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The overlooked reasons for your imposter syndrome and how to overcome it

You often compare yourself. A lot. Frequently.

You tell yourself that others are much better. It's somehow a matter of luck or timing that you're in your position. You fear being discovered as not the person people think you are. This fear of not measuring up is constant. So, you work hard and make sure everything is perfect.

In critical situations, you might even feel consumed by anxiety, losing sleep while pretending everything is fine. Because you're good at hiding all this, aren't you? This also sometimes leads you to hold back, playing it much safer instead of taking on challenges you deserve and secretly desire.

Femme d'affaire le regard préoccupé
A latent ongoing worry in the background? Crédit: Wix

Does that sound familiar? You're probably dealing with a typical professional world syndrome: impostor syndrome, a feeling of inadequacy that persists despite evident success and performance.

Almost an epidemic of imposter syndrome

First news, you are far from alone! Did you know that about 60% of managers in general and nearly 75% of female managers suffer from impostor syndrome at one time or another? According to a survey a few years ago, the fear that their incompetence will be discovered is the primary fear of leaders worldwide.

However, this syndrome places you in a role and forces you to control and master. And in the era of trust and track leadership, authentic and vulnerable, it's safe to say you're in a tough spot!

If 'how-to' books worked, we'd know by now

"If 'how-to' books worked, it would be known. Given the prevalence of the problem, the subject is often addressed. There are plenty of strategies: 'fake it till you make it,' listing your accomplishments, eliminating negative internal dialogue, surrounding yourself with a good circle of people to encourage and support you, or even, as Google has suggested to its executives, speaking openly with colleagues about their experiences.

In the same vein, convincing yourself of the advantages of being a novice or focusing on the learning that uncomfortable situations allow. This dear syndrome would even present the benefit of orienting you more towards others since you are not up to par!

Seriously? Isn't that a bit like making a virtue of necessity? While I am a fan of changing perspectives and fooling my brain, I remain skeptical about solving the problem this way. While some of these techniques have helped me, none was a real solution

The fundamental question we don't ask ourselves

Strangely enough, little or no attention is paid to the roots of the syndrome and why you fail to recognize your worth. All these techniques focus on the future, simply ignoring the past.

When was your self-worth lost? As a reminder, you arrived on this planet chubby, toothless, drooling, unable to eat or walk, but well aware of your worth. Convinced even that you were the center of the world, you demanded the care that was rightfully yours! You took your place!

So what happened along the way? I put a coin on a difficult moment, often in childhood or adolescence, which forged the belief of your inadequacy. The phenomenon was then reinforced over time until it became so familiar that, whatever the context, it became your reality. Since the mind can't live with contradictory thoughts, the unconscious dominates you (you know, the 95%), making all your good intentions and how-to books ineffective.

Getting rid of impostor syndrome

In another post, I discussed a method that eliminates these problems in one or two months. It involves bringing these significant events to light and "putting them in their rightful place."

A manager was recently trying it out. She told me a few days after our session: "I had hesitated so much to apply for this prestigious position internally, fearing that I wouldn't belong. I've just been called for the first interview! A week ago, I would have been scared after that call. Now, I was thrilled! I even talked to my boss about it without adding a 'anyway, I know I won't get it,' as I would have done just a few days ago!"

The shift is made! Her big surprise was discovering that her professional reality was so intimately linked to events from her childhood.

Leadership, a matter of personal development

I have been working on developing individuals and organizations for years. I have learned two things from doing this job.

  • Refrain from relying too much on your organization to give you the conditions you dream of. A boss or a mentor who validates your worth is a gift but is far from the norm.

  • Take charge and change the only thing you can: yourself!

Taking charge of oneself is more than just getting another degree. It's really about personal development. As coach and management professor Monique Valcour says in HBR, leadership today requires a continuous personal development journey.

  • What to do? Some questions to start the work:

  • Who or what situation made you feel you were not up to the task?

  • Whose love and validation have you always sought without receiving it?

  • Which part of you is in imposture? The little boy/little girl or the adult you?

The key? Make peace with your past.

In a nutshell,

Impostor syndrome is widespread. As a source of stress and anxiety, it's a real mental burden, one you'd rather not have if you're affected. While strategies for overcoming it primarily focus on changes in behavior and perspective, they are often ineffective. The solution? Go back to the source, to that day when you began to doubt yourself and your worth.

If this topic resonates with you and the approach mentioned in this post speaks to you, I invite you to watch my masterclass on the subject.

So, what would you do with the energy that would no longer be consumed by your anxiety?

How would it change things for you to have a healthy appreciation of your worth?

What position would you apply for if the fear of being found out for who you really are wasn't there?

Food for thought ;-)

Have a great week!


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