Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Imposter Syndrome


"I haven't succeeded enough..."

"I'm not a financial success..."

"I have too many problems..."

"I've never been the head of a (team, company, country, non-virtual universe)..."

"I'm too (young, old, whatever)..."

"Who would want to listen to ME?"

Have you ever said the above? Or a version of the above? I know I have. And sometimes I still do. I hear it from clients all the time. Not just some clients - almost ALL my clients, regardless of what they want to speak about.

It's usually followed by a discussion centering around 'what if my clients or my audience find out who I really am, and what I really haven't done?' and a desire to just throw hands up in the air, toss speaking dreams in the trash, followed by a quick trip to the refrigerator for some ice cream consolation.

Feeling like an imposter, particularly when we're putting ourselves and our ideas out to the world, is a natural feeling for many. Whether it started in childhood with 'be seen and not heard' or criticism from fellow kids or even teachers and coaches telling us we weren't as good as we thought we were - heck, even just the experience of getting an answer wrong after raising our hand - can severely dent our self-esteem.

The world tells us 'there's always a bigger boat' - someone smarter, someone prettier, someone just plain better than US - and we're better off to just lie low and let THEM do what WE wish we were doing.

It's safer that way. Less hassle. And the only person who knows we're a coward, a wimp, a fraidy cat failure - is ourselves.

Problem is, it isn't true. At least, not completely.

If you're sharing your thoughts, your experiences, your conclusions - you're not an imposter. "Even if you aren't always living completely by your thoughts, experiences, and conclusions?" you ask. Yes, even if. None of us is perfect. We don't always make the extra sales call. We don't always communicate perfectly. We cheat on our diets. Occasionally, we even straight-out fail. That makes us human.

The key is in our authenticity and intention. Are we telling the truth? Are we wanting to live by that truth? Perfection isn't required, but intention is.

You may not be the only source, or even the best source, but you are a VALUABLE source. No matter what their standing, what there level of experience, all speakers are imposters, to some degree, and you can almost always find a better expert, a smarter person, or even just a better presenter.

The real challenge is accepting the truth above, and then deciding how you're going to deal with it, how true you decide to make it, based on how you market yourself in your speaking career. If you're broke, and you want to tell the world how to make money, you're an imposter to varying degrees. Yes, you can be teaching a proven system from someone else, which makes you more viable, but you better be on your OWN way to financial security as you teach others.

If you're not in shape, don't talk about getting in shape, unless you used to be in shape, and can share how you got out of shape.

If you've been married eight times, depending on the reasons, you may or may not want to talk about effective dating, relationship communication, or the care and feeding of your spouse.

Get the point? Stay in your areas of experience, and don't promise more than you've accomplished.

I promise my clients will become better speakers, because I have, and continue to become, a better speaker. I don't promise they'll become worldwide millionaire speakers, since 'I is not one', as my grandaddy would say, but I can share the techniques I've seen from those who have done it.

I give keynotes about Winning Anyway, because I do that on a daily basis, in my relationships, finances, physical life, and even in my competitive career competing for the World Championship of Public Speaking.

It's still easy to feel like an imposter, knowing one day I'm figuring out how to fix my car and the next I'm booking a ticket to Malaysia, that in the morning I'm dealing with insurance issues and at night I'm emceeing a public celebration.

But that's real life. We aren't always who we APPEAR to be on stage, at work, in public in general. We're impostersExcept we're not- as long as who we are UNDER the appearance remains constant and true. As long as our integrity is intact, our character consistent, and our promises kept.

Be the best you for your audience - they're busy trying to be the best them, most likely. Give them your message, your life, your passion, your experience, your failures, your lessons - give them the authentic YOU, even if you're wrapped up in the imposter that takes the stage - so they can take reality back with them into their lives, where it will still exist, still matter, once they return to who THEY really are outside of the room you've spoken in.

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