Sometimes you look around your industry, or business as a whole, or the world of “influencers” and think to yourself…how is it that person doesn’t seem to feel a lick of imposter syndrome?
Or why do the charlatans and the hucksters seem to conquer the world with wild confidence while the rest of us sit paralyzed with self-doubt wondering what the hell we’re doing out here?
I’ve got a couple of things for you to keep in mind.
Perception is Rarely Reality
I happen to know a bunch of really powerful, successful people that I’ve met along the way in my career.
High-powered VCs, investment bankers, entrepreneurs, attorneys, C-suite executives at companies you know well.
I also know a bunch of people who hawk their influence or their “secrets” or their multi-level marketing schemes with an apparent utter lack of shame, peddling their brilliance and their mastery right alongside their knockoff Rolex.
But I’ve got news for you.
All of these people? They feel this stuff too.
They don’t always talk about it or let you see it. But it’s there sometimes. The key is that they don’t ever let it drive. Meaning they feel it…and they do things anyway. They let the doubt ride shotgun and they accept that it’s there, but they don’t make decisions from that place.
It takes a lot of practice to do that. You have to continually work on courage and conviction and trusting yourself and you have to be wildly willing to screw something up and find out that you were wrong without letting that utterly destroy you, or letting your inner attorney use that as evidence in the case you’re constantly building against yourself. Simply put, you have to be willing to – as they say – feel the fear and do it anyway.
The carpetbaggers do so out of desperation; they know it’s just a matter of time before they get called on their nonsense, so they’ve got to hurry up and capitalize on whatever opportunity they can before the walls come crashing down and they have to move onto something else. You know the type. You’ve watched them re-invent themselves with a new schtick every year or two. Stop worrying about what they’re doing or not doing. They feel it, they’re just not telling you.
Successful people also question themselves all the time. But they actually care about the outcome. They care about things like integrity and reputation and their self-doubt serves as a governor on the engine – sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But it’s from a place of actually caring about what they do and how they do it.
But they also know one critical thing that helps them use it as a force for good.
Discomfort Is A Sign Of Growth
Successful people are rarely stagnant.
And no, I don’t mean the bullshit about waking up at 3am everyday and hustling hard and all that stuff.
I mean that they know they have to do things that occasionally make them uncomfortable because they know that new things – things with high potential – feel different at first. Hard. They’re willing to be perpetual beginners and suck at things and question their skills because they know that’s the first step to getting better at something. You can’t be an expert before you’re a clumsy beginner.
Over time, they’re willing and able to actually internalize their successes. To look at what they’ve accomplished and instead of downplaying it, embrace it. This also takes practice for a lot of people. We’re taught that humility is important, so we have a hard time looking at things we’ve actually achieved and letting ourselves feel good about it. But it’s important to know what’s working and to appreciate how far you’ve come so the unknown roads ahead feel less daunting.
That’s how you learn to trust yourself. To say “wow, this feels weird. I’m in new territory here and so of course it’s going to feel unfamiliar. It’s normal to feel a little intimidated by the people who do this well already, but the only way I can get to that level of mastery is to wade through the messy parts of learning and growth. And because I’ve done that before in other areas, I know that – even if I can’t see the outcome today – I’m capable of finding it.”
So the next time you’re feeling daunted, unworthy, or otherwise like you don’t belong somewhere, I want you to reframe that feeling as a good sign. That means you’re not stagnant. You’re moving toward places that are new, different, bigger. And it’s likely that the people you’re looking up to are feeling their own doubts along their own path.
Oh, and by the way? Someone is probably looking up to you, too.
You’ve got this.