This week, BNG Inspire welcomes guest blogger, Jeff Vanlaningham! To learn more about Jeff, please visit the BNG Team website.

I was reading recently that Impostor Syndrome has become a thing. The official definition is “a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” Wow, someone much smarter than me came up with that one. I just know that many times in my life, I have had a great fear of being “found out.”  The world will in one fell swoop wake up and realize I am not what I pretend to be. With this discovery, I will lose all that is important to me. Heavy stuff.

What is the answer? This is where things get interesting. You can spend a great deal of time chasing your tail, hoping that a good job from your supervisor or some public shoutout will alleviate this fear. Now, stay with me, I think the answer lies in the pursuit of actual recovery and not just relief. Sure, knowing the CEO thinks you are doing great will calm things down for a few days, but the gnawing fear returns (usually stronger). So, how do you get rid of this or at least quiet it down to the point of manageability? I have found a few things that seem to work for me and might for you, too.

  • Fear grows best in the dark. We need to talk this stuff out. Having a trusted relationship with someone who I can be myself with is essential. Many of these types of fears dissipate just by voicing them out. I can’t tell you how often a loving eye roll from my mentor has helped.
  • Find ways to serve. Almost anything that is wrong with me can be made better by the ethic of service, the ability to be useful. This can be the smallest of things and can include just making a lap and saying, “good morning.” However, if you are an oversharer like me, perhaps a “Good morning! I’m here just trying to be useful to combat my debilitating fear of not being enough,” might be a bit much. The goal is to get into a “what can I bring to my colleagues” mindset. Trust me, getting your mind focused on others instead of yourself will have tons of positive benefits.
  • Goals or metrics. I know, eye roll, but hear me out. Setting goals and achieving them gives you a sense of accomplishment. This consistent behavior leads to all sorts of positive personal improvements including self-discipline and self-esteem.
  • Slow down. The biggest knee jerk reaction is to try and outwork the fear. This leads to mistakes and a feeling of overwhelm. Slow down. Do 4 things well, rather than 12 things badly.
  • And lastly, don’t take yourself so seriously. Whenever I get off the beam, I tend to get very serious.  Relax, take a breath, and if you can’t let go of all your fears, laugh at them. Fear robs us of being in the present, with its constant yapping about what might happen, 99% of which never does.

What about those times where your fear was legit?  Let’s talk about that. A few years ago, my boss set up a meeting with me for a week out. A WEEK OUT! I had a week to play mental gymnastics about this. Is this it?  Am I losing my job? No, of course not. Maybe I’m getting a raise or maybe they want to tell me good job. Back and forth, back and forth. When the day came, guess what? It was not a raise I was getting. It was a pink slip. Here it is, the event I have been so concerned about, my life is over. Except you know what? It wasn’t. Even when I was in shock about it, my family did not care, and my friends did not care. The universe was telling me it was time to move and was giving me the nudge I needed. I got myself together, dusted myself off (cried a tiny bit ) and onward and upward, eventually landing a better job with a better company. So even in those rare occurrences where your anxiety is correct, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

This is just one person’s open admission to what can be a debilitating condition and I hope this helps. If you suffer from Impostor Syndrome that you just can’t overcome, please seek help from a trained professional. You’re worth it.