Overcome Career Debilitating Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt

 Career Accomplishments and Self-Talk

Professionals often obstruct their own progress by questioning whether they are worthy of certain achievements.

Similarly, when it comes to taking on new roles at work or applying for a position with a new organization, questioning your own qualification can sometimes be unjustified and nothing more than a symptom of insecurity.

These ways of thinking are not always present. When we first conceive of a challenge worth taking on, we really believe we can do it. Of course, as we get into the nitty-gritty of it all we can start to struggle with confidence levels.

These cycles of high and low self-confidence often manifest themselves into different types of self-talk. Maybe you’ve experienced some of the following:


Types of Accomplishment-Journey Self-Talk

Excitement: ‘Yes! This is exciting! I can do this!’

This type of self-talk is common when we learn of a new opportunity in which we think we can success.

Reality Check: ‘Oh, wow! This is hard. I’m outside of my comfort zone.’

This type of self-talk can be experienced early-on in pursuing a new career challenge. While we are excited to take on a new challenge, we don’t always anticipate the amount of work a task is going to require.

Of course, if we’ve been very purposeful in our goal setting, we’ll find a way to become comfortable with the work that is necessary for meeting the new challenge.

Self-Doubt & Fatigue: I don’t know if this is what I signed up for. Could my time be better spent on other things?’

Following the reality check or a significant set-back well into pursuing a career goal, we might wonder whether we were as purposeful in setting our goals as we first thought. We might also contemplate whether or not the things that were important to us when we started are still as important to us.

Imposter Syndrome: I’m not the right person for this. I’m not worthy. I’m not qualified. I didn’t work hard enough to deserve this.’

This type of self-talk can prevent us from taking the first steps toward success, but it can also be the result of a set-back.

Progress: ‘I’m doing it! I haven’t reached my goal, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.’

Sometimes even more exciting than the self-talk we use to inspire ourselves to action, the self-talk that we experience when making progress can often give us the energy to endure the hard work still ahead.

Accomplishment: Yay, I did it! Ok, what’s next?’

This is what we’re all after. It can even jump start us into our next endeavor.

Excitement, progress and accomplishment self-talk are great things to experience. On the other hand, self-talk that results from imposter syndrome, self-doubt, fatigue, or a sudden reality check can become major obstructions to achieving career success if we don’t keep them in check.


Big Dreams Are Scary. Now, Get Over It!

Accomplishing things other people won’t is intimidating, but that’s why it is so satisfying.

In her commencement address to Harvard’s graduating class of 2011, Nobel Peace Prize winner and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said, “The size of your dreams must always exceed your current capacity to achieve them. If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.”

When we set goals or conjure up dreams that scare us, they usually scare us because they require us to leave our comfort-zone, they imply situations in which we could fail. But that’s the reality of accomplishment, there are no accomplishments that come without the possibility of failure.

Failure comes in many forms, but in a lot of ways it boils down to being embarrassed. If we think there is a possibility we might embarrass ourselves we hesitate to take action.

Contrary to most people’s instincts, Reid Hoffman, co-founder at LinkedIn, has said that he believes “If you’re not embarrassed by you first product, you’ve launched too late.”

In essence, he means you’re going to be embarrassed, you’re going to be scared, things aren’t going to be perfect, and you just need to get on with it if you really want to accomplish something substantial.


Overcoming Fear, Imposter Syndrome, and Self Doubt

If you’ve ever read anything by Chandler Bolt, you know he’s a firm believer in the idea that being done with a task is better than getting caught up trying to do it perfectly.

In his latest project, the Self-Publishing School, Chandler challenges first time authors to change their lives for the better by going from blank page to self-published book in 90 days. To accomplish this feat, he urges his students and readers to lower the bar, change their expectations, and just do the work.

No one becomes great at anything over night. Olympic athletes train for decades before ever qualifying for the games. You can bet that there were plenty of set-backs and embarrassing moments that led up to becoming a star athlete.

Sir Richard Branson would argue that you would be wasting opportunities if you waited until you knew all the answers or were absolutely perfect in a particular area before taking a chance on yourself. In fact he’s said that “if somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

Expect and embrace imperfection because perfection is overrated and it stalls progress. Being a perfectionist is a sure route to a case of analysis paralysis, and that is trap that has killed more careers than heart attacks.

The truth is that you are human. Human nature dictates that you’re flawed. Accept that fact because life is made up of living breathing moments, and those moments can’t be precisely premeditated.

Michael Port suggests you rehearse whatever it is that you want to become good at; having hard conversations, speaking in public, negotiating with clients, whatever it is. Not to the point in which you can do things correctly, but until you can’t get things wrong. Because even when you’re rehearsing, much of what you try won’t work how you expected it and that’s fine. In most situations, it doesn’t have to go entirely to plan to accomplish the objective.

In learning new things I’ve found that being comfortable outside of your comfort zone, anticipating flawed moments, and pushing through by self-correcting as you go is key. You can practice and practice and practice, which I certainly encourage you to do, but you also need to suck it up and execute things in the real world.

I’ve worked with salespeople who were hesitant to make their first cold-calls. They didn’t know every answer they thought a client might ask. When finally making those first calls, they found out that it was alright that they didn’t know all the answer because their objective was to set follow-up meetings, not to close the sale in a single conversation.

By doing so they were lowering the bar. They allowed themselves to make incremental progress. While still up against the possibility of failure and embarrassment they eased the pressure on themselves. It made it possible for them to take steps toward achieving their greater ambitions, rather than being paralyzed by their self-doubt.




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Brendan Alan Barrett

Brendan Alan Barrett is a top sales producer who has generated millions of dollars in revenue. In addition to running his own sales organization in the civil engineering and construction industry, Brendan provides coaching and training to sales teams and business owners. His practice focuses on identifying, prioritizing, and winning the attention of prospects that can be turned into sales quickly. In doing so, Brendan helps his clients to generate revenue and customer testimonials that fuel more scalable and less labor intensive business development efforts for year-over-year growth. As the founder of StartInPhx.com and host of The Business of Family and Selling podcast Brendan interviews moms, dads, husbands, and wives who work in sales or run their own businesses. Each interview unpacks the very best in strategies and tactics family-first sellers can use to grow their books of business without losing their status as a rock stars at home. While originally from the Chicagoland area, Brendan started his sales and marketing career in Southern California before relocating to Arizona.

4 thoughts on “Overcome Career Debilitating Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt

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  • March 22, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I was glad to see impostor syndrome included in this! Though previously thought to be something women encountered more frequently than men, I think we’re seeing it in equal parts across Millennials. The unfortunate truth is that when it comes down to it, impostor syndrome is another way to hid from challenges and potential failures. It’s an excuse we can pull up, a rationalization before we even begin to try.

    • March 22, 2016 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Catherine,

      Impostor syndrome is something everyone deals with from time to time.

      You’re absolutely right, it is very easy for it to interfere with what we want to accomplish.

      I think that overcoming it is a simple matter of emotional intelligence though.

      By simply giving it a name and understanding that there are people all over the world accomplishing great things in spite of impostor syndrome, I’ve managed to will myself through periods of my own self-doubt.

      If you liked this post I’d sure appreciate an upvote for its Quora counterpart (wink, wink): https://www.quora.com/Is-the-impostor-syndrome-an-inevitable-fact-of-life

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