Years ago, I worked with a woman who, unbeknownst to me at the time, struggled with imposter syndrome. She had the top job. This woman was sharp, poised, and imminently qualified for the role. She was also the first Black woman to hold the position. She was a visionary and knew how to innovate. Simply put, she was the right person at the right time. Imposter syndrome can be debilitating. To claim power over it, we must keep talking about imposter syndrome. To help each other, we must keep getting real about feeling fake.
This woman and I developed a relationship, and she eventually became one of my mentors. She would later share how, upon taking the role, she was initially hesitant about decision making. Despite experience and know how, she second guessed herself and often took a “lead by committee” approach to diffuse responsibility in case of negative fallout. She felt out of sorts and didn’t understand the self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety she was experiencing. To ensure she wasn’t losing it, she started sharing with trusted friends. She also started talk therapy as a coping mechanism. This eventually helped her reconnect to self and recapture the courage that brought her to that point in her career. Their work helped her name her struggle and work to overcome it.
In life and in the workplace, belonging is a psychological need we all have. Feeling accepted and developing affinity with others fosters a sense of security and sends the message that you are welcomed and valued. A key characteristic of imposter syndrome is feeling disconnected and alone. This can lead to questioning your ability or judgement, negative self-criticism, and substantial decline in one’s confidence.
Limiting beliefs & habits have a chilling effect on individual potential. They block you from trusting your instincts and inner wisdom. The key takeaway is that you, belong wherever you are. Getting there was likely a journey of hard work, preparation, planning and God. You, and what you bring, are not a fluke!
Another pervasive characteristic of imposter syndrome is adjusting how you show up and engage. Over the course of a career, you’ve likely been told, explicitly or implicitly, either “you’re too much” or “you’re not enough.” It’s easy to pick-up and assimilate this harmful messaging. This often leads one to abandoning their style, finesse, and uniqueness in favor of modeling themselves after others.
While taking steps to let limiting beliefs go, you should also be letting go of your perception of self as seen through the eyes of others. This takes work. Specifically, the work of un-learning and releasing what can be trauma-inducing opinions of who “others” think you are and what “others” believe you capable of. Authenticity has never been more discussed or widely embraced in the modern workplace. Do you girl. He made you uniquely with the intent for you to live boldly and courageously! There’s not another you.
Taking Up Space
When grappling with imposter syndrome, there can be a tendency to play small and dim your light. Some believe doing so makes you more palatable to others. It does not. If people are for you and value what you bring to bear, they will appreciate you absolutely. That doesn’t require you dimming so others can shine.
To take up space you must get comfortable with having and expressing your viewpoint as a statement, not a question. You must also get good at having and honoring your boundaries, setting limits for how others engage with you, and knowing your worth.
You were called to live a life that is bold and courageous. Doing so requires you to take up space! That means empowering yourself to be seen and heard. Ask for what you want. Show strength. Be confident. And remember, sometimes…you simply must stunt on them! Whoever “them” is.
If you have questions about imposter syndrome or what it takes to overcome limiting beliefs, contact me here.