Imposter phenomenon affects up to 70% of American adults and can keep us from enjoying our success. If the feelings persist, they can prevent us from reaching our full potential. Today we talk about recognizing those feelings and discuss strategies for minimizing those emotions to keep us moving forward.
In the race to success, we're not all starting from the same place. Level the Pursuit seeks to fill in the gaps and provide accessible, bite-sized leadership lessons for anyone looking to improve their skills and prepare for the next step. whatever that might be. Welcome back, my friends, it is great to be back. You know when 2020 ended, the thought everything was going to be done. And so far, I don't know that it has been, but that's okay. Because you know what, that's how it works. Life is just gonna keep on going. And we just have to keep up. So we're back today. Hopefully, you enjoyed hearing about Dr. Eric Speight and the things that he has accomplished in the great things that he's going to do in our Air Force and beyond. But today, we're going to talk about kind of the opposite of that successful feeling. And that is the imposter phenomenon. You may have heard this as the imposter syndrome. But this is a constellation of feelings where you just feel like you don't belong, you haven't earned what you have, and you're not where you're supposed to be. So we're going to talk about that today. We're going to talk about how to recognize it in yourself. And we're going to talk about some techniques for trying to make it better. So this week, I want you to examine yourself. Do you ever feel these feelings? Do you ever feel like an imposter? If you do, we're going to talk about some ways to remind you of exactly what a badass you actually are. So what is the imposter phenomenon? Well, a couple of psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, in the 1970s first describe this phenomenon that they noticed among high achieving women. And it is a feeling where people are unable to internalize and accept the things that they've accomplished the success, they don't feel as though they've earned their position. A lot of times, they'll attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than ability. But when they fail, they absolutely think it's because they were not good enough. And a lot of times, you might feel as though people are going to unmask you, you feel like you're waiting for someone to discover that you are not as good and not as smart or you don't belong where you are. So it's a really, really difficult set of feelings. And part of kind of the the definition of feeling this way is that people often don't talk about it because they feel ashamed. They don't share these feelings and get validated and kind of work through them. And so we want to I want to talk about it today. Because it is so so so common. They have found that up to 70% of people in the country feel this way at some time. It has been previously attributed to mostly women, but it's actually been shown to experience everyone experiences it. I know I have some amazing co workers, and when this question was asked every single person raise their hand, and they are some of the most accomplished amazing, smart, dynamic, wonderful people I've ever met. And every single one of them had had that moment of feeling like, I don't belong here, I'm not good enough to be here. And that's just, that's a hard thing to deal with. So I don't know that necessarily I'm going to help you get through this so you never feel this way. But I would like to help you recognize when you are feeling this way and also be okay talking about it and working through it. Because I'll tell you right now, part of it, you can't feel this way if you are an imposter. Actual imposters don't feel this way. So if you're feeling this way, it's because you're pretty darn good. And you're where you're supposed to be. So I hope today that we can work through that a little bit. Now, it's really, really relevant right now, because we're doing all these things to try to increase our cultural and visual diversity, as well as our cognitive diversity. And it's been found that it actually affects people have minority groups or underrepresented groups in any, in any capacity a lot more than it does the majority groups. So it's really, really common, if you've ever felt like, Wow, look at all these people, I don't belong here. It may be more than your cognitive abilities, it may be more than your experience. Sometimes your cultural differences can actually make you feel separate and contribute to these feelings as well. So it's really important that we recognize that, and we understand that it's a normal thing to feel it. But also most of the time, it's not, it's not real, you are qualified, you do belong here. So we're going to talk about how to get through that. So basically, it's the feeling that you're not good enough or don't belong. And so to me, this takes two forms. You can have it professional, which is what a lot of people think about, but I actually believe that there's also a pretty strong personal component to this. So what does that look like? Well, professionally, a lot of times people are perfectionist, they feel like it's not good enough unless it's 100% perfect, which can make them very difficult to work with. They feel like they have to be Superman or Superwoman where they have to do everything without help. They have to be able to figure everything out. They have to be the one to go to. They're going to volunteer for everything. They're never going to say no. And they're going to feel like if they don't, they're not pulling their own weight or they don't deserve to be in that position. Other people feel like you have to be naturally good at stuff that you're not supposed to have to work at it, I'll tell you, for most things, a lot of people have to work at it, there's very few people that are just naturally good at everything that they do. So if you have to work at it, that's okay. Having the work ethic is half the battle anyway, right? So that feeling that you have to be naturally good at something. And if you're not, then clearly you shouldn't be here. That's a lot of people feel that way. And one of the things that people do a lot of times is downplay their success. So if you say, hey, congratulations on that promotion, Oh, I didn't really deserve that. Oh, you look really great today. Oh, you know, I just threw this together. Like that kind of feeling of whatever is recognized, whatever is good is actually just not that good. It's not that important. So from a personal standpoint, what does this look like? Well, to me, this is--this is a really personal thing to me, because I have actually felt this way. It's where you feel like things in your past or things that you've done, or just your assessment of yourself, you don't deserve to be happy, you don't deserve to have someone treat you with respect. And you can see this in a lot of relationships, you can see people that have had a bad relationship in the past, or maybe several bad relationships in the past. And they were treated in a way that made them feel less important, less valuable, you know, less pretty, whatever it is. And then you get into a good relationship. And when they try to treat you with respect, or tell you you're great, you don't believe it, you downplay it. And so you feel like you're just waiting for them to figure out that you're not as good as they think you are, and you're waiting to fall down off that pedestal in their eyes. And so I see this, as you know, I see a lot a lot with professional people. But I see this in personal relationships as well. And I personally have felt this, I felt like, I didn't deserve to have a husband as awesome as I have. And he's phenomenal. And he tells me I'm great all the time, which is really cool. But it took me a while to learn that, you know, I'm not perfect, but I'm pretty good. So he's, he's probably on the right track when he tells me that I'm good. So, you know, you have to figure this out. Because this is something that we all feel. 70% is what they say. I think it's more than that. I think every one of us has felt this at some point. Unless, Well, okay, let's be honest, there are some people that don't ever feel this way. They always feel like they're the top of the, the food chain. But most of us do feel this way sometimes. So why does this matter? I mean, to some extent, it actually can be productive, right. So at work, if you feel like you need to prove yourself, then you will, a lot of times people will work harder, they will do their best in a personal relationship. You know, if I feel like, I want to be as good as my husband thinks I am, then I'm going to try to be that person, right, I'm going to try to be a good person. So to some extent, this can actually spur you a little bit. And when we talk about imposter phenomenon, people don't really talk about that. But I see this, just like you know, if people are micromanagemers, they also give lots of guidance. So there can be a little bit of a positive spin. But the problem is, is when it becomes pathologic when you can't stop. So if you always volunteer for everything, to the point that you have no spare time, you have no bandwidth left, you have no time to recharge. If you know in personal relationships if you're always trying so hard to be something that they want you to be that you stop being who you are, you start, you try to be something that you're not, you try to please them in a way that is not natural or authentic to you. And that goes for work as well, you try to be involved in projects, that are not important to you, because you feel like you have to be part of the team. You know, you don't ask for help when you need it. Because you feel like you're supposed to be able to do everything, and it should come naturally. And you shouldn't need help. All of those things can really break you down. And over time, they can break down your morale, they can affect who you are, they can affect how you interact with people. I mean, they can really just start to pull you down from within. And that's a problem. But also, they can hamper your relationships with people. And so all of that feelings that you're having, you're going to project that onto other people, you're going to start to resent them for putting you in this position, which they didn't at all. Or maybe they did sometimes. I mean, certainly we've had bosses or coworkers that did try to get as much out of us as they could. But you know, you're an adult. So you have to choose when you say yes or no. But if you start to project that onto them, it can be very easy to resent people for for putting this on you and not recognize your own role in the situation. And even if you do recognise your role, that resentment you feel for yourself can often spill out into other