The Upside of Impostor Syndrome


The Impostor Syndrome self-doubt is caustic, but not catastrophic. In your journey to overcome it, don’t discount some of its positive aspects.

 One of my business coaches is a professional speaker who runs an amazing online community where he trains other speakers on the topics of presentation skills and business-building skills. The other day he told a story of his early days as a speaker when he was hired by an association as the conference keynote speaker. He said, “I knew my topic, but not their industry. I was so worried that they’d figure out I was not familiar with them, and I’d look incompetent. I decided to do a ton of research on them, and incorporate what I learned in the keynote. I found industry buzz words, statistics, and facts; I interviewed some of the executives and employees. I even showed up at the conference a day ahead of my speech to talk to the members and collect stories and comments to include in my speech. I worked so hard!

The result: The client and the audience LOVED it.

His goal was to “cover up a shortfall” which is a common Impostor Syndrome experience. The feeling of “not measuring up” or “being an outsider” plagues them. But what he saw as a shortfall was eclipsed by his creativity and persistence. In the speaking world, speakers who customize their content are loved by meeting planners. It’s something that sets them apart, makes them the darlings of audiences and clients, and keeps speakers on the cutting edge of current events (which makes them even more marketable.) What my coach thought was a shortfall was actually something that made him more successful.

People with Impostor Syndrome are successful, smart, accomplished…because of the character qualities that got them there. They’re loyal, dependable, creative and hard-working. Those are fantastic character qualities! Margie Warrell, author of the book “Stop Playing Safe” writes “The Impostor Syndrome is the domain of the high achiever; those who set the bar low are rarely its victim.” People who struggle with Impostor Syndrome usually seek excellence over mediocrity, which of course, can contribute to the intensity of the syndrome. But make no mistake: the pursuit of excellence is a noble effort and a preferred one in the professional world.

Low achievers don’t hear the voice of the impostor. High achievers do. Managers, leaders, technical experts, and people with a lot of history and experience hear it. People with few goals or aspirations don’t. People who seek personal and professional development experience it. People who accept less than their best, don’t. People who are curious experience it. People who are bored don’t.

So, take heart. If you experience Impostor Syndrome, it’s not all bad. It means you seek excellence. You have an admirable work ethic. You produce great results. You bring tremendous value.

Your goal in overcoming your impostor experience is not to change any of that. It’s to change the irrational thoughts that accompany a misinterpretation of the data that says you’re awesome, so that you can continue on the path of being awesome, WHILE ENJOYING THE JOURNEY of being awesome.

Feel great about being great. Because you are great in so many ways.

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