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Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome and its counterpart; the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

Impostor Syndrome is talked about more widely now, which is good because greater awareness can lead to more understanding.

But then again, like many phrases/words that become generalised and perhaps overused (like ‘authenticity’ for example) it can be misunderstood.

For example, Impostor Syndrome can be confused with the anxiety that many people can feel when stepping out of their comfort zone.

This anxious state that can arise when we are about to take on (or even think about) a new challenge that stretches us, or as we are about to proceed with a decision that contains an element of risk (or the perception of risk) is a common fear-based reaction.

This is not to say that everyone experiences this same level of fear, because they absolutely do not. There’s nothing wrong with that, one way or the other.

However, Impostor Syndrome is more pervasive & deeply rooted in the belief system.

It is a form of cognitive bias, which may seem ironic given that many people who battle with it also have the potential to develop high levels of emotional intelligence.

It is the inability to recognise, own & value your skills, talents & competency DESPITE outward appearances, achievements & evidence. It is a distortion of reality.

Therefore, no amount of achievement or ‘evidence’ provides permanent relief from feelings of insecurity.

High achievers with Impostor Syndrome will likely strive for & chase achievements & seek validation, with the belief that this will be the solution to sedate the insecurity within.

It can indeed provide temporary relief, but this tends to treat the symptom & not the root issue.  

Recognition (and what we are really talking about is love) cannot be accepted & internalised fully & so it leaves a feeling of not being good enough.

The feeling remains, like a bottomless hole that cannot be filled, because it is also an inside job.

The good news is, it is possible to heal Impostor Syndrome with inner work, at the level of the belief system.

The impact of wrestling with Impostor Syndrome is significant.

For one thing, it is painful, this can be from the mild to the excrutiating.

It will depend upon the individual's situation & circumstances as it is the external environment that provides the triggers which then dictates the internal response.

It is also exhausting & can drain the life force out of an individual far more than any amount of workload.

Ironically, Impostor Syndrome can lead some to taking on an extraordinary workload because the belief of not being ‘good enough’ can command that you must do more than others to prove your worth & capability.

This is not to be confused with someone who loves their work & likes to give it their all. It does require high levels of self-awareness to really discern the difference here.

The flip side is that some can avoid taking on new challenges because they feel paralysed by the fear that they will not be able to fulfil requirements; i.e not feeling good enough.

The last thing someone with Impostor Syndrome wants to happen is to be proven right & have their deepest fear become an actuality! Even though it would be aligned with their own view of themselves...

It fascinates me that as humans, what we go to great lengths to avoid, we are actually attracting & this applies to all facets of life, which is why understanding our subconscious patterns is vital.

Unfortunately, the lengths they must go to in order to avoid the potential of this happening, means self-persecution, internal torture, decisions made without integrity & ultimately poor health.

The former example, in many cases can initially be a bosses/organisations dream!

Because that person will typically do more work than they are paid for or is necessary for one person.

Working hard is not a negative, it is however important to be valued for your time & energy, especially by yourself.

Here’s the other challenge.

The person who underestimates their ability, could be an outstanding leader (in their field or organisation) when they work on this pattern.

Their cognitive bias can prevent them from putting themselves forward for promotions & taking on challenges where they can potentially make an enormous positive impact.

Or they take it on but crucify themselves internally which makes the whole experience of an exciting new challenge feel like more of a nightmare.

That needs to change, because to be able to fulfil your own potential is to really live & the positive impact these people can have on others is limitless.

Someone with Impostor Syndrome & self-awareness will recognise they have this syndrome, it’s hard not to, because the internal presence is dominant often in the form of a loud inner critic, worry & overthinking.

Despite appearing confident & happy to others (and of course, they are confident in many ways & happy much of the time, people are far more complex than black & white) they regularly feel anxious / insecure.

This makes sense if you consider that an actual impostor is at the risk of being rumbled as a fraud or con artist at any given moment! It puts people on high alert & in a state of flight or fight more frequently than the nervous system is designed for.

Interestingly I imagine that people who are actual con-artists don't have this same response because they are wired differently. I recently enjoyed watching the 'Football Fraudster' on Netflix.

It is entirely possible and essential to transform through Impostor Syndrome & if you would like my help, that's my main offering for 121 Transformational Coaching now.

I was curious to explore the counterpart of Impostor Syndrome because like many of you, in my career I have met both ends of the spectrum and I discovered it has a name;

The Dunning-Kruger effect!

I must credit the two psychologists: David Dunning & Justin Kruger for their phenomenal work in this field.

Basically, this effect is where individuals over-estimate their ability & competence, frequently to significant levels.

In short, the negative impact includes ineffective & detrimental decision making, through an inability of the individual to accurately assess their levels of competence, knowledge & ability.

As you can imagine & may have experienced, the consequences of this are even more far reaching at the level of leadership.

These psychologists found in their research, that it is not even the result of what we might deem as an ‘inflated ego’ but more often a complete lack of self-awareness.

As we know, competence & confidence are not always equal bedfellows.

You can feel low in confidence, but have a high degree of competence & some may be very confident but have less competence than is portrayed.  

This is why Emotional Intelligence, & indeed Spiritual Intelligence (something else that is misunderstood that I shall write more about soon) is critical to raising self-awareness to a level that many people don’t make the time for.

Cue Elemental Leadership® & my research project, something I will share much more about soon.

Transformation occurs from working on ourselves from the inside out, which is invaluable to reaching our full potential.

To have integrity (one of the greatest leadership skills IMHO) means to be integrated which requires us to become self-aware of all parts of ourselves because human expansion is unlimited.

Thanks for reading, Amanda G

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