relationships. So that can be a real problem in how you try to conduct yourself and eventually it can actually cause failures instead of successes. And then the final thing is, and we see this a lot in how women tend to apply for jobs they are already qualified for but men tend to apply for jobs that they believe they are qualified for. They use past experiences to show that they could do. And this is I this is extrapolating from data, I'm not going to quote any statistics for you, but it's been shown. So if you feel this way strongly, it can absolutely hamper you from pursuing opportunities and keep you from reaching your full potential. Because if you believe that you don't even deserve what you have now, the chances of you applying for that next job, and asking for that promotion, asking for that raise go down significantly, because you don't even believe you deserve what you have today. So that is a real problem. Because most of us can do more than we are doing once you get a handle on your current job. Once you once you have about 60 to 70% of what you need for the next job, you're probably ready to grow into that next job. So you have to start thinking in terms of what you've accomplished, so that you can go forward. If you can't even recognize the accomplishments you have now, it makes it much, much harder for you to start looking for that next step. So what can we do about it? Well, we have to recognize a few things. So societal pressures can really add to the problem. And we see this in a lot of different ways. We see this in the people we interact with, we really see it in social media. This can contribute both professionally and personally. People never post their demotions, they never post that they get reprimanded, they rarely post breakups, unless it's to say bad things about their ex. But everybody posts their promotions and their raises and the new car they bought and their new spouse and their new girlfriend or boyfriend or you know, the the sweet, pajama pictures at Christmas. Social media is not an accurate depiction of most people's lives, it is the best of their lives that they want to share. And there's nothing wrong with sharing your high points. That's amazing. You know, it's nice, I love being able to see the high points of my friends lives, especially since right now I don't get to see them. But when all you see is that and your life is really freaking hard, it can be really hard to recognize that this is just a little smattering of their experiences and not their whole experience. And probably, their experience is pretty similar to your own. So you can't let the things that you see from the outside pressure you into feeling a particular way. But if you start to feel that way, there are a few things that you can do to make it better. And so I really want you to think about these because they're super important. So the first thing is, make a list. Catalog your accomplishments, your qualifications, the good things you've done, personally, professionally, you know, if you're a great spouse, if you're a great parent, all of those things go into it, because they all take your energy, they all take your bandwidth, they always take all take, you know, psychological support to manage. And so they all contribute. But look also at your professional qualifications. How did you get here? What jobs have you had? If you look at all of that, you're gonna see a progression in most cases, very few people who've had these feelings just showed up one day and got the job. Most people have had to work to where they are. And again, as I said before, people who are actually imposters don't feel this way. If you feel this way, occasionally, it's because you care so much about doing a good job that you are starting to doubt yourself because you want to give your all it's not because you don't belong to be there. But it's because you it's important to you and you recognize the gravity and the responsibility of your current position. So that's actually a good thing if you feel that way. Because it actually means that you're stretching yourself a little bit, which is good. So catalogue those things. And then sometimes it's actually okay to compare. Now I just said social media is not good. But sometimes it's okay to compare yourself with other people. And by that, I mean, look at other people doing the same job that you are, look at their accomplishments. Now, you're gonna always have that one person who's done freaking everything, my husband, his record, he's, he's a badass, like,if you look at us side by side, there's no way we should be the same rank and stuff. He's amazing. But there's always gonna be that person. But there are also lots of people that have a few less things in you, or just about the same things as you, and they're doing the same job and they're doing it well. And so you can see that that progression that you've had is appropriate. So compare yourself to the people in your job and see if you're doing the same things. Are you running your team the same way? Are you accomplishing the same things? If you are, then that's awesome. So you know that it's not just you; that this is where you're supposed to be-- this is appropriate. If you're not, that's still really helpful, because sometimes we actually do have deficits in our experience or in our knowledge. And so sometimes that can just show us okay, this person is doing this really, really well and they