You've gone and done it again. You've turned the company around, closed the deal, raised the money, won the award, and felt the accolades from your peers pour in.

Only one thing ...deep down, at your core of being, you don't believe you deserve the accolades.

Don't worry. You're not alone. According to some studies, nearly 70% of all people have felt like an imposter at some point in their careers.

So what's the deal here?

In 1978 psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term "Fraud Syndrome." They discovered that it's much more common than previously thought.

Now for the counterintuitive part -- this syndrome also tends to effect high achieving individuals.

So how is that possible?

It's because high achieving people (like you) perpetuate a vicious cycle. You tend to work hard in the hopes that people won't discover you're a fraud. Only compounding the situation.

Wait. What?

In an odd twist, your hard work perpetuates outward signs of success (awards and accolades), which further compels you to feel like a fraud.

Mind blown. Oh the power of the human mind! What a fascinating creature you are ...

It gets better. Women are even more susceptible to fall prey to his syndrome. It's believed that some Women with a high emotional quotient may use their perceptiveness and charm to cultivate and grow business relationships.

When their charm works, women tend to feel that their success isn't based on merit. Giving little or no credit to themselves for having a high emotional quotient. Oh man.

As an overachiever, I get this. I've found myself playing down my accomplishments. Only to have my wife admonish my self-deprecation. Leaving me frustrating. Trying to balance a healthy dose of humility, while also allowing myself the well earned moment of self-satisfaction.

I don't have all the answers, and that worries me. I know that I'm an overachiever, as is my wife. We're raising two wonderful little girls, who I'm fairly certain will be just like Mom and Dad. So then what will be the fate of my little overachievers?

Here are two powerful solutions to overcoming feeling like a fraud:

Find a mentor:

As they grow, I'll encourage my daughters to find mentors. If they see these women as a success, I'll encourage them to have open conversations with their successful female mentors about these powerful feelings.

If they can see that their successful mentors have had those feelings, I hope they'll see these feelings are normal. I also hope they'll see that they are completely and utterly unfounded feelings.

List Accomplishments:

I'd also encourage my girls to list their accomplishments. Re-count their public acknowledgements of success (awards, financial rewards, promotions etc.), and study them. Evening going so far as to question the sources of said awards.

And have an open conversation about the validity of those awards. I envision the conversation being something like, "Olivia, do you think the National Honor Society is a respected institution?"

"Great, now tell me -- do you think they would have inducted anyone into their society if they didn't deserve it?"

And on and on ...maybe you can try those two things yourself?

Seek out that mentor, and make your list.

If you don't address your feelings of being a fraud, they may hold you back from delving into more challenging and rewarding endeavors.

Do you experience this? Let me know in the comments how you overcome these self-sabotaging feelings?

Published on: Sep 23, 2016
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