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Einstein thought of himself as an involuntary swindler. Even the way he uniquely described the imposter syndrome before it was a thing – is genius! And yet here’s the discoverer of the theory of relativity feeling like he don’t amount to much.
You thought you had issues. Pah!
If he can have doubts, you’re allowed some too.
SIDE NOTE: Here’s some irony for you – in order to write this I needed to do some research from lots of psychology websites and then tie their findings in with my own experience to gauge the truth in it and give it my own voice. Now I’m writing it in a way that leaves me feeling a bit vulnerable. Who am I to tell you about the imposter syndrome!?
The point of this isn’t really to end imposter syndrome, instead to recognise it and identify some tactics for avoiding its effects.
One of the biggest dangers – and we get this all the time from working with experts on camera – is that experts keep forgetting that people don’t know what they know.
It’s really easy when you’ve been living with a certain type of knowledge for years, to forget that no one else knows it!
This can lead to thinking that it’s just run of the mill information that everyone knows so who do you think you are?
Ok I’d probably hear what Neil Armstrong had to say about moon rocks before getting Pat Sharp’s opinion, but you don’t need to have an Amazon bestseller or a Fortune 500 company to express a unique viewpoint.
Imagine what an awful world it would be if you did!
David Simon, who wrote what is considered the finest TV drama ever created talking about the imposter syndrome:
In his book – The Wire. The Truth Be Told he said ‘..Who died and made me Storyteller?’
This is from the guy who wrote one of the most critically acclaimed TV series in history!
The most important weapon in the fight against imposter syndrome is to know its name. It has a purpose, and that is to stop us from getting too full of our own self-importance, but it can become irrational, so it’s essential to mentally note from time to time – ‘This is just a bit of imposter syndrome’.
Don’t be afraid of simplifying what you know for your audience.
Remember my first point – people don’t know what you know – but they can’t come in at your level either.The imposter syndrome will tell you to jazz it up with big words or concepts but communicating knowledge is about simplifying.
‘If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.’ – Einstein
Give yourself permission to simply have an opinion! It’s ok not to have invented the bagless vacuum cleaning. That doesn’t stop you, as an engineer, having an opinion on a Dyson’s suction power or build quality.
Allow yourself to accept both praise and criticism in equal measure. The praise will come to remind you that what you offer is valuable and the criticism is there to show you places to improve.
If you can keep both of these aspects working together you’re more likely to feel grounded and part of the human race rather than comparing yourself to someone or some thing that is unattainable.
That’s where the imposter syndrome really comes from.