Impostor syndrome. It’s when, as a professional, you feel like you’re totally unqualified for the work you do and you’re terrified that people are going to find out.
According to Wikipedia, researchers tell us that “two out of five successful people [are affected by impostor syndrome] and…70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another.”
Wanna know a secret, based on what I’ve observed during my career? If 30 percent say they never feel like impostors, I can promise you that most of them are lying.
Practically all of us feel like impostors sometimes, and there’s a good reason: we don’t know what we’re doing. Especially those of us in positions of leadership. We’ve never done this before, probably nobody else has either, and we’re winging it.
Pretty much everybody around us is winging it too. Leadership is hard — and so is most professional work. There’s no step-by-step guide for most of the things we do.
Sure, I feel like an impostor sometimes. And I’m totally at peace with that, for two reasons:
First, the day I figure everything out and there’s nothing left to learn, is the day my career will wither and die. I’m glad there are always new things to learn: it keeps me humble and it stimulates my mind.
Second, I trust myself. I’ve put a lot of effort into being an ethical manager with a strong moral compass, and I’ve kept up with the best practices in my profession. So I know I’ll be OK when I face a situation where I don’t know what to do. I might not get it perfectly right, but my instincts will show me a way to surmount the challenge — with my conscience clear and my integrity intact.
Oh, and one more reason: I know I’m far from alone.
How about you? Are you affected by impostor syndrome? Is your experience the same as mine, or different? How have you handled it?