My coaching practice is loaded with professional, successful entrepreneurs and corporate clients. I coach successful people — yes I do. And since this blog is based on honest, open communication, I will be totally upfront here — occasionally I wonder why I am able to attract, and successfully coach, such an incredible clientele. Now, let me tell you, I've come a long way. When I first began coaching, I would often think — "Who in the world am I to help people with their life problems? What do I know?" I would ignore my many successes, chalking them up to "luck," and worry about someone finding out (in spite of my studies, certifications, and experience) that I was faking my way through each session.
Whew! It's good to get that off my chest. Thankfully, I no longer entertain these concerns, however, many of my clients seem to show very similar "symptoms" and could probably be diagnosed as having a chronic case of what we call The Impostor Syndrome.
People who experience these feelings come from all walks of life; doctors, lawyers, executives, moms, dads, business owners, athletes and more. This mindset is not selective about the demographic that it plagues. And in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, these individuals believe that they don't deserve success and continue to doubt their ability to succeed.
So, what do you do if you experience these limiting thoughts? How in the world do you start believing in yourself when this has been your thought pattern for as long as you can remember? How much more successful will you become if you can tame this beast?
Start by knowing that you are not alone. Seriously, I address this problem at least once a day in my coaching sessions. At one time or another, I believe that everyone goes through a period in life (at the very least) when thoughts of being a "fake" or "impostor" are limiting to their productivity and self-worth. It affects 70% of adults and is especially prevalent in high achieving women. Whew!
Consider coaching as a strong resource for growth and further understanding of yourself and your limiting thought patterns. A safe and nurturing coaching relationship is certainly the quickest way to overcome these self-defeating thought patterns.
Begin to keep a log of your limiting beliefs. Ask yourself which are not reality based (probably most of them) and which are truly areas to target for self-growth. Give yourself mini rewards for your successes — celebrate them!
Talk to others about The Impostor Syndrome, you'll be surprised to learn that once you open up others will do the same. This is a freeing experience and helps to kick the legs out from under this otherwise sturdy foundation of limiting beliefs.
Search the internet for any number of resources on the topic. John Graden has written a best selling book on the topic. Reading John's book is an excellent start.
Please share your experiences, successes, and feedback about The Impostor Syndrome. Let's support one another here in this wonderful community of friends.
Last updated: Jul 7, 2009
MARLA TABAKA is a small-business adviser who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness. @MarlaTabaka