The upside of imposter syndrome

Our airport pickup was due to arrive at my parents’ house in an hour. Exactly the moment my husband decided to take our daughters for one last visit to the beach. We wouldn’t be back to California until the following summer, so I reluctantly agreed. But only if they promised not to go in the water.

10 minutes before our car was to arrive, the doorbell rang. Thank goodness, I thought, they’re back.

When my parents opened the front door, it was to two soaking wet children. My father and I were speechless with horror. But my mother was smiling and welcoming them in from their big adventure with open arms.

Just as my mother had a completely different perspective on the situation than my father and me, reasonable people can take contrasting perspectives about commonly held beliefs.

Take “imposter syndrome” for example

The downside is well-explored. But what if we take the opposite perspective and look at the upside of imposter syndrome?

Let’s talk about:

  • What imposter syndrome is… really
  • Why it represents a tremendous upside in your career, and
  • How you can take advantage of it.

The reality about imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is simply self-doubt. Feeling like you’re not up to the task you’ve taken on or the role you find yourself in and being afraid you’ll be found out.

Imposter syndrome gets its power over us because we want to hide it. After all, it feels shameful. Hardly one of those things you want to announce to your boss and colleagues.

Once you start listening to the initial seeds of self-doubt, your inner critic will happily help them bloom into full-blown imposter syndrome. And once you label it as this bigger, more sinister thing of “imposter syndrome”, the more powerful it becomes. So we suffer in silence and let it eat away at our confidence even more.

If you feel this way, welcome to the club because you are not alone. Even the people you think are perpetually confident have their moments of doubt. In fact, most people experience it at some point in their career. Some studies put the number at 70%, but I think it’s much higher.

The reality is having self-doubt (aka imposter syndrome) is completely normal.

When you have self-doubt, it means you have high standards

In fact, people who worry about not being up to the job are often the very people you want doing the job. You care enough to do all the homework and will only put up your hand to do a task once you feel 120% capable.

The good news about this is that your level of competence is in all likelihood more than sufficient to get going in the job, and you can learn the rest as you go. That’s why they call it “on the job training”.

So if your manager has chosen you to work on a project or lead a team, let them be the judge of your competence. When you disagree with their assessment, it’s like rejecting a compliment or returning a gift. In fact, your imposter syndrome probably puts you at a higher level of competence than colleagues who are arrogant about their capabilities.

Even if you don’t currently have that competence, you’ll be able to grow into it

That’s because you’re aware and you care. When you experience imposter syndrome, it’s a sign that you are operating outside your comfort zone. And that’s essential if you want to keep growing and improving. People who never experience that self-doubt are most likely not stretching themselves, which will limit their future opportunities.

So use your imposter syndrome as a signal that you’re on the path to learning, growing and becoming an even more capable version of yourself. And just as the size of a puppy’s paws are an indication of their future size, look at the size of your imposter syndrome as a sign of your future potential. All you need to do is keep going and you’ll grow into it.

Which leads us to one of the greatest upsides of imposter syndrome

Think of your imposter syndrome as lighting the path to your next major breakthrough. When your inner critic plants the seeds of self-doubt and then keeps shouting louder until it becomes full-blown imposter syndrome, you can be sure you’re onto something.

That inner critic is only trying to keep you safe from taking any risk. But unlike prehistoric times, your life most likely isn’t hanging in the balance. In today’s world, listening to your inner critic won’t keep you safe. Instead, you’ll stay right where you are, which means cutting yourself off from opportunities to reach your full potential.

So take advantage of your imposter syndrome

It’s time to embrace your imposter syndrome and use it for good, not evil.

Just as my mother embraced her two soaking wet granddaughters and created a joyful ending to their visit, you can embrace the upside of imposter syndrome and take advantage of the growth and opportunity it brings.

This article first appeared on MayBusch.com.