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The Impostor Syndrome [Part Two]

Last week, I shared Part One of Anne's story about Impostor Syndrome. While Anne gave us the background on the Impostor Syndrome, she left us with her belief that Impostor Syndrome plays a powerful role in women holding themselves back in their careers and in life.

Anne Miner confessed to me,

"I suffered the "Impostor Syndrome" for much of my adult life. As I embraced the world of work, I often found myself in a place of fear; fear that I didn't know what I was doing, that I wasn't qualified to be doing it, and someone was going to expose me."

She continued to over-deliver to compensate for her fears; if she had to work all night, she would deliver a superior product, on-time, no matter what!

At a conference around 2014, Anne heard Dr. Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, outline the five Impostor Syndrome subgroups she had identified through studying fraudulent feelings among high achievers.

1. The Perfectionist: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience high levels of self-doubt and worry about measuring up. Whether they realize it or not, this group can also be control freaks, believing that if they want something done right, they must do it themselves.

2. The Superwoman/man: Since people who experience this phenomenon are convinced they're phonies surrounded by highly competent colleagues, they often push themselves to work harder and harder and longer and longer hours, to measure up.

3. The Natural Genius: Young says people with this competence type believe they need to be a natural "genius." As such, they judge their competence-based ease and speed as opposed to their efforts. In other words, if they take a long time to master something, they feel shame. These types of impostors are like Perfectionists setting impossibly high standards; the Natural Genius amplifies their feelings of inadequacy by expecting to get everything right on the first try.

4. The Soloist: Soloists are afraid that asking for help would reveal their phoniness. To prove their worth, Soloists even refuse assistance when it is offered.

5. The Expert: Experts measure their competence based on "what" and "how much" they know or can do. Believing they will never know enough, they fear being exposed as inexperienced or unknowledgeable and thus spend inordinate amounts of time becoming experts in endless areas.

Anne told me that she could see herself in all 5 of these subgroups, particularly the Perfectionist and Superwoman.

When I asked Anne how she deals with this challenge, she told me that she now recognizes her own "perfectionist at work" behavior and has learned to laugh at herself. She also knows that when she is "leaping tall buildings at a single bound" with her superwoman cape flying, she is not helping those around her to build their competence or confidence. In fact, she is making them feel anxious, inferior, and incapable.

As Anne says,

"The last thing this world needs is more high achievers with Impostor Syndrome!"

Anne Miner is committed to lifting others up, encouraging them to push their own boundaries, to be patient with the learning process, and to celebrate their successes! We are all on a learning journey. If we never make mistakes, we are not learning anything new.

New circumstances are opportunities for us to review the skills and knowledge we have gained in other situations, generalize what is pertinent to the new situation and decide on a course of action. We don't know how it will turn out, and we are going to learn. We use what we already know to help minimize the risk of failure, but we must accept that failure is a possibility.

In every success, there will be learning. In every failure, there will be learning.

Remember, Thomas Edison, perhaps the world's greatest inventor's words about his pursuit of the electric light bulb: "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Anne Miner suggests that rather than allowing ourselves to slip into a state of fear, seeing ourselves as impostors, we must all be courageous, encourage ourselves, and change that negative self-talk to "I am learning"!


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