The Imposter



(Insecurity and the Path to Self-Confidence, Part 1)

[In this four-part series, we will outline common sources of insecurity and give you the tools to help.]

Do you ever feel like your triumphs can all be chalked up to luck? Instead of enjoying your accomplishments, do you suspect that your latest success might be your last? If so, don’t worry—you are not alone!

We regularly interview mid-career leaders who have risen quickly in their companies and have a history of impressive accomplishments. Our conversations inevitably lead to their aspirations and career desires and what it will take to achieve those.

As these talented leaders review their record and begin mentally laying a foundation on which to build future successes, they often hit a stumbling block. Has their performance really been due to their unique abilities…or simply the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time?

Such leaders modestly ascribe their accomplishments to external factors, such as having a good team, a good boss, or a particularly beneficial set of circumstances. They have difficulty taking credit for their successes and owning their achievements. In fact, there is a name for this: Imposter syndrome.

Virtually all of these Imposter leaders share the same character flaw. Their view of themselves has not kept pace with the positive outcomes they have achieved and the skills they have developed. Essentially, they think less of themselves than their achievements warrant.

Developmentally, the way that we view ourselves is largely formed in the first ten years of our lives. Psychological traits are developed at that time; for example, a sense of personal competence, willingness to take risks, and comfort interacting with others.

People who have a lower sense of self-esteem often retain an arrested view of themselves. Although they are fully grown, they are stuck with the self-perception they had as a child. In psychologically healthy people, self-esteem and self-perception continue to adjust with experience as one ages.

The self-perception of healthy leaders is commensurate with their growing mastery of life skills. In exploring the apprehensions of insecure individuals, we have consistently found that their feelings about themselves are out of date. Here’s the good news: with effort, you can correct this situation. Don’t despair!

THE TAKEAWAY: One of the leading causes of insecurity is a poor self-image developed in childhood. With the proper tools, adults can work toward creating a more positive self-image.

Stay tuned for Part 2 (The Sideways Glancer) and be sure to follow Beard Executive Consulting on LinkedIn to get blog updates.