Is Your Impostor Syndrome Stopping You From Becoming a Leader?

Is Your Impostor Syndrome Stopping You From Becoming a Leader?

It’s a sad truth that many of us have been conditioned to play it small and stay safe in our careers and our lives.

People can encourage us to be grateful and not try to accomplish too much for fear of risking what we have.

This is not right – Everyone has potential that deserves to be nurtured. Part of the battle is recognising what is holding us back.

Outside Factors That Keep Us Down

Family – With the best intentions, families what to protect us, and so see us going for our dreams as perhaps wanting too much. As long as we have a steady income and can pay the bills, get one nice holiday a year and buy the kids some nice presents at Christmas, that should be enough.

Friends – Friends may have similar motivations to want to protect you from your own ambitious dreams for fear you may lose the stability that comes with permanent employment. But don’t be fooled – They may have their own hidden agenda too. As much as we love them, friends may want you to stay at their level so they don’t have to confront the spectres of their own forgotten desires. If you’re not achieving great things, the pressure is off for them as well.

Bosses – Everyone has had a nasty boss, and hopefully everyone has had at least one good boss to counteract the negativity of a bad one. Bad bosses want you to feel average because:

1) they don’t want you to take their job

2) they want you to stay put and do your work.

Internal Factors

Your Own Inner Voice – That pernicious pest that whispers to you day and night that you’re not good enough, pretty enough or intelligent enough. It implores you not to try. It berates you every time you step closer to an improved you – No-one is interested in what you’ve got to say or think, Why would you think you even have a chance at starting a business? What do you even know anyway?

Your Upbringing – Self-doubt may be a hangover from childhood, being praised by parents for being top of the class and feeling as though you need to continue to be the best. Maybe your family doted on you and you keep needing to prove their opinion of you. Perhaps it was the other way round – A teacher made you feel bad and you spend your adult life looking for external validation.

Your Personality – Some people are just neurotics by nature and worry about every little thing. Did you know that when something bad happens, neurotics feel this more than other personality types?

When your thoughts start to echo the following, you know you’re in trouble:

“If I try, I might fail. Best not to try”

“I only got promoted because I was lucky”

“One day they will see me for what I really am, hopeless, talentless and not clever”

These are signs, not simply of self-doubt, which is crippling enough, but of impostor syndrome.

“Imposter Syndrome” was a term invented in 1978 by Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. It is characterised by feelings of doubt, being a fraud, perfectionism and fears of failure.

Dr Valerie Young proposed that there are five categories of sufferers:

  • The “Perfectionist” – Someone who gets upset by any criticism and doesn’t like to start things until they feel “ready”.
  • The Superwoman/Superwoman – This is your typical martyr who tries to do everything all the time – They are a hard worker in the office to try to prove their worth and in other aspects of life too.
  • The Natural Genius – You think that if you can’t do something easily and quickly, you must be inept.
  • The “Soloist” – You feel like you have to do it all under your own steam.
  • The “Expert” – You feel you have to know everything about a topic before you begin. Your coping mechanism is to sign up for more and more training so you can feel you know enough, which never happens.

Many successful people have fallen victim to this condition – More than half of female leaders regularly feel it according to a study by Heriot-Watt University and the School for CEOs.

Even celebrities you wouldn’t expect: Maya Angelou, Meryl Streep, Sheryl Sandberg and even Michelle Obama. It’s not just women who experience it either.

Having impostor syndrome doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re talking about or that you’re incompetent. It just means you have a hard time believing your success is real. You become dismissive of compliments, thinking “If only they knew!” and you write your successes off as a fluke.

The saddest part about imposter syndrome and chronic self-doubt

The worst part is that not that people have these feelings of inferiority, it’s that they let it stop them from living an amazing life. They stay where they feel they should be and silence their true ambitions.

What can you learn?

It’s not just you – Many people feel incompetent, inept, not prepared. And many of these people are running successful businesses and win awards.

You’ll never be ready – You’ll never know everything in the universe so accept the things you don’t know. The best bosses don’t understand how to do everything – They just delegate to the people who do! Stop taking courses until you really need to have that skill. You’re a work in progress, and that’s okay.

Entrepreneur and business guru Denise Duffield Thomas writes in her guide “The Chillpreneur”:

“The way I’ve overcome this particular fear is to forgive myself for not knowing everything, while at the same time realizing that what I do know can really help people. Being in business is simply sharing your gifts (knowledge and expertise) with others who don’t have them. Your experiences are valuable; your opinions are useful; and someone out there needs what you have.”

Failure isn’t a bad thing – Yes it feels terrible to get something wrong. But the alternative is staying in your safe zone and never learning to fly in case you might fall. Take comfort in this quote from Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

To reiterate that message for a more contemporary audience is Michael Jordan:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

So, you see, failure is a more common outcome than a win – But the failure helps you locate the right answer. Failure is your friend. Embrace it.

Finally, this one is important!

Speak kindly to yourself. Imagine you are your own child – There is a little child version of us deep inside every person who needs a cuddle and to be told they’re wonderful. Every time you speak badly to yourself, imagine you are saying it to a small child and change your tone.

Sometimes we suffer because we need the certainty to know we are good enough and we want to see categoric proof. That just doesn’t exist. You must know plenty of people who are incompetent and in positions of authority – Maybe even that bad boss! But they seem okay with that. If the worst thing that happens is you get a promotion before you’re ready, learn as much as you need to and be thankful! No-one else really cares.

To all the imposters

If you’re on the fence about whether to begin your dream care business because you feel like a fraud or you’re just not ready, then we say:

We want to hear from you. We accept imposters here. We have some already and they’re doing a great job, you’d never realise!

We offer support and training to help you get to where you need to be with our comprehensive care package and our support team will hold your hand. We ask for:

  • People who care about social care
  • People who work hard
  • People hungry for success

If you can tick these boxes, then let us worry about the rest.

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