I was talking to my husband about a job which would push me way outside my comfort zone. As I went back and forth on the pros and cons, and whether I actually had the skills and qualifications to do it he looked up from his ipad and said – “Oh just lean in to your imposter syndrome.”
For those of you that don’t know, imposter syndrome is when you believe you are a fraud or a pretender in your industry, role or career - often despite evidence to the contrary. It goes beyond false modesty, and can keep you stuck from taking up great opportunities.
Imposter Syndrome traverses gender divides. A recent study looking at gender feedback and responsibility reported that while a greater number of women suffer imposter syndrome, most men suffer it with greater intensity effecting their performance.
Our natural reaction when we realise we have a belief or thinking that holds us back is to try to suppress, forget, avoid and dodge that thought or belief. We need to get over it, let it go and move on etc. So being encouraged to 'lean in" certainly interrupted my usual way of thinking. At least long enough to throw a cushion at someone's head!
However, after thinking about it maybe being encouraged to 'lean in' to our weak spots, stopping points, underlying assumptions, limiting beliefs (or whatever you call it) could be useful advice.
If the alarm bells are going off, recognize these patterns, like your loved ones were going to find out that you're a fraud? Have you always downplayed your success? You might suffer from imposter syndrome, and can take a quick quiz here to find out or take the Clance IP Test for a clearer idea on what characteristics are most prevalent to you.
By accepting our 'imposter syndrome' or similar we have a chance to gently challenge this idea from a closer point of view, and maybe a more friendly, light-hearted and even silly way.
Rather than admonish myself to get over my "imposter syndrome" before I can take up this new opportunity, I can instead accept that my imposter self is going to be at the party for a while. When I become aware that they are trying to take over the conversation in my head, I can sit back and observe what they want to say, I can laugh at situations that bring it up, and welcome them to join me. I can keep moving ahead without fighting my own thoughts and fears.
This is not easy. It takes practice in observation of self and awareness of recurrent thoughts and beliefs that frame our worldview. We also need to rigorously practice self-compassion in all its forms: kindness, mindfulness and common humanity.
Being encouraged to lean in to your weaknesses is an act of courage, so go gently on yourself.
Find where you are and how far you are ready to go. However, it is a more enticing way of viewing our weak spots as potential allies in our journeys, rather than faults that need to be eradicated and stamped out.
Here's to being powerful, unstoppable and accountable for our own future