Don’t Know What You’re Doing? You Know More Than You Think

UPDATED: November 24, 2014
PUBLISHED: November 24, 2014

Like everyone, you face numerous moments of self-doubt in life. You’re keenly aware of how much you really don’t know. You’re surprised when people consider you an expert because you don’t feel confident in your expertise. You think it is circumstance that you got your promotion or title, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. Maybe you live in constant fear of being uncovered as a talentless and unintelligent fraud.

If you agree with anything I just said, you should now breathe a heavy sigh of relief. Because these feelings prove that you do deserve your position, and are in fact, the best person for the job. Self-doubt is so common in high-achievers and leaders that the feeling was coined the Imposter Syndrome by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. But you’re not an imposter!

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The Imposter Syndrome is the inability to internalize one’s accomplishments and the rejection of any praise one receives. Psychologists have not classified it as a mental disorder, nor have they linked it to specific personality types. Yet it is believed that the syndrome is a reaction to a certain situation, and at times can be a reflection of one’s self-esteem.

Recent studies say that almost everyone has fallen victim to this vicious form of self-doubt at least once in their lives. It is particularly common in high-achieving women and people of color. When society consistently tells you that you are inferior in one way or another, it is difficult to view yourself as anything else.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
It’s important to let go of this fear and doubt so you can rise up to any challenge and create a path for your followers, leading them with sincerity and determination. Below are four concepts you must understand to overcome the syndrome once and for all:

1. Awareness: This is the first step to recovery. When you understand that these feelings are not coming from a place of doubt but in fact are the byproduct of your achievements, you can learn to accept your position of authority and leadership.

2. Internalization: You are not separate from your accomplishments. It isn’t somebody else’s work that you are credited for—it’s yours. Accept that you did everything that needed to be done in order to get you to your current position. It’s not a crime to receive a compliment and feel good about it. You deserve the praise, so own it!

3. Imperfection: Focus on the value you are adding to your team, to your surroundings and to your workplace in general. Stop trying to attain perfection, because that is how you lower your own self-worth. Imperfection is inherent to every leader and every human being. Accepting this doesn’t mean setting the bar low; it just means setting realistic expectations and welcoming the accolades you receive while striving for more next time.

4. Aspiration: When one feels that they don’t deserve their position, they may start to avoid situations in which they fear being exposed as an imposter, or of not knowing what they’re doing. Don’t let this irrational fear keep you from unlocking your true potential. Always aspire for more, and take on challenges. This will keep your fears at bay, and you will see that you are capable of so much more than you thought.

You are a leader, that’s why you’re here. Don’t you forget it.

Learn more about how to erase self-limiting beliefs, how to break out of your can’t-do mindset to achieve big goals.

Simon T. Bailey

Simon T. Bailey is an international speaker, writer and personal transformation strategist. He is the author of Shift Your Brilliance: Harness the Power of You, Inc., and Be the SPARK: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life. When he’s not working, he enjoys rooting for the Buffalo Bills (his hometown team).