In the past few years, the focus on and conversation around imposter syndrome has grown in my network. And it’s a phrase I only hear from women. It’s gotten to a point where last Friday, over drinks with another female executive, I claimed: “I hate imposter syndrome.” And she agreed.
While at times it’s good to name the demon so you can talk about it and take it on…. it feels likes imposter syndrome keeps women stagnant. As if they can’t move forward if they don’t address it. As if there is a permanent cure for it. That at some point this feeling of not quite enough just magically goes away.
Well, if you’re learning and trying new things this sensation of not knowing “enough” will never end — and that’s a good thing! The flip side to imposter syndrome is the comfort zone, where dynamic people stay and wither.
In my career I was not “ready” to…
– Get a video news package across town and up on the satellite for national distribution … because I did not know how to hail a cab but I accepted the mission and flung up my arm like in the movies and I was off to an award-winning career as a TV news producer
– Produce a video for Coca-Cola of an event at the State Department on then Philippines’ President Corazon Aquino … but I accepted the authority my CEO put in me and duked it out with the flag protocol manager to get the best camera shot
– Discuss the accuracy of new medical illustrations with a physician specialist, especially the size and shape of the penis drawing … but I practiced the presentation (a lot) which resulted in information that helped patients learn about a new non-surgical treatment for male infertility
– Help the Army rebrand its program for severely wounded combat soldiers as I had no military connection … so I read a lot of books, got a soldier mentor, and leaned on my compassion which enabled me to have complex conversations on someone’s worst day — creating an approach and products that increased brand recognition by 35% in one year
– Design and build a communications division … but I applied what I liked and didn’t like from past personal experiences, best practices, and a dash of creativity to ultimately create 6 award-winning federal and commercial communication divisions
From all of these and other experiences I learned I was ready. I was ready “enough.” I was ready to offer something different through collaboration. I was ready to learn what happened at the “next level.” I was ready based on my knowledge, experience, creativity, passion, and grit. I was ready to move beyond fear and claim a new opportunity to apply my gifts.
Squelching imposter syndrome is about taking the pieces from various experiences and applying them together in a way that feels authentic and meets the needs of the situation. It’s about pausing to acknowledge that fear and action can co-exist. It’s about quieting down the white noise, finding the soft voice within (AKA your intuition), and boldly listening to it. It’s about saying “yes, and…” to agree with needed support or resources. It’s about accepting you are more than you think or have done — and step into an opportunity to grow.
So, to all of you wrestling with imposter syndrome, I say, put down the excuse that holds you back. Be proud of what you’ve done and seek to add to your experiences. Embrace the opportunities others think you’re ready for. Learn, leave your mark, and build your legacy as a new kind of leader.
To support your boldness, I offer up Danielle Doby’s words as it’s important to have the right kind of network to support you on your journey…
“Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers.
They challenge you, break you open, uplift and expand you.
They don’t let you play small with your life.
These heartbeats are your people.
These people are your tribe.”