20 March 2022
“I’m not good enough, I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Who am I to have this kind of responsibility?”
“I’m going to fail… And everyone will discover that I’ve been a fraud all along.”
I’ve been there. In fact, I’ve been there even after years of promotions, successfully leading teams, and getting incredible results in my corporate career.
But at a certain point in my life, when I became fed up with all of this, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel of self-doubt, and I reached it. Now, being on the other side, I can see things more clearly. And I’m here to share my lessons with you.
Imposter syndrome has been a popular term (although not really a correct one, but we’ll talk about that in a second) among high-achieving people, especially women.
It’s the dreaded feeling that you’re actually not deserving of your success—you were just lucky, and people can discover that anytime. There’s a voice inside your mind that keeps telling you that you’re not qualified, worthy, and smart enough to have success in whatever you’re doing, whether that’s leading a team or managing a project.
But let’s debunk a myth before we go further: the term “imposter syndrome” is actually incorrect AND unbeneficial (it gives off a feeling of sickness, don’t you think?).
The correct term is “imposter phenomenon”.
Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes coined the term “imposter phenomenon” in 1978.
In a nutshell, the researchers discovered that high-achieving women, despite showing clear evidence of success and intelligence, still believe themselves to be frauds on the verge of being found out, and they’re having a very hard time ditching the feeling of self-doubt in order to accept and enjoy their accomplishments.
The reasons are deeply rooted.
From family history to societal stereotypes regarding women’s place in the world (BIPOC women having an even harder time), many ambitious women have this inner belief that they have to do more and more in order to prove their worth.
The topic is complex, but the bottom line is that the imposter phenomenon is merely a negative cover put on incredible success. That means that you’re entirely capable, worthy, and strong—but you need to actually realise that.
Let’s see how you can do that.
“But Jen, I just told you I can’t accept my achievements…”
I know, don’t worry. We’re not doing anything strenuous.
All I’m encouraging you to do is to track your achievements.
From the smallest to the greatest—write them down in a dedicated journal, make a note on your phone, keep a Spreadsheet. Whatever your document of choice is, sit down at the end of the day and write (or talk!) about what you’ve achieved that day.
Give yourself just a few minutes to reflect on your day. Who knows, maybe, when you see your achievements, you even feel like patting yourself on your back. But even if you don’t, it’s completely ok.
A consistent small effort to do this every day will help you realise you are, in fact, incredibly capable, and your success isn’t due to luck—it’s all yours.
Well, that sounds a little corny, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, it’s true.
The experience of imposter phenomenon is bad enough even when you’re achieving great things, let alone when a failure happens. You might even think that failure was inevitable because you were never good enough for whatever you had to do. It was hard proof of that.
However, at the end of the day, we both know that failure will always be inevitable for any human being, no matter how brilliant they are.
“The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Stephen McCranie
More often than not, failures are the best lessons you can get. The way they help you grow and learn is fascinating. Most of the time, they don’t even happen because of something you do—you can’t control everything.
The best thing you can do for your own personal development is to accept a failure, reflect on it, take your lesson, and move on.
And if you want extra helpful advice: share your failures. Your inner critic in your mind will tell you that “people will find you out”. Sharing the fact that you’re not perfect and you’re willing to learn from failures will be liberating—and it’ll empower those around you to open up as well, thus beating their own imposter phenomenon. What a beautiful chain reaction!
If you’re going to leave with anything from this blog post, let it be this: you’re absolutely more than enough. You’re a smart, capable, and strong leader.
There are some mental obstacles that we all have to overcome. As I’ve explained, these limiting beliefs, most of the time, aren’t even ours—they’ve been instilled in us for a long time. But it’s our responsibility to have our own back, and break the barriers. And please remember to give yourself space and grace while you’re navigating this.
There’s so much more to imposter phenomenon that I can talk about in a blog post. And I’m sure there’s so much more you’re feeling in regards to self-doubt.
That’s why I want to invite you to a one-off session with me, where I’ll focus all my attention on you, and walk you through what you can do to get rid of the imposter phenomenon. I offer two of these a month and they go quick - so grab yours today here.
As a certified life coach, Jeni helps busy, successful women ditch overwhelm & selfdoubt & rediscover their energy, passion & freedom with proven strategies.