Take a look at your own resume. Are you qualified, or even overqualified, on paper? Now consider your To Do List. Are you overcompensating for imaginary failings? If you answered yes to these two questions, you may be suffering from impostor syndrome!
The Problem: Impostor Syndrome
I grew up in a working class community in Southern Indiana. Perhaps for this reason, I have always felt like I’m going to be “found out” as a phony in the business world.
My two bachelor’s degrees were probably necessary for my career. Okay, the second one was necessary. Yet I attained numerous professional designations so I would feel qualified for progressive roles in the Information Technology and Insurance industries. I’ve successfully managed teams, departments, and projects. I have received numerous awards as a consultant, as a manager, as a volunteer leader. The highest employee position I held was a senior management role with a Fortune 100 company. Still, I didn’t feel like I was making a direct, positive impact on the world.
In 2017, I launched my own company to help organizations build diverse leadership pipelines. Since then, I’ve written books, contributed to anthologies, and been published in peer-reviewed journals. My first book, Network Beyond Bias
, has received praise from established diversity & inclusion experts, as well as from casual readers. My first year in business, I presented nearly 50 live programs
in 2018 and qualified as a Professional Member of National Speakers Association.
I tell you this not to boast, but to emphasize the contrast between my accomplishments and my ability to internalize them.
To prove to myself that it wasn’t all a fluke, I have three more books in the works and several other projects underway. I’m also currently pursuing my MBA so I’ll feel “qualified” to reach the goals I have set for myself as a business owner.
Good News: We Are Not Alone
If you suffer from impostor syndrome, you’re not alone. There are so many of us working our tails off to prove to ourselves and others that we are worthy. We are capable. We belong. Impostor syndrome compounds when we don’t see people “like us” who have made it. We may struggle to imagine ourselves as breaking some invisible-but-very-real barrier in the company hierarchy or public eye.
The Solution: Be a Mentor
is one of the best ways I’ve found to manage (or at least redirect) my impostor syndrome. Through mentoring, I can more easily see the skills I’ve acquired and the perspective I’ve gained. When my proteges tell me they’ve successfully overcome an obstacle with my guidance, I know my success is reproducible and real. Sometimes, I’ll even hear myself say something really smart when I’m helping someone. It’s a wonderful feeling!
ANYONE can be a mentor. Even if the only thing you know how to do is graduate high school or stay out of prison, you can — and should — be a mentor. Someone out there needs to see you on the other side of an invisible barrier. Someone is waiting to hear the brilliant things you don’t even know you’re about to say!