The Real Imposter

Many of my clients think they have imposter syndrome, which is “the fear talented people have that their true lack of ability will be discovered, exposing them for the frauds they truly are.” However, in all honesty, they aren’t afraid of being imposters; what they’re actually afraid of is that they may be as good, or better than they think they really are.

Even though I meet so many people who claim to have imposter syndrome, I can’t help but notice that for most of them, being discovered as a fraud would feel like a relief.

After all, if they were unskilled at something, they could accept that reality and work to improve it. I actually welcome the identification of my faults as do many of my clients. We love seeing where we can improve, because we’re so good at learning, adapting, strategizing and overcoming challenges.

What we’re not so good at is accepting the fruits of our labor, enjoying our lives and being ok with how friggin awesome we actually are. Feeling like a fraud gives us a reason to be anxious and work even harder to maintain what we think is a façade of excellence; whereas accepting that we’re talented and brilliant means we’re truly responsible for our lives. It means that we’re actually getting what we want because we’re amazing people who care a lot and work really hard.

We’re afraid of truly enjoying our success because enjoying our success means embracing the guilt of being successful. It means feeling guilty for not feeding starving children in Africa and instead taking a trip to the beach. It means feeling guilty for deciding we are worth the money, time and sacrifices people make in order to pay and support us all for doing something that we love.

No matter how many ways you cut it, we got to where we are by leaning on this idea that dreams take a lot of work, and as a result, we must sacrifice now in order to get something even better later. What we struggle to accept is ‘later is NOW!’ You’ve done the work, you’ve paid your dues and here you are sitting in the halls of Valhalla. This leaves you with a simple choice; you can choose to run your story and believe that you don’t belong, or you can choose to use the fuel of fear and doubt to drive yourself forward or modernize your technology.

You can learn to make enough room within you to hold your awareness of what needs improvement, as well as your awareness of what is amazing right now. You can learn to expand your beliefs to include the truth, that sometimes hard work is needed, while also including the truth that enjoying a trip to the beach is friggin’ grand. You can learn to experience the guilt of being a smashing success while also experiencing the joy that achieving something great also brings.

If you simply accepted the love, support, and joy that others offer you; if you simply decided that your successes weren’t just flukes, but due at least in part to the work and sacrifice you’ve put into them, something amazing might happen. You might work less. You might be kinder to others. You might enjoy your life more. You might even learn how to be happy where you are now, while also striving to create something even more extraordinary and that might be something that could help the world more than you could ever possibly imagine.