“I feel like a fraud. I’m just faking it until I make it. I’ve had enough, and I’m taking it out on everyone around me...”
No, it’s not me saying this. But I hope this caught your eye, because I did want your attention for a few minutes.
It’s surprising how you only find out how much pain someone is in until you ask if they are okay.
I was speaking to a very successful entrepreneur dad (I’ll call him “Alex”) a few weeks ago, and I always thought that he had his stuff together.
Aside from his having a lovely family and enjoying the wealth from his businesses, his social media profiles alone are like something out of “Hello” magazine.
Well, all is not what it seems. What problem could he possibly have?
He is suffering from “Imposter Syndrome”.
If you are not familiar with that term, Imposter syndrome is when you constantly feel like a fraud. This is despite the fact that you’ve achieved success with actual evidence of your abilities. It’s like you’re tricking everyone around you into thinking you’re competent, but deep down, you believe you’re not good enough.
People with imposter syndrome often think that their achievements are based on luck or that they don’t deserve them. They’re always afraid of others finding out they are not as knowledgeable or skilled as they seem. They downplay their accomplishments, constantly seek validation, and worry a lot about failing.
Imposter syndrome can affect different parts of your life, like work, or relationships. It’s often seen in high-achievers and perfectionists who put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed.
You may feel like this from time to time, or even on a regular basis
That’s Alex to a tee. He comes from a long line of captains of industry and high-flying company executives, especially his father and grandfather. He confessed to me that despite his success, he does not feel competent as they think he is.
Alex’s mind was plagued by a relentless voice, whispering doubts and insecurities. Imposter Syndrome had taken hold of him, slowly eroding his confidence and leaving him feeling like a fraud. Despite his outward success, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he didn’t deserve any of it.
His journey to this point had been anything but easy. Growing up with an overbearing and critical father had instilled in him a constant need for validation and an unrelenting fear of failure. As he climbed the ladder of success, his accomplishments only seemed to amplify his self-doubt. The more he achieved, the more he felt like an imposter.
Alex has self-worth issues that are at the core of imposter syndrome. I am no psychologist, but my personal experience helped me to see that this stemmed from his having had an over-bearing, over-critical father.
He is starting to make errors in his businesses because of second-guessing of even micro decisions, obsessing over minor issues, things that he has never done before. Despite the fact that he is still so respected by his peers, his self-confidence is at an all-time low.
The more successful Alex has become as an entrepreneur, the less competent he feels.
He is spending less time with his family, pouring his energy into his business to provide income, more gifts, holidays, and treats for his family which they do not even need.
I told him his family needs him to show up authentically as a man, husband, and father – vulnerability and all.
I helped Alex recognize the early signs of imposter syndrome and take fast action to halt it.
Look At these signs that you are suffering from imposter syndrome.
Downplaying Your Achievements: you tend to rebut praise and downplay your achievements as not being a big deal. Saying “Aw shucks, it’s not that great a thing” deflects from and denigrates your achievements. It reflects your true state of mind that you don’t deserve it because you’re simply not good enough
Chalking It Up to Luck: aka. ‘I’m Just Lucky, I Guess‘: People with imposter syndrome overly attribute success to chance, over-emphasizing any role they played, missing completely the skill and hard work that made it all happen. In fact, you may be afraid your success was at the cost of someone who is more deserving and has more ability than you.
Setting an Impossible Standard of Success: If you are a perfectionist setting an absurdly high threshold standard of success for yourself while feeling that you don’t deserve to achieve it. You may feel fear or anxiety when you feel near the goals that you want to reach.
Fear of Other People’s Opinions: Imposter syndrome sufferers often secretly fear they don’t measure up to others’ expectations, be they work colleagues, friends, business partners, or even family members. Their approval is not enough to make you feel secure.
Stuck In The Imposter Cycle: The imposter cycle is anxiety leading to intense over-preparation and planning. Driven by the fear of failure, there is a frantic process of preparing, procrastination, and excuse-making. In turn, this drives you to work harder (but not smarter), because in reality, you fear the outcome.
You Don’t Ask What You’re Worth: Imposter syndrome sufferers never understand their true worth, so you never ask for what they deserve or set healthy boundaries. It can include getting a promotion, giving a business quote, asking for a raise, and other big asks.
Know the Signs: You’ve learned the signs here, so you can put this to use right now. Pay attention to your words and actions and interrogate the feelings that arise. Where are they coming from and why?
Fight Imposter Syndrome with Facts: The negative feelings you feel aren’t based on reality. Set a milestone marker for your achievements. Looking at the facts can help. Gather evidence that shows how much progress you’ve made, how much you’ve achieved, then surround yourself with it when you need a reminder.
Share Your Feelings: You’re not alone in feeling the way you do. Did you know such obvious high-achievers as Michelle Obama and Maya Angelou have publicly expressed these same feelings? Reach out to colleagues who think themselves inadequate and share your feelings. This will help you put things in perspective.
Learn to Not Compare: Imposter feelings often arise from erroneously comparing ourselves to others. Remember that all us are different, and we all have our own paths. Avoid comparing yourself to others. Tell yourself that you never know want lies behind the façade that they publicly present.
Celebrate Your Successes: If you suffer from imposter syndrome, you’re focusing on your failures and shortcomings rather than your successes. Remind yourself of the exceptional things you’ve achieved.
List Up Your Strengths: Make a list of your skills, qualifications, experience, and natural strengths. Use this list to boost your confidence whenever you need it.
Switch Negative to Positive: We often have negative self-talk driving our feelings of insecurity. Recognize the negative talk and replace it with something positive, even in a small way.
So, my friend, imposter syndrome is a real struggle that many people face, regardless of their success or achievements. It can eat away at your confidence, make you doubt yourself, and prevent you from fully embracing your accomplishments.
But here’s the thing: You don’t have to let imposter syndrome define you. You have the power to overcome it and reclaim your confidence. It starts with recognizing the signs, acknowledging your worth, and challenging those negative thoughts.
Remember, you’re not alone in this.
Even the most accomplished men have battled imposter syndrome.
I have tons of experience in coaching, life and fatherhood – but every time I put out new articles I have a nagging voice that challenges me:
“why am I qualified to advise other men?”
“why would anyone like what I have to say?”
…even though you’ll see from the preceding sentence exactly why I am that person.
See? It’s a common human experience.
So, reach out to others, share your feelings, and realize that you are not the only one going through this.
Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem.
Give yourself credit for the hard work and effort you put in. And instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own journey and the progress you’ve made.
It’s time to switch that negative self-talk to positive affirmations.
My favorite: “I see my current circumstances as an opportunity to grow”.
Remind yourself of your strengths, skills, and resilience. Embrace your authenticity, flaws, and vulnerabilities. You don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. Real confidence comes from being true to yourself.
“True Grit” means that you show up authentically in all areas of your life, without excessive fear of the outcome.
You got this!
Jim is a lawyer, relationship coach, business owner - and best of all a loving husband and father, who happily lives in total awe of his wife and 7 amazing children. Find out more about Jim at www.relationshipsrebuilt.com and www.everythingfordads.com