Recently, I was having a conversation with a younger Human Resources professional who asked me a question along the lines of what advice would you give to your younger self about Imposter Syndrome (IS). She talked about the internal battle she was experiencing in her role. What came tumbling out of my mouth next surprised both of us….
Imposter Syndrome is the natural result of stepping out of your comfort zone. Every time you level up, get more responsibilities, get promoted, hit your next level, you will inevitably experience imposter syndrome. For people who want to grow in their career, Impostor Syndrome can be the welcomed sign that you are on track because it’s a sign that you are growing and stretching yourself.
Impostor Syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy that shows up when you feel like you're out of your depth. It quite literally can make you feel ill, and most of the time brings on feelings of being a fraud, like you’re faking it, inferiority, not knowing what you are doing, being incapable of the task, or incompetent. The one thing you need to remember about Impostor Syndrome is that it always shows up when you’re in growth mode.
The only way to get rid of Imposter Syndrome Is to stop growing. Which is to say, to stop living. I say, F@%k that.
That means that if you’re committed to your own growth and development then Imposter Syndrome is here to stay.
Instead of shrinking back or armoring up for battle, make friends with Imposter Syndrome and give it a role to play.
If you can see Imposter Syndrome For what it truly is, a messenger telling you that you are in growth mode, and adjust accordingly, then you will leapfrog your way forward in your career development.
Society tells us that Imposter Syndrome Is something to be avoided at all costs. When you google Imposter Syndrome, you’ll find articles talking about how to beat it, how to fight it, how real it is.
We’ve already established that we are never going to get away from Imposter Syndrome, so we are doomed to a life of armoring up for battle and combat? Of fighting? Of trying to avoid something that is natural? I call BS.
There is a different way of managing Impostor Syndrome that doesn’t require battle and instead invites you to lean into your soft nature and listen quietly to that voice you’ve been too distracted to listen to; put simply: Just sit with that feeling for a bit and acknowledge its presence.
You are the creator of your reality. You get to choose what story you tell and what actions you take. Why not choose one that empowers you rather than disempowers you?
When we choose to buy into the BS story that has been fed to us, we choose to struggle against our own nature.
Sometimes, struggle is the result of our choices. More often than we realize, struggle is optional. When we choose to buy into the BS story that has been fed to us, we choose to struggle against our own nature. We find this narrative in #hustleculture and in the “no pain, no gain” philosophy. And while the struggle may very well be real, it doesn’t have to be the default, nor does it have to last more than a season in most cases. With the mindset that you have the power to create your own reality, you can literally opt-out of daily struggle.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t wish to live a life that feels like a battle every day. I opt out of unnecessary struggle. Life gives us plenty without us adding more to the heap. In my quest to create a professional and personal life that is in alignment with my deepest authentic self, I’ve discovered several secrets that have been total game changers for me.
Greatness Hack #1 ~ Reframe
Reframing a commonly held story or belief so that it propels you forward rather than making you shrink back.
Life has handed me plenty of shit sandwiches. I’ve learned that life is so much more enjoyable if I don’t complain the whole time about said shit sandwiches. This doesn’t mean to ignore the situation and pretend it doesn’t exist, but rather to reframe it to an empowering perspective.
A reframe from "I don't know what I'm doing and I'm terrified people will find out and realized I'm a fraud." to "I am really looking forward to learning a lot with this new project that I feel passionate about and would like to become an expert in." is a powerful shift that can make all the difference.
Let’s unpack this a bit so you can put it to use in practical application:
Remember, Imposter Syndrome Is the messenger to tell you that you are in the Growth Zone, not Comfort Zone. Ok, we can deal with that.
Listen closely to what I call, The Itty Bitty Shitty Committee (IBSC). What are they saying? Let’s say your IBSC is saying something like “You aren’t getting it right. You don’t know what you are doing. You’re out of your depth. You’re not qualified for this. You don’t have the _(fill in the blank)___ to hold space at this table. ”
Get as specific as you can. “You don’t know what you are doing when it comes to doing compensation analysis for the pay equity initiative.”
Ok, Great! Now we have something tangible to work with.
Step 1 is simply sitting with the discomfort and bring awareness to what your body and mind are telling you. Are you sick to your stomach? Is your mind racing? Are your palms sweating? No action required, just awareness of what you’re feeling.
This is what is meant by getting Present and Being, rather than Doing.
If you are a person with an Attitude of Gratitude, you can thank your IBSC for the information and suggest that it go take a hike, a nap, etc so you can do the work that comes next. They have fulfilled their duty. Pat them on their head and let them be off.
So, there’s something wobbly about your confidence in your ability to complete the pay initiative. Let’s get into it and get the facts:
How far out of your knowledge base is this project?
How far out of your comfort zone is this project?
How cutting edge is this work?
The good news is that there are solutions to these problems. For example, if your answers indicate you are out of your depth, it’s time to ask for support and resources. If the company is serious about its initiative and wants to do it well, it needs to be prepared to invest in the level of results it wants to generate.
Do not feel like the whole burden falls on your shoulders to produce high-quality results for a niche product when you are an HR team of 1, are junior in your career, or already have a full plate.
We overcompensate to drown out the feelings of Impostor Syndrome which inevitably leads to burnout.
Instead of hiding how you are feeling about the project, be open, honest, and transparent about how you are feeling with your boss. It’s important to take action to shine a light on the situation rather than going into hiding mode.
Greatness Hack #2 ~ Clear Expectations
Getting alignment on levels of expectations on both sides of the table can be a delicate and even a tricky conversation to have, but it is absolutely worth having and doing it well.
Impostor Syndrome makes us feel like we will never meet the expectations set by the boss, the client, or the end-user which drives fear, overwhelm, and anxiety.
The solution is to clearly understand what’s expected of you and perhaps more importantly, what’s not.
Pssst... If you need help preparing for, or have the need for a facilitator of one of these “Crunchy Conversations” around aligning expectations, let’s talk! Clients often feel relieved and more peaceful after having a Strategic Crunchy Conversations planning session.
Don’t let yourself suffer unnecessarily from Imposter Syndrome one more day. Remember that Impostor Syndrome is the symptom of growth & development. And when you reframe and set clear expectations you can view Impostor Syndrome as a welcome sign that you’re #levelingupyourleadership
As always, I’m here to support you in your leadership journey and to provide the guidance and wisdom I’ve learned along the way. Share this with a friend who needs to hear it and find me on social media for daily leadership nuggets!
In Service To Your Greatness,
Aubrey Armes, PHR
Aubrey Armes is a woman on a mission: To change how business is done.
Passionate about doing business differently, Aubrey brings her 20 years of Leadership, Human Resources, and Professional Coaching experience to the modern business leader.
She's giving leadership teams the right tools and teaching them "how to" elicit high performance, from their teams and themselves. Aubrey takes the disengaged and mediocre and transforms them in to energized, high-performing, collaborative teams. Her approach helps leaders and teams achieve radical results through compassionate accountability and create company cultures where everyone can thrive.