Outing the imposters

3 women in carnival masks

There’s a feeling which comes, every so often; a deep, undeniable, twisting which snakes around your shoulders and whispers in your ear – telling you that you’re a fake.

Suddenly, for no perceptible reason, your confidence is on the floor and there’s a sinking feeling that at any moment, everyone around you is going to realise what a fraud you are and the game will be up.

Sound familiar? If you’re doing something remotely out of your comfort zone (and getting away with it – even barely), then it’s probably a little too close to home.

It’s the insidious whisper of imposter syndrome, the feeling which we (all) get when we feel out of our depth.

It’s a horrible feeling, but a strangely useful indicator.

Useful? How?

It’s a sign you’re stretching – that you’re growing and developing.

Imposter syndrome tells you that you’ve reached the edge of your knowledge, skills or abilities and that you’re taking steps into a larger world. Without those steps, we don’t grow, we don’t improve.

Imposter syndrome means that you’re in the right conditions to develop quickly, which means that it becomes a useful signpost for those who want to expand their abilities or improve existing skills.

The only way to avoid imposter syndrome is to only do things which are completely within your comfort zone. This avoidance of discomfort will mean that ultimately only the safest choices will seem like viable options. Over time, your ability to respond skilfully to new and difficult situations will rapidly diminish as your confidence will calcify around your pre-existing skills – which will in turn weaken those skills by not exposing them to new challenges.

Imposter syndrome is a guilty secret of anyone who’s pushing their own boundaries, so start to treat it as a friend rather than an enemy. Think of it as a messenger who brings good tidings wrapped in foreboding language. It’s uncomfortable to hear, but the message is ultimately a positive one.

If you’re feeling like a fake, then you’re on the right path. If you’re completely comfortable, then perhaps it’s time to hit the accelerator.

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