Have you ever been given an opportunity and then gotten that sinking feeling that someone made a mistake? When Amy Martin originally shared the SheInTheCLE concept with me, I was extremely excited about what it could mean for Amy and Cleveland. When she asked me to join the project as a blogger, I was completely over the moon—at first. As time wore on and the need to write my first entry approached, my excitement turned to fear and my fear grew into panic. I suffered from a severe case of writer’s block, the voices of doubt erupted in my head leaving me wondering if I had anything to share that was worth writing…or reading for that matter.
Everything about this opportunity was perfect for me, so what was my problem? Interest in writing…check. Expertise in issues that impact women…check. Belief in my own capacity…conspicuously absent. I am no shrinking violet, I’ve spoken in front of hundreds of people. So why was I literally paralyzed by the thought of writing eight hundred words? Since I was a college freshman more than twenty years ago, I’ve dreamt of launching my own magazine. Being a part of SheInTheCLE collective, may be as close as I will ever get to that dream. Instead of diving into the opportunity I’m bouncing around on the diving board measuring the distance between me and the water. Asking myself, are you sure that there’s enough water in that pool? Are you sure that you are enough? What if your blog sucks?
As the deadline loomed, I had an epiphany. All the signs were there, I was suffering from a severe case “Imposter Phenomenon.” Impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. Amy asked me to be a part of this project because she thinks I’m awesome –right Amy? On my best days, I agree so why did I feel like such a fake?
Much has been written about the prevalence of imposter phenomenon in women. In fact, I’ve witnessed it over and over in my work. Women who have successful careers discount their accomplishments and describe themselves as “just” a lawyer or attribute their success to chance not talent or hard work. I remind them of “just” how fabulous they are and that they are worthy of all the accolades. Yet, here I am doubting myself.
Too many of us have that little voice in our heads that questions whether or not we really deserve that promotion or amazing new job. Then we worry about what will happen if someone discovers our fraudulence. There are ways to quiet the voices and acknowledge that we are deserving of our accomplishments and opportunities.
Confirm Your Fabulousness
Sometimes we need to hear it from someone else before we actually believe what’s true. If you recently received a promotion or landed a career changing project, ask your boss why he or she thought you were the best person for the opportunity. There’s no need to let on that you are questioning whether you deserve the opportunity. You can frame it as an opportunity for feedback about your strengths.
Evaluate Your Accomplishments
As a high achiever, you undoubtedly have a long list of accomplishments. No one handed you that 4.0 G.P.A. in college, that recognition on Crain’s Forty Under Forty or that recent promotion. You did those things. Consider making a list of your accomplishments. When you’re feeling like a fraud the list can serve as a reminder that you are fabulous.
Learn from Your Failures
I once had a conversation with a former boss where I described myself as a failure. She encouraged me to separate the facts from my feelings and reminded me of the many things that I’d accomplished. No one is good at everything and you will eventually fail at something. Failing does not make you a failure! Learn the lesson and move on. One failure does not negate your many accomplishments.
Know Your Super Power
We all do something better than almost anyone else. I am not able to leap building in a single bound or move faster than a speeding bullet, but I can facilitate sensitive conversations in even the tensest circumstances. This has come in handy, especially when I am working with groups around issues of diversity. If you aren’t sure what your super power is ask yourself why others seek your assistance? Or come right out and ask people with whom you work closely.
You won’t be cured immediately, but some effort you will begin to recognize the Imposter Phenomenon symptoms more quickly. Trust me, I’m still a little nervous about this blog. However, my desire to give it a shot is stronger than my fear of being “found out” so right now I am feeling pretty fabulous.