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The Imposter Syndrome - When Fear Blocks Success

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When I scheduled my very first paying client as a coach, I was excited beyond belief....until about an hour prior to the session. Then all the fears set in – 'Who am I to help this guy build his business? What do I know that he doesn't already know? What if he asks for his money back? Yikes, I feel like an IMPOSTER!'

Luckily, I got my fears under control and the session went well, but - wow - I really wasn't prepared for this level of self-doubt.

Do you ever feel like you're going to be "found out"? Like people think you know more than you really do? Well, join the ranks of millions. That's right; so many people experience this fear that it's even got a name: The Impostor Syndrome. Even top-level, powerful executives and successful business owners experience varying levels of The Impostor Syndrome. Many experts who appear to be as cool as a cucumber feel a flutter of fear when they face a new experience or the burden of decision-making. While outwardly confident, they may feel like they're 'pulling the answers out of a hat' rather than factoring in the value of their experience, wisdom and intellect. They feel like 'an intellectual phony.'

High achieving women most commonly suffer from the affects of The Impostor Syndrome, wondering if their choice of words will sound right or if their decisions will be accepted as sound. They guard a secret sense that others may see them as more capable than they really are and that their success is due to luck rather than their ability.

If this sounds familiar to you, know that you're not alone. At one time or another most of us wonder how we're going to "fake it till we make it" without being found out. However, if you find that your self-doubt limits you and is blocking your success, then you may want to reach out for some support and resources. There are therapists who specialize in this arena and many life coaches are able to help their clients resolve self-doubt and fear. I've also listed a few books that may help. 

What are your experiences with The Impostor Syndrome? If you have any great resources or AhHa moments to share we'd love to hear from you!

Recommended Reading:
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Susan Jeffers (1987)
The Impostor Syndrome, John Graden
How to Overcome Your Secret Fear of Failure: Recognizing and Beating Your Achilles Syndrome, Petruska Clarkson

Last updated: Apr 27, 2010

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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