I’ve heard about Imposter Syndrome many times. I’ve read multiple articles on the subject. I have discussed it in many forums. And yet (even “knowing” what it is and how to “avoid” it), I still feel like a fraud.
Back in 2021, I was invited to speak to a group of high-schoolers about the journey of entrepreneurship.
To say I was terrified is an understatement.
The morning of the event I meditated, inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly, blasted some encouraging music, channeled my inner wonder woman power pose… Still, my heart was beating fast, and my palms were sweaty.
“Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.” –Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey.
This definition did not quite explain why I was so nervous about that presentation. I was going to be telling my own story AND, I have presented in front of people many times before AND, I was well prepared for the occasion… Why would I feel like a fraud?
The moderator introduced me to the class. It was go time.
Despite my anxiety, the moment I started speaking and sharing my stories of challenging life decisions, difficulties, transitions, and happily-ever-after… homeboy fear gave up. My heart slowly went back to its normal pace, my breathing was calm, and the presentation was a success. The kids connected with the message (even though we were doing this virtually). I had inspired them.
The moderator opened up for questions and I noticed that a girl had put her hand up and then lowered it. I invited her to ask her question. The girl unmuted herself and nervously said: “Did you ever feel afraid?” (referring to the stories I had just shared)… And there it was. As I answered the question for this brave girl, I was answering it for myself: “Yes I have”, I screamed, “and I still do! Fear never goes away, we just have to learn to do it afraid.” And I told them about that morning madness, and how I barely managed to keep my heart inside my chest before joining the call to meet them.
Imposter syndrome has nothing to do with doubting my actual abilities and knowledge, or thinking that I’m good enough or not. It has to do with thinking that I’m not supposed to be nervous or afraid while using these abilities and knowledge.
And so, if I’m nervous before a presentation ,or I’m afraid when making an important decision, it probably means that I’m not ready for that specific level, for that audience, for that salary, for that person. So I keep myself small, operating in a space where I’m comfortable and not afraid.
“The impact of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases was categorically absent when the concept of imposter syndrome was developed. Many groups were excluded from the study, namely women of color and people of various income levels, genders, and professional backgrounds. Even as we know it today, imposter syndrome puts the blame on individuals, without accounting for the historical and cultural contexts that are foundational to how it manifests in both women of color and white women. Imposter syndrome directs our view toward fixing women at work instead of fixing the places where women work.” –Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey.
Whether the reason of being afraid, and feeling like a fraud has to do with my upbringing, political preferences, religious views, the color of my skin, socio-economic circumstances, my workplace, my self-esteem, the results of the latest personality test I completed, my zodiac sign… Whether I believe that I suffer from imposter syndrome or not (or whatever the buzzword of the time may be); fear never goes away and so I have to keep doing it afraid.
I know that I may be oversimplifying big time here but, as the saying goes, the only way forward is through.
So, how do we do it afraid?
There are specific actions that have helped me to cultivate my self-confidence and own my awesomeness. These have empowered me to do brave things like negotiating a job offer, increasing my coaching and consulting prices, investing in myself and my business, and walking away from people, situations and opportunities that no longer serve me.
If you are curious and want to explore this further, just schedule a free exploratory coaching session today.