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I’ll admit I’ve been guilty of this one but, interestingly enough, I’m not alone. It seems many people feel fraudulent in their professions. Two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, came up with the term “Impostor Syndrome” back in 1978. It’s a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Instead of feeling worthy, they feel undeserving, as if a mistake has been made. Despite being experts in their field, they feel it’s only a matter of time before they are found out for who they really are—impostors with limited skills and abilities.
I felt this way early in my career as a trainer. When a workshop went well, and I was praised for my abilities, my first thought was, “Well, I fooled them again. They’ll certainly find me out one day.”
Recently, studies have shown this syndrome is more prevalent among women than men. Women seem to experience it more frequently and with more intensity than men.
At least we’re in good company! Even the great Tina Fey, a successful writer, producer, and actress, admits to these feelings. She says, “The beauty of the imposter syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!”
Recently, I was accepted to speak at the Training 2018 Conference & Expo in Atlanta, Georgia. When I first got the news, I was jumping with joy. I was thrilled beyond belief! Then reality set in and I began questioning my abilities. Why am I presenting and why would anyone want to listen to me?
It took me a while to believe in myself. Yes, Marsha, you have 25 years in the training industry, 18 of which you’ve been working for the world’s largest train-the-trainer company. You are well read, well versed, and up-to-date on the latest training trends. Yes, you have every right to be there!
So how do we overcome these feelings? How do we feel more confident? For me, I had to go back to my Advanced Instructional Techniques workshop manual. Here are five of my favorite tips from the workshop on how to overcome fears and feelings of anxiety:
1. Change your feelings by acting enthusiastic and confident. Just as our feelings govern the way we act, our actions also govern the way we feel.
2. Practice mental imagery. Imagine yourself in front of a group and visualize a scene of outstanding performance.
3. Recall successful sessions and replay them mentally.
4. Remind yourself you are the most “expert” person in the room.
5. Try deep breathing. Breathe in deeply for a count of three, hold your breath for a count of twelve, then breathe out for a count of six.
So, here’s the good news. It’s possible to overcome these imposter feelings. I’m so fortunate to love what I do. I’m passionate about training and sharing my expertise. Remember that doing what you love is more important than obsessing over whether you’re worthy to do it. Oh, and I attended the conference recently and delivered my presentation with complete confidence. We’re all worthy!