Oct 02, 2017

How Imposter Syndrome Affects Your Team

Is each raise, promotion or accolade accompanied by the dread that, someday soon, your cover will be blown, and everyone will find out that you just got lucky, knew the right people, or arrived where you are by mistake?
As odd as it may sound, behind the facade of their highly confident, aggressive behavior, many high achievers experience feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. This feeling has been labeled “Impostor Syndrome”. And, the more successful you are, the more impressive your peers are likely to be, which can compound the feeling that you aren’t as good, as capable, as smart, as talented, etc.

Thoughts of a person with Imposter Syndrome:
“I’m not worthy”
“I don’t deserve this”
“I’ll never live up to others’ expectations”
“I make more mistakes than achievements”
“Anyone could do my job”
“My talents and strengths are commonplace”
“What I do is never enough”
“My success is pure luck”

If you’re a leader, Imposter Syndrome can show up on your team and here are some signs to look for:
Turning down promotions
Avoiding high-exposure projects.
Being uncomfortable with accolades.
Attributing success to luck, good timing or knowing the right people.
Expressing fears of incompetence.
Comparing themselves unfavorably with others.
Using self-deprecating language

Why is it important to recognize these signs? Some of your best talent and their abilities may sit dormant, believing that what they have to offer isn’t of value. How does it make you feel knowing you could have the most dynamic, creative, innovative, and engaging people on your team, yet, be losing out on all of it because of their negative beliefs about themselves? It’s time to fix that now!

How can Imposter Syndrome be overcome?

Some would say that Cognitive Restructuring is the answer. This is where a person uses positive affirmations to counter negative thoughts. Others say to think about all the successes you’ve had up to this point. Some say to be aware of the automatic thoughts and feelings you have, and work on countering those with reality-based statements, such as, “I am qualified for this task becauseā€¦” And, of course, there are more ways experts will espouse.

Just as I have seen, you may have seen that these rarely work. If a person truly feels they are inadequate, they will find reasons to counter the positive affirmations and reality-based statements with something like, “I know that, but…” Why is this? These approaches are coming from a conscious perspective. However, the beliefs that support the self-deprecating thoughts are in the unconscious mind and these unconscious beliefs were installed in the person’s mind most likely when they were between 6 – 15 years of age. It could have been they were told by their parents they were worthless or not wanted. A teacher may have told them they would never amount to anything. A coach may have stood them in front of the team and berated them. Whatever it was, their experience was dramatic or traumatic enough to create a negative belief in their unconscious mind.

Another reason why these strategies rarely work is because they use the logical part of the brain to attempt to influence an emotional cause. Neuroscience and life tell us that emotions always win over logic.

So, how can Imposter Syndrome be overcome? I have found that Dynamic Visualization is extremely effective. Dynamic Visualization is the combination of visualization, mediation, and mindfulness; three of the most powerful tools to influence the unconscious mind and belief systems. Imagine a person with Imposter Syndrome being able to release the cause of it, rather than just trying to mask over it. Suppose the experience that created the negative belief could have the negative emotion wiped clean, neutralized. And, what would it be like to discover a strong self-worth and a sense of deserving within the person, themselves? Let me share with you what it’s like through a true-life experience of one of my clients.

Bill had grown up in a rough neighborhood. He was a veteran who had been homeless and had been in prison. While going through a veteran’s organization for help to find a job, his counselor was ready to give up on him. Bill was consistently late for his meetings with his counselor and training. Sometimes he didn’t show up at all, with no notice. Because of this, the veteran’s organization was ready to drop him from their program, feeling he wasn’t motivated. As a last effort to get him on-track, I was asked to work with Bill. I quickly found that it wasn’t a matter of Bill’s motivation. It was his lack of self-worth, confidence, and feeling undeserving that were causing his behaviors. I used Dynamic Visualization with Bill and his behaviors changed almost immediately. He began showing up for his appointments and training on time, got a job, and within six months was a manager.

From my experience of having worked with thousands of people over the years, if you feel like a fraud, the chances are that you’re probably very capable. Why do I say this? Because real frauds don’t worry about this! So, if you, or someone on the team you lead, is exhibiting the signs of Imposter Syndrome, it’s time for us to have a chat and discuss how easily and quickly it can be resolved.

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+++++++++++++++About Dr. Edward Lewellen++++++++++++++++

Dr. Edward Lewellen is an expert in creating methodologies for people to learn to use their mind; their beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors, and put them back in control of their lives and become top-producers. He is a Master Executive Coach, leadership and sales expert, and keynote speaker for some of the largest global organizations.

Author of
Life Mastery: The Fully Functional Life

The 90-Second Mind Manager