Have you ever wondered why you or others can feel like a “fraud,” even during times of peak performance? This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Imposter Syndrome, and often manifests itself in feelings of inadequacy, perfectionism, and restrained performance. While this concept is no stranger to entrepreneurs and business leaders, it is also commonly found amongst other business professionals and professional athletes.
According to founder and CEO of Sideline Prep, GeNienne Samuels, she recognizes that imposter syndrome is usually defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud, regardless of your accomplishments or accolades. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their success often leading to a feeling that they are not truly deserving of the accolades.
Some are surprised to hear that high achievers, like professional athletes, have these same feelings even after winning the race, grabbing a win, or making the team. In sports, athletes might feel as if they aren’t “good enough” to be where they are, whether on the field or even the sidelines as a supporting player. In addition, many athletes who experience success in their career may chalk their success up to nothing more than a stream of lucky circumstances.
Imposter Syndrome is something that many of Samuel’s clients have fought and struggled with throughout their careers – both as a professional dancer and cheerleader, as well as a business professional, student, or mom. “In all honesty, as an entrepreneur, after leaving corporate America, I dealt with feelings of inadequacy as well. I’ll share three of the top methods I have found to be most effective in dealing with Imposter Syndrome as both a high-level award-winning athlete, as well as balancing being a visual beauty icon in the professional sports industry.”
1. Realize That Everyone Is “Winging It”
According to statistics, some 70% of people encounter intrusive thoughts or detrimental feelings brought about by the onset of Imposter Syndrome. When dealing with Imposter Syndrome, it’s common to encounter feelings that make us ask questions such as:
- “Why do I have the right to be here?”
- “Am I really as good as everyone else thinks or says I am?”
- “What will happen if other people find out I’m not as good as I think I am?”
There are nearly an infinite number of reasons why someone can experience these feelings, but one commonality is that taking risks and putting ourselves out there inherently causes us anxiety due to the uncertainty as to how we – and our performance – will be perceived by others.
The thing is, when you realize it, no one ultimately knows fully what they are doing. Life and its downturns affect all of us, just in different ways and at different times. No one person “has it all together,” even those are perceived as experts.
“When I allowed myself to realize that nobody walks into a new experience feeling 110% confident and nobody makes the best decisions or performs at their physical peak 100% of the time, a good portion of my own Imposter Syndrome seemed to vanish almost immediately into thin air,” stated Samuels. “Suddenly, being “found out” was no longer a leading fear of mine. I recognized that not only are my peers and colleagues experiencing similar feelings that I was, but that they, too, were scared of not “measuring up.”’
Their successes of others up to that point were irrelevant, regardless of how highly regarded they were held to by Samuels or others. Plus, she was able to approach unsettling situations with the knowledge and confidence that she was exactly where she was supposed to be, and that everything happens in perfect timing. Samuels highlights how she had the perfect skills and knowledge at that time for what she was encountering.
2. Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Another key way Samuels was able to overcome feelings of Imposter Syndrome was when she stopped comparing myself to and my performance to others. Samuels called this “compare-itis” and pointed out that those comparative thoughts are the devil in disguise.
When we compare ourselves to others, doubt begins to creep in. In seeing how others perform and how others perceive them, we inadvertently tell ourselves that we should be as good – if not better – than these other people. However, this practice is rarely helpful. Comparison is in and of itself inseparable from our own internal biases, particularly those against ourselves which are a breeding ground for Imposter Syndrome.
Just as Samuels’ realization that no one person has it “all together” helped her overcome anxieties regarding her own Imposter Syndrome, so too did realizing that other people including her peers and managers also struggle with these challenges in their own unique ways. This recognition also made Samuels realize that she was much better prepared and equipped for experiencing and overcoming challenges than she had originally believed. She discovered she had strengths that others didn’t. With that, she recognized that there were likely people watching her wishing they had what she had or could “do” what she was doing, but better. Samuels’ strengths are other people’s weaknesses and vice versa.
“Once you realize that everyone else shares these feelings and also tend to compare themselves to others, you can begin to do away with your own insecurities and biases and allow yourself to receive the fortune that comes your way in life,” proclaimed Samuels. “You can also turn the compare-itis into something to help you grow and improve. You can be glad for someone else who is shining and then be a sponge and “borrow” what’s amazing about them to help you improve. There’s enough praise to go around for everyone!”
3. Focus On Your Goals
Nothing can sabotage your chances for future success like Imposter Syndrome. When we begin to listen to the intrusive and biased thoughts it brings, it can make us believe we are less adequate and adapt to handle ourselves than we truly are, forcing us to eventually settle for less than we want or know we deserve.
When these feelings occur, it is vital to remain focused on your goals and mindful of your strengths and weaknesses alike. No one will place their confidence in someone who is not fully sure of themselves, be they a professional athlete in an audition, a hiring manager in an interview, or an investor looking to fund you or your venture with an injection of capital. In being confident in your abilities and humble enough to admit that you do not know and cannot do everything all the time, you are able to be honest with others, but most importantly with yourself.
When you turn your focus away from your own goals and get caught in compare-itis or obsess on how others are potentially better than you, you are now shining your light on others. If your light is going outward, then there’s no way for it to shine inward at the same time. So focus on you, your strengths, and remember what makes you qualified, capable, and strong.
If you are able to take pride in what you bring to the table, yet continuously work on the areas you know you’re lacking, you can easily become more confident. As your knowledge and skills increase, your competence does too.
And guess what? Your confidence will follow.
In finding confidence, you will be able to ensure that you stick to your personal and professional goals, which is in itself a key step in combating feelings that come with Imposter Syndrome.
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