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Dealing with Imposter's Syndrome

A lot of professionals deal with Imposters’ syndrome at work. They feel like an imposter at work. They feel they are inadequate despite their proven professional success.

In fact, these feelings are called as a syndrome, because they originate from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraud, to the point that they override any external proof, or feelings of success and competence. The people suffering from the imposters’ syndrome are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Usually these people are highly accomplished, and highly successful, so this is not the regular lack of self-confidence or self-esteem.

For instance, here is what we got from one of our regular readers:

"Everytime I am assigned a new project; I have cold feet. I wonder if I would be able to take it to its logical conclusion, or lead my team effectively without a lot of hiccups? I feel like I am being trusted for abilities I do not have, being asked to lead a team I do not deserve to lead. I feel like I'm an imposter, who isn't really deserving of this opportunity.

Of course I do not discuss this with many people. I am also aware that a lot of young leaders / leaders-in-making face the imposter's syndrome often. However, I wonder if all senior, seasoned leaders face the same as well? Do they have the same kind of goosebumps when planning a new M&A? Also, what can I do to ensure that I do not feel like this?"

Here's the response:

First off, yes, imposter's syndrome is common. It happens with a lot of people. A lot of people feel incompetent when they are growing. Including some of the world-known leaders. They have similar, if not the same intensity of goosebumps. Their stakes are higher, and so is the importance of the decisions they take, the way they negotiate, the way they lead.

However, the more important consideration should be to understand what is in the root of the imposter's syndrome. What is it that makes you feel undeserving? Is it some sort of fear, some sort of insecurity, a memory of past failures, something experience of humiliation where you took up something and couldn’t achieve it, or perhaps an experience where someone else pointed out your inability to get something done?



Like it or not, most likely it’s something silly. However, you’re right it’s NOT the truth.

You were hired for this role, you have proven expertise in your skills, you did not fake your CV. So, unless you lied in the interview, unless you forged your documents, you’re not an imposter.

You might be in a new place, around new people, or simply taking plunge into a larger project than ever before. However, that doesn’t mean you’re not ready for it. Afraid of failure, perhaps.

So, here’s a simple 7 step process that you might find useful in dealing with your Imposter’s Syndrome:

1. Imagine the worst scenario that can happen. List down all your fears in detail

2. Now put it aside, and list down everything you need to do to execute this project, or task, or job successfully.

3. Now list down the resources you already have.

4. List down the things that your team will provide you.

5. Imagine all possible things that can go wrong.

6. Plan for all these contingencies.

7. Now compare all your fears with what you’ve listed in points 2 – 6.

8. Bonus Step – Write the name of your mentor, coach, or the go-to manager who will help you manage if the whole project gets blown.

Do you still feel like an imposter? If yes, then you probably are!