"I used to feel insecure, inadequate and overwhelmed with the worry of whether I would ever be good enough," remembers Sara Lachman, an award-winning real estate attorney and Managing Partner of Lachman King. "Frankly, I was afraid to take critical risks because I lacked the confidence. My inner voice was on auto-loop with negative thoughts about how I might not measure up."
Sound familiar? If so, you're experiencing Imposter Syndrome (IS), first identified in 1978 by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. It's the persistent feeling that you're not quite good enough, despite evidence to the contrary and that, one day, you'll be exposed as a fraud. One study showed that around 70% of people suffer from IS at some point in their lives.
Latesha Lipscomb, Engagement and Relationship Director for AmplifyGR, who considers herself a "proud product of GRPS," graduated from Boston College and Boston College Law School and has experienced IS firsthand. After a highly successful high school academic experience, Lipscomb struggled when she first arrived in Boston.
"I was overrun by a lot of self-doubt at that time," she said. "I felt like all of my accomplishments up until that day were null and void."
Although she found her footing academically, IS continued to rear its ugly head at times.
While IS is persistent, you have the power to quell that voice. Here are a few stepping stones to get you started.
Lipscomb said that once she knew the signs of IS, it became easier to call it out when she felt it. "When you can identify it and speak it out loud to someone you trust, it enables you to be kind to yourself. Give yourself the courtesy of saying, 'This isn't because of luck, courtesy or happenstance but because you worked for it,'" she said. "Realize that you belong at the table."
LEARN FROM MISTAKES.
"Because you are human, failure will sometimes be inevitable, but I try to find joy in everything," Lipscomb explained. "Even seeing the positives that failure can bring. It's an opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the world around you."
Once you know you have IS tendencies, you can change the way you think. Lachman uses this technique when doubt starts to creep in. "If I ever hear myself say something like, 'I'm not sure whether I will be able to do _____' or 'I don't know if I'm capable of ____,' the next instant, it's almost like I heard a subtle joke. Because my next thought is something like, 'Well I don't know how I will do it, but I sure am curious to find out.'"
LOOK TO THE EVIDENCE.
Being plagued by doubt and insecurity, while racking up achievements and accolades, is no fun. "I remember that headspace. It was pretty awful," said Lachman. "But I no longer relate to it. Data proved otherwise."
If you find yourself there, objectively evaluate the evidence. In her case, Lachman looked at the facts and did the math. "Turns out, I'm one hell of a force. Now I take calculated risks regularly. Because I can confidently bet on myself. Data shows I deliver."
FIX WHAT ISN'T WORKING.
Suffering from IS doesn't give you a hall pass for poor performance or gaps in knowledge. Be fair when you evaluate your strengths and take steps to mitigate your weaknesses.
"Where I didn't like the data, I took clearly defined steps to begin entering new data points," Lachman explained. "We can't pretend away ugly data, but we are capable of change. Confidence cannot be conjured; confidence comes from competence."
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS ...
IS can be sneaky, strong and persistent. Keep going. "It's kept me silent longer than I should be. It's paralyzed me from time to time," said Lipscomb. "It's a journey. You have to constantly be intentional about how you're going to think about yourself."
It can be helpful to surround yourself with a core group of friends who can encourage you. "We are the average of the five people with whom we spend the most time," Lachman said. "So be selective. Be intentional with the words you use to define yourself—and be selective about the voices that influence your words."
Do you have Imposter Syndrome? Take the test: bit.ly/3o3wgED
Kirsetin Morello is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travel-lover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www.KirsetinMorello.com.
This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar '22 issue of West Michigan Woman.