Disrupting Imposter Syndrome with Nalini Saxena — Joya Dass

Imposter Syndrome isn’t Reasonable Self-Criticism

Saxena goes on to point out that Imposter Syndrome isn’t the reasonable questioning we apply to our abilities in specific areas, such as “am I presenting myself well?” or “am I making sufficient eye contact in this pitch?” Instead, she describes it as “corrosive” and something which affects both men and women but may particularly disadvantage historically under-represented groups.

Five Indicators of Imposter Syndrome

Saxena outlines five common ways in which IS shows up (five symptoms):

  1. Overwork: a tendency to overcompensate with long hours.
  2. Missed opportunities: because we don’t believe we’re suitable for them.
  3. Perfectionism: taking too long over minute details, at the expense of the big picture.
  4. Not owning success: being unable to accept a compliment or reward.

Tools for Combatting Imposter Syndrome

Fortunately, Saxena has identified some useful ways to defeat IS.

One: Recognize your Competence

It can really help to define those occasions when you DO feel entirely competent, whether it’s giving a presentation to a large capacity crowd, hitting a sales target, or creating a brand-new product or service that people want. Competence may mean quite different things to different people.

Two: Identify your competence type.

There are five basic types of competent individual (with specific vulnerabilities) and it helps to know which one (or more) you are, in any given moment. Saxena defines these types thus:

  1. Natural Genius — people think it comes easy to you, yet much behind-the-scenes labor is required, leaving you to wonder if it shouldn’t be more straightforward.
  2. Expert — those who feel they ought to know all the answers and fail to appreciate that much true competence is life-long learning, and that nobody understands a topic 100%.
  3. Soloist — the entrepreneur who feels they should be able to go it alone and doesn’t perhaps appreciate the value of collaboration or delegation.
  4. Superhero — the leader who tries to be all things to all people and wear multiple hats.

Three: Define your Origin Story

Having identified the type of imposter syndrome you experience, based on your unique vulnerabilities, you need to investigate how this negative thought cycle began.

Four: Avoid Comparisons

Saxena relates: “I had this fantastic coach who used to say […] every comparison, by definition, robs us of our power”. Comparing yourself with others is almost always unhelpful, since everyone has a unique set of circumstances and a one-off origin story. You’re almost always not comparing like with like.

Five: Be Realistic

Saxena explains that we need to have a more realistic appraisal of what’s achievable. She explains, “I can’t necessarily show up with perfection and poise and with the ability to deliver at the highest level in every realm of my life.” She agrees with the principle that “perfectionism inhibits success.”

Final Thoughts

If you find you’re struggling to make yourself heard in a room where the loudest voice wins, then it may be time to work on communication skills. Here too, journaling can help, because you can look back for examples of when your communication was effective and draw conclusions for what strategies to employ in future.

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