Impostor syndrome is a ghost in everyone's closet but it doesn't have to be as scary as it may seem.
Here's how I leverage impostor syndrome to my advantage.
Once you get this dialed in, you'll be virtually unstoppable.
Here's the blueprint that turns impostor syndrome into one of your strongest assets.
Everybody's Got It
You're not the only one… at all. Even Albert Einstein, towards the end of his life, has been quoted saying…
The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.
– Albert Einstein
Maya Angelou once said…
I have written 11 books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody and they're going to find me out.”
– Maya Angelou
It's Just Born There
Everybody struggles with impostor syndrome because it's baked into how we think. Just like the creamy filling in the middle of a Twinkie – It's just born there.
The fear of social humiliation is something everyone is afraid of.
The Chapman University Survey of American Fears found that the #1 fear was the fear of public speaking followed by heights and bugs. Surprisingly, death didn't even make the top 10.
The thing that makes people afraid of public speaking is the same thing that drives impostor syndrome. Nobody wants to be embarrassed or humiliated in public. Basically, impostor syndrome is a form of social anxiety. (I'm not a doctor. I'm just making an observation.)
Impostor Syndrome Just Means You're A Decent Person
I'm drawing a strong distinction between actual impostors and the rest of us struggling through impostor syndrome. If you struggle with impostor syndrome it really just means that you recognize that there's room to grow.
When do you ever meet someone who believes:
- I am the perfect person
- I'm always far above the top of my game
- There is nothing new for me to learn
- No one is better than I am
- I know all of the things
- I hit grand slams on every pitch
- My only problem is that my wallet is too small to hold all my $20s
I've never met anyone who truly believes those things about themselves. If I did, we wouldn't be friends.
Realizing you're not alone and that even Einstein and Maya Angelou struggle with impostor syndrome is a good first step. But let's get practical with some actionable things you can do so that impostor syndrome doesn't stand in your way of loving and serving other people.
Giving vs. Taking
Humility – or being humble – doesn't mean you insult yourself, criticize yourself, or think bad things about yourself. It just means you're not thinking about yourself at all. Instead, you're thinking about the other person. In other words, it's fine (and correct) to believe that you're good at something while also remaining humble.
One of the most powerful “life hacks” I've ever discovered is the peace and freedom that comes from focusing on how you can love and serve other people rather than trying to get other people to love you. Giving love is awesome, freeing, and brings peace and confidence. Taking love – or trying to earn love – is very stressful and is a great way to boost your anxiety.
I constantly find myself in situations where I need to perform at a very high level – or at least that's how it feels as I'm a heavy-duty introvert. Whether it's giving a presentation, performing a song, or just entering into a social situation. If I start to feel anxious or nervous it is always because my mind shifts into “earning love” mode. I think that I want to do a good job – no mistakes – and if I pull it off then people will like me. But this is that me-centered mentality that leads to stress and anxiety.
When I shift my mindset so that I'm thinking about what I can do to share, love, and serve the people in my life the very best I can – even if they don't reciprocate – it is an instant off switch for anxiety. I'm not trying to earn people's love. I'm loving them unconditionally – whether they like it or not ?.
The counter-intuitive and ironic result is that you receive a LOT more love when you're not trying to earn it.
Mentors vs Competitors
There is a healthy and unhealthy way to compare yourself to other people. The unhealthy way tends to be what we all do.
The unhealthy way is to compare yourself to other people by looking at all the stuff they have that you don't have. Then you go off feeling bad about yourself and you meditate on all your inadequacies. This is the competitive approach. You'll always find people better than you and, if you're not careful, you'll wind up beating yourself up.
The healthy way to compare yourself to other people is to find people that you already know are better than you in some area of your life. Rather than viewing them as a competitor, view them as a mentor. Understand that you probably can't get from where you are now to where they are in one giant leap, but you can follow in their footsteps making incremental improvements over time.
Once you find a mentor you admire, or once you set a goal you'd like to achieve, isolate one thing that you could actually do that would get you one step closer to that goal. Then go and do that one thing. If you succeed, GREAT! If you don't succeed then shorten the distance for that step by breaking the step down into smaller pieces. Then do the smaller thing.
Constantly ask yourself, “What is a reasonable, incremental thing that I can do to take a step in the right direction?”
Incremental improvement is virtually unstoppable.
Recognize and reward yourself for each step.
The Blueprint For Success
Maybe you're feeling some impostor syndrome because you've never had a client that had major success directly because of you. So you think…
I wish I had a client who could say that I added $100k to their business.
Break that down into steps.
If you DID have a client like this, what would be ONE thing you would be doing for them?
You might come up with a list of things like:
- Email marketing (list building and drip campaigns)
- Improving your copywriting skills
- Building and running funnels
Pluck off one of the things to focus on first – maybe it's building an email list.
Break that down into incremental steps like:
- Learn how to make an email opt-in form with MailerLite
- Learn how to run automations in MailerLite
- Develop a lead magnet to drive the opt-ins
- Be a guest on various podcasts to drive traffic to the lead magnet
You may find that you need to break some of the steps down even further as you learn how to make compelling lead magnets or how to become a guest on someone's podcast.
Once you feel confident about ONE of the things you'd do for this successful client you can immediately onboard a client just for this one thing.
For example, find a client who needs help building an email list and nurturing their leads.
Repeat this process with each item on your list.
You'll be making incremental improvements consistently.
That is how you convert impostor syndrome into a blueprint for success!