Two years ago the phrase “Fake it til you make it” set something off in me. I heard the phrase many times and it always bugged me. All of a sudden I knew why. Who on earth wants to think of themselves as a fake? Who wants to do business with a fake?
I immediately came up with a replacement expression: Own it While You Hone it. This phrase acknowledges that you have skill and talent, you just might not have stepped into it yet.
In “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders” (FT Press, 2011), Dr. Srinivasan Pillay talks about the Imposter Syndrome that happens to some (I suspect MOST) successful people.
Dr. Pillay writes, [The Imposter Syndrome] “arises because talented people experience gaps in their awareness of their success because leaps of success often involve unconscious processes and accumulation of unconscious processes can lead to these talented individuals seeking justifications for their success while they believe that something is unbelievable about this.”
In other words, the actions people take to get where they are, to become successful leaders happened so long ago OR came so easily and naturally to them that they are no longer conscious of the work, effort, or skill set that went into performing those actions. So when they look at all the success that they have accumulated, they have no conscious memory of what they did to get there and they consequently wind up feeling like a fake. But you DO already have all those skills. You just don’t remember acquiring them.
Dr. Pillay explains that the brain can become anxious because as a successful leaders, we don’t remember how we got where we are. And that anxiety can get in the way of leaders being able to think and plan. Is your current anxiety coming from the “Imposter Syndrome”?
So how CAN we tackle this pervasive phenomenon?
One of Dr. Pillay’s points is that the more people become aware of the fact that brain science can account for some of the challenges we face in our business and personal lives, the more effective coaching and training will be in helping us overcome and/or change some of the habits and patterns that keep us from being engaged, successful and fulfilled leaders and human beings. He believes that when we become aware of the brain science behind why we feel like we feel, it can help us to rid ourselves of the effects those feelings have on us.
Now that you know that your brain has either completely forgotten or was not even conscious of all the hard stuff you’ve done to become the great______(Fill in the blank) that you are. Here are four techniques that I use on myself and my clients to remind our brains of how fabulous we are.
- Make a list of all of your positive qualities and keep it nearby. Ask your friends and colleagues what they appreciate most about you. Write those down too.
- Make a list of all of your accomplishments and spend some time recalling how you felt emotionally before and after each one. Some of the qualities you rely on now may have developed in you a long time ago. Keep that list handy too.
- Create a visual movie of a fabulous day in your life and “watch it” as though you were looking at yourself from the outside.
- Give yourself a “Successful. Powerful Avatar.” Give it a different name and make sure she/he is a fully fleshed out person, not a fake. Think Clark Kent / Superman, Diana Prince/Wonder Woman/ Beyonce/Sasha Fierce. Step into that “Telephone booth” and let him or her out any time you need to.
Do you have any tricks you’d like to share?
And remember: Don’t fake it till you make it. Own it while you hone it. Nobody likes a fake!