have this experience. Maybe when I get a chance, if I can get some of that experience as well. I can up my game in that area. So that's actually a good thing because it can show you objectively where you might actually have some areas for improvement. And that's, I mean, we all want to get better. So that's not a bad thing if you find those. The next thing is talk to your mentor, someone who knows what's going on, in general, family is not necessarily helpful with us, because you'll have people in your family that are, you know, unquestionably in your corner who are always going to tell you that, you know, you're the best one, you're special, you're the, you know, the special snowflake. And it's no one is can compare. And that's obviously that's not going to be true. In most cases, like, usually, you're going to be right on on board.You want someone who knows, who cares about you enough to understand that you're having a difficult time, but also knows enough about your field and your experience and your career to give you objective feedback. And to tell you, yes, you can do better here. But here are all the places you're doing well, and here's the progression you're on. And yes, you might be a little bit behind in this area, but you are just totally kicking butt in this area. And that's where we are. So you need someone that has that frame of reference. But you do want it to be someone who cares enough about you to recognize that this is an emotional thing, this isn't a factual thing. So although facts will help, they also have to respect your emotion. So going to someone who's, you know, a very smart person in your field, but doesn't particularly care about you, well if you're someone that can dig, you know, no emotion, just like just the facts, then that might help you. But if you're someone that needs to be vulnerable now, and then you might want to go with someone that's going to be a little bit more understanding of the feelings that you're going through. The next thing is cut yourself some slack. Whether you are the most qualified person in the room, or the least, it's alright. You're human. And even if you're totally hard charging, high speed, low drag, crushing it, having these feelings is normal people have them, they're feelings, it's fine. So cut yourself some slack. Recognize if you have made some mistakes, and sometimes these feelings can really flare up. If you have a mistake or a bad outcome, you have a bad outcome. And you immediately start catastrophizing that Yeah, I shouldn't have been here to begin with, they shouldn't give me this responsibility. I'm not good enough to do this job. Stop. It's okay. Everybody makes mistakes. You wouldn't be there if you if someone didn't believe that you could. So cut yourself some slack, step back, get some perspective, and recognize that we're all human. None of us are perfect. So we're all doing the best we can. And then from there, you need to reframe the setback. So why did it happen? We've talked about reframing setback. So go back and listen to that episode, if you if you want more detail on that, but look at why it happened. And then look at the repercussions. What can you do now to mitigate? And what can you do moving forward to make sure that you turn this into a lesson that makes you better? We all have them. I honestly wouldn't want to work with, for, or have someone below me who hadn't made mistakes, and a lot of them and then had to learn from them. Because people you learn your best lessons when you make a mistake. I mean, it's not fun, let's let's be honest. But that's where you learn the lessons that really stick and on. Honestly, I believe that's where empathy and compassion come from is being in those situations, because it's really easy to have no sympathy for people when they're making mistakes you've ever made. But when you see the pain that someone goes through from a mistake, that's similar to something you've experienced, it is much easier to have compassion, empathy. And I think those are just totally important qualities for a leader. So reframe it, turn it into a lesson and then move forward. And then visualize success. Yeah, there's a ton of stuff on visualization. If you haven't thought about it, think about it, look into it, because it's really cool. I mean, you can do it, you can improve your free throw form by visualizing free throws, and then going out and shooting you can you can improve your public speaking skills by visualizing what you're going to say anything, there's, it's so positive. So visualize yourself as successful. Visualize yourself as the boss or whatever position that you want to go in, or just visually visualize yourself. Say that three times fast. Going through the whatever projects, whatever aspects of your job caused you the most stress or the most anxiety, visualize those several times going perfectly before you go in. You know, there's a technique where if you have stress with someone, if you have a bad relationship with someone, or you're really worried about interacting with them, where you can visualize them being your closest friend, visualize hanging out with them and, and having a really close relationship before you have to interact with them. And it will take away the anxiety you feel before you have to go interact with them, which is really positive. Because if you walk into that interaction with a positive, warm, fuzzy feeling, you're going to start