Feeling like an imposter is exhausting – emotionally, psychologically and even physically. Constantly being worried that you will be found out as a fraud and never feeling good enough – even though in reality you are good or event great at what you do – takes its toll. No wonder so many people ask me if I have found a ‘cure’ for imposter syndrome.
I believe that trying to cure or permanently rid yourself of imposter syndrome can actually leave you in a worse place than where you started. There is no silver bullet or quick fix and sometimes – often without warning – your gremlins will rear their heads and your imposter feelings will come flooding back. This is not failure. I believe this is just the way these types of feelings behave. What we can try and do is stop the frequency and impact these gremlin attacks have.
I’ve been on the search for are tools, tactics and ideas to help me manage these feelings and over time change the thoughts and beliefs that have caused them in the first place. I found one such ‘solution’ in the most unlikely of places – or people… Donald Trump.
Yes, I’m serious. Let me explain.
In my view (and that of others) Trump represents perfectly the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is essentially the opposite of imposter syndrome. It refers to how “people who are ignorant or unskilled in a given domain tend to believe they are much more competent than they are.”
When I look at Trump, I see what I have started to see in companies, organisations and teams all over the place. Trump is an extreme, but everywhere I look I see the success of mediocrity or to put it another way people with Dunning-Kruger succeeding over and on the backs of truly competent people. And this made me angry. I kept seeing mediocre phoneys being promoted, respected and trusted over talented, qualified and brilliant people. People who would tell me about how their imposter feelings were getting worse because of these experiences. I saw friends being bullied at work, being fired, being passed over for promotions and feeling it was because they weren’t good enough.
And as my anger grew, something incredible happened…
I started to feel less like an imposter. As I saw mediocre people filling spaces with mediocre or worse, bad, content, it made me angry but more importantly I started to think: I can do better than this!
Every time a mediocre public speaking coach gave someone I knew bad advice, every time I went to an event that was a waste of everyone’s time, every repetitive blog about imposter syndrome I read and every time I had to redo the work of a “professional” because it was subpar (most recently an expensive and arrogant graphic designer) I thought – I can do better!
For so long I would say things like – I’m not a professional coach or I’m not a designer or I can’t write. But as the fog of my imposter feelings faded I started to see that what I was doing was as good or better than people who had no problem calling themselves experts. And this was when I realised, maybe I’m not the best – whatever that might be – but I’m damn good and I have something of value to offer. If people were going to spend their time and money, and more importantly trust someone, then better it be me than some of the other options.
And in the meantime I could spend the energy I was expending worrying about being an imposter to make sure I was constantly improving and learning – and making sure that this newfound confidence didn’t mean I would get complacent and mediocre in turn. Or worse, get infected with Dunning-Kruger syndrome.
We view anger as a negative emotion. Always telling people: don’t be angry – let it go! But in this situation, I say don’t let it go – harness it, use it. Perhaps it can help you see more clearly than ever before!