September 10, 2022

What I Learned from Impostor Syndrome

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I consider myself a reasonable and rational person.

With a combination of good context and supporting evidence, I can generally assess situations correctly, and with confidence.

But that has never been the case with my own accomplishments.

In my mind, my achievements were always a heaping helping of luck served with a side of great timing. I couldn’t feel grounded in the fact that my hard work had paid off.

No matter what I achieved, I couldn’t feel satisfied or that it was a result of my input. Instead, I thought - one day soon, everyone will find out it’s all BS. A fraud. A show.

In an effort to overcome my own impostor syndrome, I attempted to break down the evidence and examine it as though I was helping one of my own clients. To remove “me” from the equation.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few years:

You’re Probably More Talented Than You Think

Impostor syndrome tends to impact high-performance entrepreneurs because they struggle to express how and why they perform the way they do.

Because they can’t quite “put a finger on it”, they revert back to luck.

Following this logic, they conclude that they’re fraudulent and it’s only a matter of time until the luck runs out, and they’re exposed. It’s an unconscious refusal to assign credit appropriately.

A mental rearrangement of the facts.

As more wins and accomplishments pile up, they aren’t able to clear the cobwebs and look at their achievements for what they really are: high performance.

So, if you’re questioning your own legitimacy, write out your personal and career accomplishments and ask yourself this:

“If a stranger shared these accomplishments with me, would the logical conclusion be that they are all a stroke of luck and therefore a fraud?”

Probably not. You’re likely more talented than you think.

The Curse of Knowledge Blindness

Knowledge Blindness is when you’ve learned something and have known it for so long (and so well), that you can’t imagine other people not knowing it.

To me, this is an extremely important component of impostor syndrome.

Let me give you an example:

I signed my first coaching client in 2020. The client was a highly regarded entrepreneur in my space. When he signed the agreement, I was simultaneously excited and completely terrified.

What was I going to teach him?

I prepared for hours to make sure I was ready to have the most robust conversation in history. I had workbooks, notepads, excel sheets of information, and formulas.

I was ready.

When the meeting began, we started breaking down his business.

  • He didn’t have a marketing strategy.
  • He didn’t have any appropriate technology.
  • He wasn’t measuring his content analytics effectively.

I sat there with my mouth agape.

Needless to say, this has been a very similar story in many of my engagements. Remember that the information you’re familiar with is not always common knowledge.

You know more than you think you do.

The Stuff You Don’t Know? They Don’t Either.

I’ve been an internet entrepreneur for 3 years now, and I’m still learning new techniques, skills, technology, and processes every single day.

The amount of knowledge available to us is unlimited and growing. The systems you can install get new acronyms and get more complicated every 6 months. It’s impossible to keep up.

That’s ok.

Regardless of who you idolize, they are likely very smart and know a lot about their industry & business. But they don’t know everything.

I’ve discovered many times that when I sit down with a well-respected entrepreneur for the first time, we’re in the same boat. We’re trying to solve similar challenges, figure out complex problems, and we end up trading failures and lessons learned.

So stop worrying about what you do and don’t know, and stop believing that you should know it all.

That’s a tall order.

Instead, start thinking about how you actually approach not knowing something. Focus on curiosity, diligence, and your ability to figure things out.

Those are the things that will ultimately determine your success.

Ponder Your Accomplishments

It all comes back to the question I posed at the beginning:

"If a stranger shared these accomplishments with me, would the logical conclusion be that they are all a stroke of luck and therefore a fraud?”

Take the time to review your accomplishments and celebrate how far you have come.

Successful entrepreneurs with impostor syndrome are likely to view their businesses as luck and won’t stop to think about where they were five years prior - working for a company or struggling to get any meaningful traction.

Look back. Be good to yourself. Smile when you see the upward trajectory of your career. Make this a quarterly or bi-annual commitment to yourself.

I’m process-oriented, so heck - put a reminder in your calendar right now.

You’ll begin to see that you are truly worthy of praise and the label, “high performer”. The real deal.

The Snowball Effect

I think I finally have my impostor syndrome under control.

I believe in myself, and when I look back on my accomplishments, I feel really satisfied. I no longer believe I’m lucky or simply instinctual. Instead, I know the effort and energy I put into what I do has resulted in great wins.

The interesting thing about impostor syndrome is that when you finally beat it (or contain it), you’re able to view your own career through more of an external lens.

You start to gain confidence. You begin to truly believe that you’re destined to succeed as long as you continue to work the way you always have.

Those beliefs and that confidence snowballs together to create an unstoppable force of positive energy that helps you achieve things you never thought were possible.

That’s when you start really winning.

Impostor syndrome will always be there. Under the surface. Ready to strike.

I hope this post gives you a little ammo to handle it.

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