that interaction off on a much better foot. You can do the same thing with your job. If you have aspects that are stressful for you, visualize them going perfectly the night before the morning, and then go in there with confidence and it will go so much better. The next thing you can consider is getting a coach or a counselor. So depending on you and kind of how these feelings are manifesting, you may want a professional or executive coach who can help you work through these feelings at work, or even at home. But if these feelings are really taking you down, if you're having a lot of depression, associated with them a lot of anxiety associated with them, if they're actually impacting your day such that you can't function, you probably need to consider talking to a counselor or a mental health professional. Either way, and this is kind of a continuum of people to talk to, to help you work through it. And you may have to experiment with that to find out what works best for you. But it's totally normal to need to work this out with somebody, we all do. I mean, I personally believe that everyone can have a coach, I think that it's a really, really useful interaction, you can and once you study a little bit, you can coach yourself, it's not the same. But it does help to kind of talk through some of these things. But get someone to talk to you if you feel like it's impacting you enough, that you're not able to reach your potential. Because all of these things point to the fact that you have potential, you have dedication, you have ambition, you want to do well. So get someone to help you work through it so that you're not being held back by these feelings. And the final thing is, don't pass it on. A lot of people who feel like imposters grew up in families or had relationships that really gave them all or nothing messages, they were all good or all bad in kind of praise, a lot of times is praising achievement, you're like you're a good kid, because you got an A; not great job for working hard, or you're very smart, I'm proud of you, hey, by the way, also you got an A. And so you can you can do that in relationships, if people are only if you only praise them, or you only love them, because they do things a certain way or because they produce a certain outcome, it can create the feeling that people's worth is contingent on on those accomplishments and those achievements. And that can be really detrimental to how people hear criticism and how they hear praise. And it can create those fraudulent feelings. So with your children, with your spouse, your significant other with your friends, you know, really try to praise the qualities of the person, praise the effort and avoid those all or nothing evaluations because those can really contribute to the fraudulent feelings. And kind of feeling as though they don't deserve the praise when they get it. So I'm not going to getting into the whole parenting and Relationship Advice like that. That's like, way more way beyond the scope of, you know, a 30 minute podcast, but just understand that it's so common. And we can inadvertently create those feelings and the people that we love. So be cognizant of how you praise and how you criticize the people in your life. Because as hard as you may struggle with this, you can actually create those feelings in other people. And obviously, you know how it feels. So you don't want to make someone you love feel that way. So over the next week, I'd like to challenge you to notice, if you feel like an imposter at any point in your life, recognizing and naming those feelings is the first step just even seeing if they're there and being able to quantify them. Now, if you're not that is awesome. I'm so glad. But maybe you need to challenge yourself a little bit more. I'm not saying that you need to feel this way. But I will say if you don't ever feel this way, are you being challenged in your life. But if you are, try some of the strategies to reframe your thinking. Touch base with a mentor. Spend some time visualizing what success means to you. Or just make a list of what a badass you are. Remember, you can only feel like an imposter if you're not one. So recognize your greatness and keep moving forward. So that's been our discussion of the imposter phenomenon. I hope you enjoyed the discussion and you learned something today. If you did, please give it a LIKE, SUBSCRIBE or share it with a friend. If you didn't please drop me a note with what I can do better. Next time we're going to talk about ending a relationship. This could be a personal relationship or professional relationship. But there are things you can do to recognize when it's time and then do the best thing you can to make sure that everyone leaves on a pretty good note and you close the door in a positive way to keep moving forward. This week, think about imposter phenomenon in your own life. If you're feeling it, make a list of the greatness that you've accomplished and then visualize all the great things you're going to do as you move forward. Then go over to www.levelthepursuit.com and share your insights and your successes. I can't wait to learn from your thoughts. Thanks again for joining level the pursuit. Well, we can't choose where we start. We can choose our dreams and how we pursue them. Remember, success is a team sport and there's room for all of us to achieve our goals. So be a good leader. Be a good follower and do something great.