How to Handle Imposter Syndrome before it Happens: Part 1

LOS ANGELES - FEB 22: Oscar statue in the press room at the Osca

After working as an actress for 20 years, Jodie Foster won her first Academy Award for Best Actress in I988.

In a 1999 interview with Charlie Rose, Jodie Foster explained how she felt after winning the Academy Award: “I thought it was a fluke …the same way when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.'”

Imposter Syndrome is a terrible, anxiety-crippling belief that sooner or later, “people” are going to find out that any achievement you have earned happened by chance.

Not your experience, knowledge or skills.

Just pure luck and timing.

Or, in the case of Foster, that after 20 years of acting experience, her winning was a”fluke.”

First coined in1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, Imposter Syndrome is a self-destructive coping mechanism that manifest for everyone who has to do something beyond what they believe is their ability and thus will be exposed as a fraud.

And once everyone “knows” that you are a fraud, it will be mere seconds before you are chased out of the building by a crowd wielding torches and pitchforks. The ones Most Offended by your Mediocre Existence will have a cowbell in which they will shout Shame! Shame!

You expect tomatoes and rotten eggs and shoes to be thrown in your direction.

And that children and animals will hiss at you.

In fact, you won’t be surprised if the children and animals will be the ones throwing the shoes and eggs and tomatoes and take away your Oscar.

And to avoid this from ever happening you find yourself making sure to:

  • work 5 times harder than your colleagues, and
  • know the answer to every question that has been, is and will ever be asked about your specialisation, and
  • pretend to find things funny, interesting, amusing, fascinating, disturbing, whichever emotion and reaction that you think is the most appropriate one at the moment, and
  • play down your achievements, because ‘it was nothing”.

You will do all of this to avoid being found out that you are NOT one of them.

Remember that in 7 seconds, you are communicating your character. How is this character formed? To paraphrase Maya Angelo: You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us.

In a nutshell, your character is who you are. Many people focus on their reputation but as John Wooden said, “Your reputation is who people think you are, your character is who you really are.” When you focus on your character, you do not have to pretend. You move through life effortlessly as your wisdom and judgement provide a compass map on your journey. When you focus on your reputation, you are concerned about how other people view you. And this is where Imposter Syndrome lives: being concerned about how other people view you.

With Imposter Syndrome, the more you try to hide from your achievements and downplay your success out of fear of being “discovered” the more likely you will begin to lose your confidence and really become an Imposter. Ask yourself, how can people focus on who you are when you are worried about them finding out who you are not?

The first step is to see if you have Imposter Syndrome. Before taking the assessment, a word about the different reactions you may experience.

You may feel your body tighten and reject the score. Ask yourself, am I rejecting the score because it is true or false? 

You may feel your body relax and accept the score. Again ask yourself, am I accepting the score because it is true or false? 

You may feel nothing. Ask yourself, Do I feel nothing because it is something that I have about myself or is because I have never considered that I have Imposter Syndrome? 

The first time I took the assessment,my body tightened and I rejected the assessment. When I came back to the assessment, I relaxed and realise that I had imposter syndrome big time. The initial rejection was just a way to further avoid the need to address the situation and change. Now with that Public Service announcement click here for an assessment developed by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance.

Once you have taken the test, if you feel that you have Imposter Syndrome,here are some advice I have given to clients:

  1. When you are speaking to another person, two people can hear you.

If you say, “I can’t do this because….” then you reinforce a perception of your limitation. Instead say, I can do…”. By focusing on what you can accomplish, you promote your capability to handle the situation. Remember, you don’t have to have all of the answers at once. Just speak on what you can do, and then..

  1. Blink, don’t think

Once you speak on what you can do, then just do it. A sign of Imposter Syndrome is overthinking a situation and then either procrastinating or over preparing. If a task seems daunting, use the Pomodoro technique of working for 25 minutes with a rest period of 5 minutes. You can try the Pomodoro technique for the next point which is….

