Hello climbers, thank you for joining me on Episode 2 of the Climb Every Day podcast. Where we help you amplify your impact by teaching you how to take steps each and every day that you can use to climb in your life.
This episode is about helping you understand impostor syndrome. I want you to know how you can recognize it in yourself. Then, if you do see it in yourself, how you can start to take steps to move beyond it. Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Where did this all come from? The term impostor phenomenon was introduced in 1978 in the article “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention” by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes. Clance and Imes defined impostor phenomenon as an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness (fraud).
Key Indicators of Imposter Syndrome are:
- Despite external evidence of their competence
- Those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.
- Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.
I’ve learned all this after the fact, of course. A few years ago, I hadn’t even heard of impostor syndrome. Everyone had at least heard of low self-esteem or self-doubt, but to, that wasn’t exactly what I was struggling with. At the worst of my experience with imposter syndrome, I worked for a very prestigious company. I really enjoyed the people that I worked with a great deal. It was a technology company, actually a Forbes top 50 technology company.
I had somewhat back-doored my way into the job, which didn’t help matters. In other words, I was originally hired to because of my public speaking background. I was hired to evangelize the products that this company sold by giving 1: many presentations. There would be 50 100 or 200 people in the audience. That was an environment in which I was very comfortable. Sure, I had to learn the products themselves and be able to answer questions about them, however, because I was more of a generalist I wasn’t required to know the products at a deeply-technical level.
However, over time, the role I was in changed quite dramatically. If I wanted to continue working and getting paid (which I did), I needed to adapt my skill set. That in itself is not a terrible ask from a company. Companies will evolve. Companies need to evolve. It’s just, the humans being asked to do the evolving may not always be in the right frame of mind to keep up. Because of these changes, my job became more and more technically complex.
For example, originally when I was hired the software would be updated every 2 to 3 years. By the time I left the corporate world, the software had shifted from being updated on a yearly basis, to being updated on a quarterly basis, and then it became a monthly basis. Additionally, the products themselves needed to get more highly-complex to meet customer needs. And lastly, those of us in my particular role were continuously pressured by the organization to get a deeper technical understanding of the products.
The challenge within
All that proved to be significantly challenging for myself. Additionally, I was holding myself back mentally by letting my lack of a college education work against me. Instead of telling myself, “Okay, you didn’t go to college. So what? Everyone around you did, so congratulations. Look at you! Being able to keep up with these fine people in spite of your not having a college degree.”
Instead, I was caught in a loop of looking at it from the most negative way possible. I was thinking negative thoughts on a routine basis such as, “Everyone here has a college degree and you don’t, which means you’re not as good as they are. You aren’t as smart in business as they are. You aren’t as technically astute as they are. If your secret ever got found out you would be exposed, you would be humiliated, and people would start to hesitate to work with you.”
So I started feeling like a fraud. I felt like an impostor. I felt like I was in a job that I didn’t have the skills in order to be able to do competently. Even more telling that I was suffering from Imposter Syndrome or my new favorite word, Imposterism, is that ironically I was actually quite good at my job. I was very confident in front of my customers. I am comfortable telling relevant stories and tell them in a way that helps the customers understand exactly how we could solve their business challenges. Some of my technical peers were not as good at that aspect. However, I didn’t think about their negatives, only my own.
That’s how my acquaintance with Imposter Syndrome, Imposter Experience, or Imposterism first began.
Make sure to listen to Episode 3 of the Climb Every Day Podcast to hear Part II of the “What is Imposter Syndrome” conversation. In Part II, we’ll discuss the traits to look for in your own life. We spend quite some time covering what steps you can take to ensure you will start to overcome your Imposter Syndrome and live the amazing life you were meant to live.