Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

David Seah has some great thoughts on this thing called ‘imposter syndrome’ that Tanya Geisler discussed in her TED talk last fall…

Lauren Bacon has a really great article on Imposter Syndrome, the tendency for some people to not acknowledge recognition for their accomplishments because they feel it isn’t deserved for one reason or another. I suffer from this myself every time someone calls me an “expert”; I instantly demure, saying that I only write about what I experience, and that my knowledge and skills are not all-encompassing enough, blah blah. I hate disappointing people, and I rationalize my behavior by telling myself it’s prudent not to raise the hopes of others, since that would leave them open to the dangerous repercussions that might come from following whatever so-called advice I had. It also has prevented me from really pushing the various productivity forms I’ve made, because I’m not 100% sure that they will work for everyone. In fact, I’m sure they won’t work for everyone. People tell me I’m being silly, but I still haven’t resolved the WHY and HOW of it.

That is, until today. Lauren makes the observation that there’s a difference between expertise and infallibility, and proceeds to dissect the ramifications of not embracing your own expertise. Take heart! There are plentiful reasons why you should overcome imposter syndrome.

What I am reminded of is that there’s an underlying moral imperative that exists for me: while I didn’t want to inadvertently lead people astray with my pedantic mumblings, to not stand up for what I’m saying does not help people either. I want to see people overcome their own self-imposed barriers and achieve the kind of happiness they can share with the world. In that context, I owe it to myself as part of this community of happiness-seekers to powerfully broadcast the signal.

What I don’t like about the “expert” label is that I think it implies “superiority”. It also promises “superlative excellence”, which creates expectation, and expectation is the fertile minefield where disappointment lurks. As I hate disappointing people, I tend to avoid setting high expectations for my forms, which in turn diminishes their appeal because it looks like I don’t believe in them. However, I think I can reframe “expert” as a label not for myself, but for others who are looking for something. It’s part of being a beacon or a repeater of certain positive memes. That is a responsibility that I should be willing to take, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel, because it’s good for me and for my imagined tribe, whoever they may be. This feels a little half-baked to me still, but it’s a start.

Source: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome | David Seah

I pretty much grabbed all of David’s article in this quote, but I added him to feedly so I can track him in the future. If I’m reading correctly, then David and I agree on this; that not telling your story is just as bad as narcissism in some ways.

When it comes to social media, I believe that there is what Aristotle called a ‘golden mean’ – he defined it as a virtuous path between two vices. I think the golden mean in social media is to share what Nilofer Merchant calls your ‘onlyness’ [which she defines as “that thing that only YOU can bring to a situation. As you see yourself, others can see you and the value you bring”] with transparency and humility while avoiding the pitfall of narcissism.

Jesus himself said ‘you are the light of the world’…

So, use social media to ‘let your light so shine before men’, but, don’t go overboard. The great Indian teacher Nisargadatta Maharaj once said, “Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between the two my life flows.” So it is with social media as a tool for communicating thought leadership – to be effective you must find the middle way; a way I call a ‘me’cosystem — a system for finding and sharing the things you need to deepen AND document your expertise so that you get found when people are looking for you and what you do…

In summary, don’t hide your light under a bushel but don’t blind everyone with your brilliance! If you need help with the thoughts, tools and tactics for transformational thought leadership, I offer personal digital coaching. Use the contact widget in the sidebar…

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