I’ve read quite a few articles recently about Imposter Syndrome, something that apparently many women in particular suffer from. The theory is that regardless of how successful you are, on the inside you regard yourself as something of a fraud – even though to the outside world you seem to be a high-flyer. It is rooted in low self-esteem, and it can get worse the more successful you become, and the more you mix with other talented individuals.
It’s all about comparing yourself with others and finding yourself wanting – not a pleasant place to be. Instead of being able to accept that you might, just possibly, be good at what you do, Imposter Syndrome means that you tell yourself that no matter what you achieve, those achievements are somehow fraudulent compared to those of others.
Well, I’d like to propose a different approach. How about, instead of deciding you’re successful despite your shortcomings, why not just decide to be successful and then worry about whether or not you deserve to be afterwards. In short, I’m recommending the “Fake it until you Make it” approach. Act as if you are already a winner, already on the path to success and soon enough you probably will be.
Last year I went to a masterclass on how to write a bestseller, run by The Guardian. One of the speakers was Clare Mackintosh, whose first novel “I Let You Go” hit the bestseller lists right off the bat. I’m over simplifying this, obviously, but she talked about how she’d essentially just “decided” that she was going to be a writer, quit her job and then got herself work as a freelance journalist by telling editors that she was already working as a freelance. What Clare did was to become a writer through the power of living a writer’s life, rather than wait for someone else to tell her that she was one. I found her really inspiring because of the clarity of her vision and the decisiveness of the actions she took. Also, her books are incredibly well written and definitely worth reading.
When my business partner and I set up our own communications agency, we didn’t agonise for months about whether or not we would be successful, we got stuck in and acted as though we were already there. That confidence meant that clients were able to trust that we’d deliver, right from the off and I am sure was a huge part of our ultimate success. We used to talk about it being our “field of dreams” strategy – you know, if you build it, they will come (and they did…).
I know this sounds obvious, but if you’re feeling like an imposter, try not to give in to the self-doubt. When you’re not feeling confident, try acting as though you are until you’ve developed the skills and tools you need for that confidence to be real. You’d be surprised how quickly that can happen.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that we are all of us to one extent or another playing roles that we feel are expected of us, so spend your energy making sure you’re performing with confidence instead of agonising about what others might think. It’s like wearing a dress that you secretly think is a bit too short. Style it out and nobody will know that you’re worried it’s too short, they’ll just be wowed by how fabulous you look.