specific situation or project – especially if we are being called upon as an ‘expert’ in our field. In order to banish this feeling. It’s important to firstly be aware of our own limitations in knowledge and skill and then to  commit to lifelong learning – not just in our own field of expertise, but in general. It’s also super important  to commit to continued personal growth and development. I have learned that every phase in my life requires a different version of ‘me’. I think of it almost like a video game where you go through levels and you gather physical strength and different tools and ‘weapons’ that you will need in future levels of the game. Level up, girl! Keep doing the work and building on the foundation you have created, so that you have access to an increasing arsenal of’ weapons’ (skills, knowledge and abilities)  in your personal and professional life. 

Stop Comparing

Every single person on this planet, is on their own journey and their own life path. Each one of us is unique and we have unique talents and gifts to offer the world. Stop comparing yourself to others or wishing you were ‘more like them’. It just dilutes your authenticity and shakes your confidence even more. Being called an ‘expert’ is because someone else has decided this and labeled the person as such. Having a PhD doesn’t necessarily mean that another writer or coach is smarter than me – they just spent more time at school than I did. Just focus on doing the work and being the best version of ‘you’ that you can possibly be. Stay in your lane, play in your space and leave others to play in theirs. No space is necessarily ‘better’ or more preferable. They’re just ‘different’. What is that saying? Bloom where you are planted. 

Stop Hiding your Light 

When you allow Imposter Syndrome to really take hold of you, you reallybstart losing confidence in yourself and your own abilities and then you start shrinking further and further into the background. You’re basically robbing the world of your unique contribution and you’re robbing yourself of opportunities to learn and grow and really make a difference. You’re not doing anyone – least of all yourself – any favours by playing small and hiding your talent and your light. 

I know that it’s hard sometimes and you will have days when you doubt yourself. Just remember that your fear is a liar and it’s holding you back. Call out your Imposter Syndrome for the nasty mind-gremlin that it is and don’t allow this fear to keep you from shining your light and being the best ‘you’ that you can be. You are talented and hard-working. You have a contribution to make in this life and your story inspires others. You have worked hard for what you have achieved and I know that you will continue to work hard. You are NOT a fraud! 

Deborah Hartung

She has spent almost 20 years advising corporates on matters relating to employee relations, corporate culture and leadership development. Deborah is passionate about people and technology, the human experience in the workplace and the opportunities for the advancement of humanity in the digital age.  

Especially popular with young or first-time leaders, entrepreneurs and women in leadership, Deborah encourages all those she meets to align with their purpose and to be brave enough to be authentic in all their interactions.  She writes about life, love, leadership, workplace culture, the future of work and the importance of making the world a kinder, more tolerant place. 

Deborah lives in Johannesburg, South Africa and is committed to ensuring that her children – daughter, Reagan and son, Owen – have as many adventures and experiences as possible. Amongst her friends she is known as the woman who always needs at least SPF50 sunscreen and someone who can trip and fall whilst barefoot and stone cold sober. A big fan of tequila, craft beer and MCC, Deborah loves entertaining friends and is secretly a rather big fan of baking. 

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