“I have written eleven books but each time I think…’uh oh, they are going to find me out now.’” –Maya Angelou
In just a few short months, I will take the stage at an International Women’s Conference to speak on Imposter Syndrome. If you’re not familiar, Imposter Syndrome (or Imposterism), is that nagging voice in our heads that tells us that despite our qualifications or intellect, we are not qualified. It tells us that we are where we are in life because we are “lucky” and not because we are deserving.
Until recent years, this Syndrome has remained unidentified, but I, for one, am happy to have a name for what I will admittedly self-diagnose myself as having. (I am secure enough to publicly state this because I know that I am not alone, even if others won’t admit it).
Although it is a personal journey, the root of Imposterism, for most, can be traced to societal norms, our childhoods, politics, religion, and other pathologies. Unfortunately, diving in to these truths would take an entire book. For now, as I prepare my remarks for the Conference, I’d like to share just a few thoughts on what we can all do to fight this battle.
1. Practice speaking up in meetings. I’m not just encouraging folks to speak just to hear the sound of their own voices. I’m encouraging you to share the thoughts swimming through your head as you are listening to the dialogue in your meetings. Many of us have great ideas but hesitate when it comes to placing those into words and putting them before the group. A part of building confidence in our talents is sharing them with others and tweaking our ideas. The fear that somehow we are sitting in the room although unqualified is usually irrational, and often all it takes it just one positive session of discussing your ideas to eradicate this self-doubt.
2. Frame and hang your credentials, no matter what they are. You may have a GED, a diploma, a degree or a certificate. Whatever it is, don’t just let it collect dust in an envelope. Invest in framing what you have worked so hard for. This reminder is not for others, but for you! Sometimes we need a reminder, in black and white, that we are capable and that we have every right to be in the room. Don’t have any of these yet? Frame something you are proud of that reminds you of your worth, even if it is just a quote or a scripture.
3. Finally, speak highly of yourself even if you don’t believe your words. Eventually you will come to believe every word. This takes practice as it can sometimes become so much easier to speak higher of others than yourself. Start by affirming yourself each morning and each night. Let some of your first and last thoughts each day be reminders of how incredible you are.
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