More accurately, I’m recovering from impostor syndrome. I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering if I could be in the same circles as real leaders, teachers, directors (fill in the blank). Over time, I’ve learned to look at my achievements more than listen to my inner doubts, and now, finally, most of the time I do see the accomplishments and my skills made them. It wasn’t luck, it wasn’t someone being nice, it was me.
Most of the time I tune in to one station, “WYES” and I crank the volume. But every once in a while, static drowns out the signal until a whiny, tinny voice from WBLA comes in across the airwaves. Seems like the owners of “WBLA” have endless free ads for “How to start stalling and comparing yourself to others!” “How to lose friends and influence nobody!” “Take our free 90-day course and learn new ways to feel inferior to nationally recognized people as well as those around you!”
But as I say, I’m recovering from impostor syndrome and that station doesn’t break through very often.
A lot of women talk about having impostor syndrome, a term originally called impostor phenomenon, which according to the two who coined the phrase, psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, never intended for it to be a phrase reserved for women. They’re actual psychologists with a degree that I don’t have, so who am I to say whether it’s a woman thing or not? As a non-psychologist, I’m just recovering from impostor syndrome, or phenomenon, or whatever.
But seriously, women are good at feeling like impostors. When I developed a training program for women called the Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact, I worked with talented, ambitious, hopeful, generous, smart and articulate women. For five years I led that program and met hundreds of women. Almost all of them said that currently or at one point in their lives, they doubted whether they belonged. As women met the other women in their learning cohort within the leadership institute, they felt extremely humbled and wondered why they were chosen. Everyone looked out and saw talented, ambitious and smart women, yet when they looked at themselves they wondered what they had to offer.
Like a trick mirror, they could see clearly the amazingness of people on the other side but they couldn’t see the same qualities in themselves.
What is it with us women?!
Here’s another secret. Men feel this way too. In another post, I’ll explore some of the ways men deal with impostor syndrome. They might not express it, they might get over it differently but we women, we’re good at talking and sharing, so we dig into it.
There’s a paradox here. Since one of our strengths as women is that we talk and share, impostor syndrome is more often known as a women’s thing.
Psychologists Clance and Imes never asserted that impostor phenomenon was unique to women, but because women are given to sharing and connecting, “women and impostor syndrome” have become linguistically linked like, well, handcuffs.
The Glass Almost Full news is that because one of our strengths is expressive communication, we have the very skills to get over it. The more we talk about it and bring it into the open, the more we deal with feelings of self-doubt, and move on. Research shows that 70% percent of all people and two out of five highly accomplished people experience the impostor phenomenon. That’s a lot of people! There are a lot of us out there and we better get started working it out together!
We all get by with a little faking it. We all act the part until our confidence catches up to our competence.
As a recovering impostor syndrome sufferer, I have two goals.
One is to show you how to crank the volume on your “go for it” voice and take the leap toward what you want to be.
My other goal is to show you how to take others with you, to lead for the greater good. By learning both, you’ll be better off and we’ll be better off for your gutsiness.