  1. List your accomplishments

Review any documents related to your professional life (such as a resume) and see if you have the following listed:

  • How many people you have managed?
  • How much money you have managed?
  • How many awards you have received?
  • How many papers you have published?
  • How many languages you can speak?
  • How many countries have you visited or lived in?
  • How many people do you have in your network? (Linked In)
  • How many times have you been on a panel or been invited to speak?
  • How many computer programs do you know?
  • How many degrees do you have?
  • How many social media sites are you active on?

Remember to focus just on the number, not the results. Once you have written out the number, put the paper away. In a future post, we will come back to it. But for now just list the numbers. And if something isn’t listed, feel free to add to you list and in the comment section.

In future posts, I will walk you through tips to handle handle Imposter Syndrome before it happens. The first tip? Let go of being concerned of how other people see you, and commit yourself to strengthening how you see yourself. 


How 2 blinks can determine your future


Chess Pawn Standing In A Spotlight That Make A Shadow Of Queen A

First impressions are the snap judgment people make during their initial contact with you. According to various theories, it is a prehistoric wiring in the brain to help us distinguish quickly if the person we are meeting is a friend or a foe.

How quick is this judgment? Depending on the research du jour, it is from 1/10 of a second to 30 seconds. The most recent research published by NYU/Harvard puts the time at 7 seconds.

Within two blinks, and before you have said anything, the following information is being registered during those 7 seconds:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Religion
  • Social standing
  • Education
  • Grooming

After the information is registered, the next steps that occur, consciously or unconsciously are:

  1. What is this person’s intention-to help or to harm?
  2. Are they trustworthy?
  3. Are they credible?

A lot of this information is rooted in an unchecked bias: beliefs held based on your experience and exposure of the world. Everyone has biases and when used properly, they keep you safe. When triggered or used improperly, you can miss amazing opportunities. So much information can happen within 2 blinks of a first encounter.

Another research conducted by Harvard indicates that it takes up to 8 subsequent encounters to change another’s person first impression of you. While this may be possible in a relationship that needs to be built professionally or within a group of shared friends, when going on a job interview, meeting with a new client or even going on a first date, a lot of pressure exists in making a positive first impression.

Here’s a not-so little secret: making a great first impression can only happen when you are confident. Not arrogant or a faux-humble, but truly secure in who you are, what you do and your greater purpose.

The cliché of “Fake it until you make it” is dangerous.

Of course, certain people are able to “fake it until they make it”, like actors, politicians and sociopaths. If you fall into one of those 3 categories, this site is not for you.

People with a high level of self-awareness can spot disingenuity immediately. They may not know why exactly they don’t trust a person, but something in their “gut” alerts them that something is not right. Remember, it can take up to 8 times for that person to change their mind. If you are in a one-shot situation, those other 8 times disappear.

Is it possible to develop a greater amount of natural charisma and confidence in an authentic way? Of course! There are endless books about the matter of how to improve your charisma and confidence. To save you time here are 2 quick tips:

  1. First get clear on your purpose, then act.

Knowing your Greater Purpose or as Simon Sinek would say, your why, activates your sense of inspiration first, your motivation second. Inspiration comes from a place of curiosity and expansion. On the other hand motivation comes from a place of lack and fear. However it is this place of lack and fear that needs to come to light and be transformed into positive action, or else it becomes desperation. And everyone can sense desperation, unless they are desperate themselves.

Inspiration pulls you forward. It’s where your dreams live.

Motivation pushes you forward. It helps makes those dreams a reality.

Inspiration is the seed. Motivation is the growth. Both are needed in making a great first impression. And the second, third, fourth and so on.

  1. Reminder, not rules

Keep in mind that 7-seconds is a powerful reminder that the first impression is really about how you see yourself. It is not an absolute that if you do this or don’t do that, you will make a great first impression. A combination of factors come into play but none of them will matter if you are running on empty.

If you feel confident, open and welcoming, the recipient will see you in that manner. And if you feel scared, closed and distant, the other person will see you in that way as well.

Instead of faking it until you make it, try believing it until you achieve it. If you believe in yourself, and inspiration is fueling that belief, others will believe in you as well. People can sense your energy and presence before entering the room. Project confidence, and the connection will happen.

Be yourself, find those who matter, and enjoy making connections wherever you go.