Let’s talk about my friend Peter – a lovely guy, who is very intelligent and personable. Someone who has the ability to walk into a room of strangers, where he radiates his charm and wits and comes out with a bunch of new friends.
You might think Peter is a very confident guy. But he isn’t. Peter and I also used to work together and he was often, if not constantly doubting himself: “What if Tina thinks I am dumb?”; “Why did Martin say he needs to think about it?”; “The Directors are all in a meeting. I think they’re looking at a huge projection of my face and talk about how incompetent I am and how they will fire me soon.”
From outside I was always stunned how Peter’s thinking was so far from how I was seeing him. More than once I told him I wished he could see himself as I see him.
Peter was a clear “victim” of the imposter phenomenon – a psychological effect that can hit all of us equally. He was always thinking how one day it would become evident that he doesn’t know what he is doing, that he’s a fraud, someone who shouldn’t be in the place he was in.
When Peter would receive positive feedback and compliments he would attribute these to either complete luck or because he thought he had to work extremely hard to get to the result. Either way the good outcome could’ve never been a confirmation of his abilities… to Peter.
How about you? Were you ever in a situation in which you doubted your own skills or expertise? If not, congratulations – you belong to the 30% that research indicates have not experienced the imposter effect ;).
For those, who belong to the 70% who have at least once in their lives felt like imposters or frauds in a relationship, during their education or at work: congratulations, you now have learned there is an underlying effect that leads to this perception. Knowing this will be helpful because you can work against it. And why should you go against that? This effect takes up a lot of your energy. Instead of working on something and pushing forward, you are spending time ruminating about:
1) How do I compare to x, y and z?
2) What if I cannot achieve a, b and c?
3) When will Susan realise I am liability and not an asset to the project?
4) I can not release my product or service… no one will want it/me
5) … and the list goes on and on…
You might start by reframing some of the thoughts you are having about yourself and your likelihood to be successful:
1) I’m going to put myself out there and learn from the experience
2) I am able to achieve my goals
3) I will be successful doing things the way I am doing them
Reframing your thoughts might feel funny in the beginning. No surprise here! Since these thoughts go against what you’re learned to gravitate towards. However, doing this exercise has positive effects, because:
What you believe, becomes reality.
You spend your time building yourself up instead of tearing yourself down.
Your focus shifts towards doing instead of just thinking.
So why not give it a go – and share your experiences? One step at a time. A little better every day!