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What’s so Wrong with Imposter Syndrome?

Learn the difference between covering up, dressing up, or giving tribute where tribute is due.

Photo by Rach Teo on Unsplash


This is a VERY BIG topic. For this blog, I will give you a quick and dirty definition, a couple of stories that hopefully explain why I’ve written the title the way I have, and then some tips for you to consider how you show yourself to the world.


IMPOSTER SYNDROME – DEFINITION (full definition via the link)

"When a person believes they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held.
They feel they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them."

Let’s test this last statement.


Has there been a time when you were performing your role, or a role for someone else, and someone came up to you, tapped you on the shoulder and loudly proclaimed, “Gotcha! You have no right to be here; you are a fraud; get out now!”


I will take a guess that this has never happened to you and, in fact, it will never happen to you.


However, what probably has happened is something more like this:

  • Having your data challenged when giving a presentation.

  • In a meeting, there is an insinuation that maybe you got something wrong or didn’t bring all the information to the table.

  • When trying to understand why something went wrong, you are the easy target, but because you are the boss, no one ever opens a dialogue with you.

  • Sadly, when there is a celebration, and you feel as though everyone is called out for the part they played yet your contributions were not recognised or not acknowledged.


When giving my keynote presentation on “Dress-ups, Cover-ups and the Spirit of Passion”, I literally bring in a suitcase filled with ‘dress-up' items that make an obvious point about my preparation for an upcoming event and why, on this occasion, I became a little ‘out of control’ with my outward appearance. The simple answer was that I was feeling ‘less-than’ in the context of the event I was going to.


Instead of dressing up to enhance, I fell into the trap of ‘covering up’ what I thought were flaws.

What might be some positive ways a person would dress up to enhance?

  • Maybe by using stronger language in an application or interview, they get selected for a new role, or they are given greater responsibilities in their organisation, club, or important project?

  • Maybe by wearing an outfit or behaving in a new way (for them), they temporarily find courage in a new situation until confidence comes.

  • Maybe by executing an out-of-character approach to get someone’s attention, they get the opportunity to begin an important dialogue that will change the course of many lives.


So, how do we get the balance right between dressing up to leverage our capabilities and not going so far that we tip into fraudulently lying about our skills and character?

Well, first, I need to explain that some people play the imposter or, shall I say, tribute very well and are enjoying a healthy income and career from it.



Here is my husband in his role with the world-famous, and I can say that because it is true, ABBA tribute band Bjorn Again. He initially had to grow his hair and a beard, and for each performance, he dresses up in white satin pyjamas and puts on glitter platform shoes. It’s important to state here that he would not be fulfilling an accurate or respectful tribute to ABBA if he didn’t have and continue to hone his own musical talent.


‘Fans had better make the most out of Bjorn Again because that’s the closest they are going to get to seeing ABBA. ABBA will never reform!’

Benny Andersson of ABBA live on Capital Radio London 2000



By now, you are probably getting my point about the difference between being a fraudulent imposter, someone who is giving tribute where tribute is due, and how amplifying your abilities might help you achieve outcomes.

Aspect of Imposter Syndrome

Fraudulent Imposter

“Cover-up”

Tribute

Dressing up to enhance

 

Intention

Engaging in deceptive actions to hide inadequacies.

Bringing my talents to give tribute to another

Presenting one’s abilities authentically to their fullest.

 

Result

Risk of exposure and potential legal consequences

Partnering with an audience that understands the intention

Collaborating for mutual benefit and positive outcomes.

 

So maybe it's time to audit how you present yourself to the world. This checklist might be helpful in considering where you can refresh, enhance, upgrade or begin a longer-term plan to take on a whole new skill or approach.


PERSONAL IMAGE:

  • Is my professional photo or business logo, website, video, etc, current and relevant?

  • When meeting with others, is it evident that I care about my appearance and my possessions?

PUBLIC IMAGE:

  • Am I leveraging appropriate social media platforms (including LinkedIn) that allow me to showcase my talents or tell my compelling story?

  • Is my CV/Resume in a modern format in both appearance and language? (Tip: Recruiters are aware that most people are using AI for their CVs, and they “never get a bad CV anymore”).

  • How do I use my email signature to help or hinder people’s knowledge of me?

  • Do I give credit where credit is due, giving tribute to others while showcasing the value I bring?


Please note in the spirit of writing a short blog, the focus is on image; respecting that the secret sauce to outward appearance is often our inner dialogue, linked with the life experiences that shape who we are and how we ‘see’ ourselves. While writing on this topic, I was battling my own imposter dialogue with the voice shouting at me that I had no right to contribute to this topic.


So, I googled quotes for fighting imposter syndrome and found one that helped me; I hope it helps you, too.


"The greatest obstacle for me has been the voice in my head that I call my obnoxious roommate. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. We would realise how important it is to stop this negative self-talk. It means pushing back against our obnoxious roommate with a dose of wisdom."

Arianna Huffington



 



If you would like to have a conversation about this topic or anything relating to the progression of your career, please click the link here, and I will treat your enquiry with the strictest of confidence.



 

 

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