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Impostor Syndrome is Real

Updated: Jun 11

I’m 46 years old, and I wish I had become a father sooner. As it happens, my boys are 2 and 3 years old (and a bit) today – and my biggest goal in life is to be a robust 60-something so I can take them out into the world and do all the crazy things all over again with them.

But I worry about them. Will they be average? Above average? Below average? And who gets to decide average? What external measures will determine the way I should father. And it makes me think I would just, as a minimum, like to be normal happy boys. But time will tell.


We see the world through a lens. My current lens is as a father, and I was therefore sensitive to a study that came across my desk regarding Locus of Control. It went something like this: In a study with preschoolers, when told they did well on a test: “You must be really smart!” on average the performance dropped on the next test, due to externalising the performance – i.e. cannot control whether they are smart or not. In a separate sample set, the kids were told “You must have worked really hard!”. This prompted the kids to double down on their efforts and do even better on the next test, internalizing their performance to something they could control.


So now I’m kinda obsessed with what I should tell my kids. And, as a direct correlation, what scripts are running in my head due to what I was told as a kid? And how are these scripts regulating my view of the world, what I know to be true about myself, others, and my place and purpose?


So I went and did some further research. I’m, at heart, a tourism professional. I love talking to people, swopping ideas and views with my incredibly gorgeous country of South Africa as our backdrop. Building a 7-figure business in this sector led me to membership of the Entrepreneurs Organization. In the subsequent years, I have trained, coached, and mentored hundreds of leaders across the world.


(Virtually) traveling to four continents and working with hundreds of leaders has taught me something. And it was surprising.


IMPOSTOR SYNDROME IS REAL.


Unbelievably, you keep on coming across highly accomplished, capable, and dynamic people who just don’t believe it when you tell them they are amazing. There is an inner critic that drives them ever onward, and they struggle to stop and celebrate victories. There is a script running inside of their head that tells them they don’t belong at the big table, they need to keep striving and building and working. And that they shouldn’t trust the success, because tomorrow it could all be gone. Why do we do this to ourselves?


Let’s grab some definitions:


Imposter:

Phony. Pretender. Fake.


And it’s a classic thing that Entrepreneurs tell themselves, and others when they start out: “Fake it till you make it.” I.e. - take the job, pretend you know what you’re doing, and figure out how to do it afterward. It’s almost an essential part of the play. That’s how we grow. That’s how we innovate.


But then once you make it, shake off the idea that you’re faking. The mistake we make is we stay in that mode. Because we started with “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing” doesn’t mean that script should keep on running.


But at what point have you made it? How do we know? Have we worked that out? And how do you keep your innovation edge, but also take your foot off the gas and maybe...just maybe...feel a bit of belonging? Feel like you’re now authentic? Feel like you got this?


The danger, of course, is slowing down too much. You lose your edge, you lose your momentum, your business suffers. You become complacent, arrogant. You start losing customers, good people, and your product suffers. That’s also a truth, and we’re back to the fear of failure. Gotta keep on going because if I slow down, I’ll be exposed as a fraud after all.


Man, where is the balance? How do we get to the sweet spot?


The answer, I believe, is in finding a few role models. Or mentors. Basically, people that appear to have this figured out. Maybe they don’t. Maybe their inner critic still drives them, you never know. But if they, to me and you, seem like someone at whose table we would like to sit, maybe they’re worth studying.


Next week we'll focus on mentor's words & the script we're running.


*Watch the following video on the power of words:


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