Leaving the Classroom 23: What to Do When You Feel Like a Fraud

Aug 14, 2023

Leaving the Classroom: A Transitioning Teacher Podcast

What to Do When You Feel Like a Fraud

Imposterism, or feeling like a fraud, is real and present in the business world. It is not a disease or an abnormality, but can have a harmful impact on job performance and satisfaction, and eventually cause burnout. Today I talk about what to do when you feel like a fraud.

Listen to the episode here:

Connect with Kristi on LinkedIn  

Enjoy the podcast transcription:

Welcome to leaving the classroom. I'm Kristi Oliva, and I'm so glad you're here. Today I'm talking about what to do when you feel like a fraud. So let me ask you some questions. Do you tend to remember times when you failed more than you remember the times you excelled? Do you shy away from praise or do you immediately downplay the importance of that praise? Are you afraid people may find out that you aren't as capable as they think? Do you often compare your ability to those around you and think they may be more intelligent than you? If you said yes to even one of these questions, you're probably dealing with imposterism and you are in good company.

Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks explained that he felt connected to his character in A Hologram for the King because he too has experienced self doubt. Hank said no matter what we've done, there comes a point where you think how did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am in fact a fraud and take everything away from me?

Shark Tank judge and real estate mogul Barbara Corcoran knows the pressure of imposter syndrome. Despite having an insanely successful career. She wrote in an Instagram post who doesn't suffer from imposter syndrome. Even when I sold my business for $66 million. I felt like an absolute fraud.

Tina Fey might be an actress, comedian, writer, producer and playwright, but she definitely is free about her struggle with impostor syndrome. In an interview, she said, the beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme ego mania, and a complete feeling of I'm a fraud. Oh god, they're onto me. I'm a fraud.

And civil rights activist, author, poet and Nobel laureate, Maya Angelou admitted that at times, she often felt like a fraud. She said, I have written 11 books, but each time I think, uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.

Imposterism, imposter syndrome, imposter phenomenon, imposter experience. These are all terms that describe how high achieving people fail to recognize their success or accomplishments and have persistent self doubt, and fear of being exposed as a fraud. They struggle with attributing their performance to their competence, and often attribute success to luck, or other outside factors. But no matter what you call it, impostorism is real and present in the business world. It's not a disease or an abnormality, but it can have a harmful impact on job performance and satisfaction, and eventually, cause burnout. As someone who is relatively new to the corporate world, I feel impostorism quite often.

Most recently, it was when I got my promotion at Amazon, to a program manager. And I still feel this, I'll ask questions of my manager who I trust greatly. And I'll just say, am I supposed to know this? Am I missing something? Because I constantly feel like I'm missing. What am I supposed to know? How am I supposed to know this? But I feel like I should already. I feel like a fraud. It's difficult to talk about my skills and accomplishments without feeling like a complete fraud. With 15 years of experience and education, my confidence should be higher. Where does imposterism come from?

Elizabeth Cox and her TED-Ed talk says that people who are highly skilled or accomplished tend to think that others are just as skilled, which can grow into a feeling that they don't deserve accolades over others. That's the presence of imposterism. She also discusses the term pluralistic ignorance. Elizabeth Cox also discusses the term pluralistic ignorance, which says that we each doubt ourselves, but we feel like we are the only ones who feel that way. This mainly happens because no one else voices their doubt. No one else is talking about it. So you feel like an imposter. I feel like an impostor, what's next? Let's talk about it. I'm starting right now, after simple research, I found five support groups for impostorism on LinkedIn alone. Obviously, there are other people who feel this way. And it seems like the best way to help combat these feelings is to share them. But most of all, just know that you are not alone. Many of the most talented people have felt feelings of impostorism. So I share this with my colleagues, with my manager, with people I trust. Because I know that most likely they are going to answer with, I felt that exact same way. I still feel that exact same way. And it helps me.

Businessman and former chairman and CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, knows exactly what impostor syndrome is. And he explained very few people, whether you've been in that job before or not, get into the seat and believe today that they are now qualified to be the CEO. They're not going to tell you that, but it's true. So what can you do next? Download inspirational statements from Pinterest or make up your own. Post them in prominent places in your home or at work to battle feelings of imposterism. Put people around you who can support you. Join IDOL courses Academy, at IDOL courses, we have that community. We help you build your professional portfolio, revise your resume, prepare you for interviews, and give you valuable feedback on what you design.

Sign up for IDOL courses Academy using my code CLASSROOM100 and get $100 off enrollment today. It's time to take control and make the career change that will change your life. It changed mine. See you next time.

Send your stories or your questions to [email protected] or share them with me on Instagram  @leavingtheclassroom.

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