Did you play dress up as little girl?
My daughter, Lily, loves to dress up in costumes. She’s constantly creating outfits out of random things in our house. But more than anything, she loves wearing my heels, especially the tall, peep toe, shiny red ones I rarely wear because they kill my feet. I remember doing this when I was her age. I’d go into my mom’s closet, pull out a pair of pink heels, and clomp around the house, pretending I was going to work. There was something powerful about dressing up – especially in those shoes. In my mind, heels were THE symbol of being grown up, being beautiful, doing what I wanted, and being the boss.
As I grew up and launched myself into the corporate world, equipped with a degree, some life experience, and an awesome new business suit (and of course a killer pair of heels), I knew what the world would see: a young woman with a bright future. But inside, I felt like that 10-year-old girl playing dress up. Even today, standing in front of the mirror in my heels, I sometimes feel like I’m still just pretending.
For many of us, this game of pretend has followed us into the real world and robbed us of truly embracing our awesomeness. You know what I’m talking about. That feeling of being a fraud, that you don’t really belong, that you’re not “the real deal,” that you somehow landed this amazing career or built your dream business by getting lucky. That feeling stinks, and it has a name: Imposter Syndrome.
In 1978, Doctors Pauline Clance and Suzanee Imes noticed high-achieving women couldn’t internalize their successes and felt they’d be exposed as frauds. And over the years, their research has continued to show that Imposter Syndrome is very real. In fact, The International Journal of Behavioral Science reports that 70% of people experience this feeling at some point in their life, so if you’ve ever thought your success was just because of luck, you’re in good company.
Here’s how it shows up:
Your business has a financially stellar year, and you tell yourself that it was luck.
You land your dream client, and you tell yourself they obviously didn’t put due diligence into researching candidates because there are definitely better people out there.
You’re getting ready to present in front of a large audience, and you secretly think they’re going to realize just how unqualified you are and run you out of the building.
A colleague compliments you on running a great campaign, and you say, “Oh. It was a team effort,” minimizing your own contribution.
The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth
The truth is, all of these thoughts are lies. Yep, you heard me. Lies. Your business didn’t have an awesome year because of luck. You likely worked your booty off to make it happen. Clients don’t choose people to do the work that’s important to them unless they feel that person is qualified. You were hired to do that presentation because the people doing the hiring felt like you had something important to offer their audience. And while winning the campaign may have been a team effort, your part in that was equally vital and important.
It’s hard not to think this way sometimes. Heck, some of the women we admire most have these same thoughts.
Maya Angelou, one of the most highly-acclaimed writers of our generation said, “I’ve written 11 books, and each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find me out now.’”
Even Tina Fey, SNL Rockstar, who’s an accomplished screenwriter, producer, and play write, struggles:
The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: “I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” So, you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.
And she’s right Smart Girl. You’ve got to stop minimizing your role in the work you do. It’s keeping you from taking big risks, experiencing new things, and preventing you from truly enjoying and celebrating your successes.
Seize Your Moment of Awesomeness, Now!
Are you ready to play a bit longer? We’re gonna to go on a little treasure hunt. Your past is filled with all sorts of precious gems and jewels, and sometimes you need to see it to believe it. So, break out a pen and paper and make a list of the accomplishments, skills, and/or achievements that’s gotten you to this place. Take a stroll down memory lane to remember the great things you’ve done, the successes you’ve built, and the relationships you’ve nurtured to remind you that all of this has not been achieved through luck. You deserve to be exactly where you are today, and it’s time to own that!
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably quick to focus on how you don’t measure up. Why not change that lens and focus on the successes, wins, and progress you’ve made? Take credit for what YOU do, for the things YOU bring to the table. Your accomplishments didn’t come from nowhere. They came from you, your hard work, experience, and expertise.
There are always going to be people who want to tear you down or hold you back but you don’t have to be the one leading the pack. If you don’t believe you’re good enough, they’ll never believe it either.
It’s time to strap on those sexy slingbacks, Smart Girl, and play with the big girls. You’re here for a reason. You’re worthy. You have something important to offer. You’re better, smarter, and more capable than you think. So, stop believing the lies, minimizing all that goodness, and playing small.
You’ve got what it takes. Let’s see you shine.
Until next time, be present, be strong, be you!