Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome

Gotta love that euphemism, “in transition.” It’s the soft way of saying “out of work.” It conveys a great message – that being unemployed is a passage to some wonderful new venture. Sometimes an out-of-work business leader feels that sense of freedom and possibility. But at other times, an unemployed leader or professional feels as if he or she is on the road to nowhere. One of the pitfalls for the leader in transition is that old bugaboo, the imposter syndrome. The imposter syndrome is a common self-defeating thought pattern that bedevils many highly successful people. It’s that nasty little voice in your head that says, “You know, you really are an idiot. You may have managed to fool people so far, but any day now someone is going to expose you for the nincompoop you really are.” The imposter syndrome can undermine the effectiveness and self-confidence of leaders in prominent roles. Imagine how much more damaging it is to leaders who are in transition. You just lost your job – you must truly be a loser after all! So even in the face of a lifetime of success, such a leader can become paralyzed and demoralized by this normal but damaging thought pattern. So what can you do about it? Evaluate yourself from someone else’s perspective. Imagine you have a friend or colleague who has just lost his job. He shows you his resume, which parallels your own. Do you say to him, “Man, you are a dork! Don’t even think about getting another job – who would want to hire a dunce like you?” On the contrary, you would be impressed by his achievements and supportive of his efforts. So take the kind of language you would use with him and apply it to yourself. Seek out the company of people who admire you and believe in you. Listen to what they say and tell yourself, “These are smart people. If they think I am hot stuff, they must be right.” Stay away from people who bring you down. People who criticize you or are full of anxiety and gloom about your situation or theirs will sap your energy and enthusiasm. Remember you are not alone in feeling like an imposter. Most of the people you admire have struggled at times with these same feelings.

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