Fabulous or Fraudulent?

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.

About author View all posts

Erica Merritt

Optimistic in spite of all evidence to the contrary and stubbornly committed to changing the world...for the better. Facilitator, coach, advocate and artist.

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I wanted to confirm officially that yes, i do think you are awesome. You impressed me the first day I met you and while we all struggle with self-doubt, know that I am 100% in your corner. Always. Thank you for writing something very raw. I am proud to call you my friend and I never have doubted your fabulousness!

  • I can’t wait to read more from you, Erica. You are thoughtful, passionate and willing to dig deep in order to find nuggets of truth.

  • Dearest Erica!

    Rock On with your SPECTACULAR BLOG! Congratulations!–and it’s so well-deserved.

    …And just in case you might consider for one moment that I say that because I’m your friend, here’s exactly why your blog is Amazing–and POWERFUL. It’s because you:

    *Released the temptation to play it safe or pretend you were anything other than yourself.

    *ARE REAL–which is always my experience of you.

    *Clearly are WILLING TO TAKE A RISK–UmmHmmm, that would be 100% YOU.

    *And, as always, you are UNAFRAID to speak your truth–which continues to inspire your legions of fans in this city.

    So count me as a regular reader and a complete and total FAN. Congratulations, my dear–and I look forward to more inspiration from you & your colleagues!

  • You’re authentic, Erica. You have wide perspective. You’re open to influence and to influencing. These are the attributes I treasure about you – so much to share and teach, then.

  • Erica, you continue to teach so many of us how to accept ourselves. I loved this blog. I’m here to tell you one of your super powers is to inspire others and to get us thinking on a macro-level. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blogs!

  • Amy chose a great blogger!! Erica…you did it! You’re a blogger with a wonderful first contribution. I’m so glad you took the first leap of that building in a single bound!

  • if you described yourself as a failure, you didn’t know yourself very well back then.
    We all need to distinguish between “failORS” and “failURES”, the latter being those who are too afraid of the first to even try. Failing just means learning what doesn’t work, is an integral part of the science of life, and can and should be the opportunity to dust yourself off and try again till you get it right -for you and yours.
    Erica, you are curious, witty, well-read, and not afraid to dust yourself off and try again when needed. One of my she-roes.

  • Thank you for this genuine piece of introspection. It not only allows others to get to know you as a new blogger, but it enables these same people to conquer the issue discussed.
    Great article.

  • Erica, you rock!

    Thank you for your honesty and authenticity. I, too, struggle with my fear of failure. A dear friend of mine reminded me yesterday that even though I have fallen — both literally and figuratively — and am bruised and broken that time does heal. Needed to be reminded that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    I look forward to your future blogs. Sending love and hugs to fabulous you!

  • Wow. This seemed so personal to me. I plan to share this with my daughter and my sister who also wonder sometimes if the pool has enough water in it thank you so much Erica for sharing this with me and for continuing to help others find their inner super power!!

  • My inspiring sister! Wow! What a poetic description of your truth– written with such heart. Capital A Awesome in my book. Now we know about another one of your super powers…..writing from your soul.

  • If only women got this message more in their formative years, we wouldn’t have to keep reaffirming ourselves decades later. I love that you’re putting yourself out there like this- fearless and fabulous! Such an honor to work with you! 🙂

  • Thank you all for confirming my fabulousness! Clearly, I could have added how important it is to surround yourself with awesome people who will be transparent about your opportunities to grow and your strengths! I deeply appreciate all the kind words and well wishes.

  • Erica, I think we may have been separated at birth! To this day, I still feel like I have everyone fooled into thinking I am qualified to run six departments, manage a staff of 67 and be responsible for a high six figure revenue. Any day now, the secret will be out–do not tell!!

  • Lol! Frank, courageous and lively blog entry, just like you! You just ought to feel fabulous. You have truly lived up to my “imagined” image of you by just being your authentic self. How cool is that! Fabulousness + Failures + Accomplishments + Super Power = me. Got it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *