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Why Impostor Syndrome Hits High Achievers Hard

coaching imposter syndrome leadership mindset Dec 18, 2023

Impostor syndrome is insidious. It has you questioning your abilities, even in the face of proof that the opposite is true. You might succeed at a very high level in relationships, on the job, or in some other area of your life. When you let impostor syndrome creep into your mind, it says you are undeserving of those achievements.

You just got lucky. Very soon, people will discover that you are a fake and an impostor. Then, your wonderful world will come crashing down around you. It's bound to happen because you certainly aren't worthy of your achievements and the accolades you are receiving.

These feelings are usually found in people who have better-than-average skills and abilities.

Introducing the Dunning-Kruger Effect

Sometimes, we develop cognitive biases that are untrue. We convince ourselves of a false reality. There is no evidence that our belief is correct, but we continually justify it.

People capable of the most outstanding achievements often undervalue their abilities. Even if they succeed at a higher level than others, they will downplay their achievements. They believe they should work harder, and they consistently underestimate their skills and potential.

In 1999, researchers David Dunning and Justin Kruger conducted a self-assessment experiment. How did people view themselves versus how their performance was objectively scored? The results revealed what we now call the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

People with limited competence overestimate their abilities, often dramatically so. Then there's the opposite situation. The people who achieve the most make excuses for the outcomes they create and believe they need to become so much better.

How This Affects the Highest Achievers in Any Field

This feeling of being an impostor or fraud is especially tough to deal with when you perform at an extremely high level. That's because incredible achievements are applauded. They are publicly recognized. You might be given awards and find yourself the subject of interviews.

For the person who genuinely believes he doesn't deserve any credit for what he's done, the greater the recognition, the greater those false feelings of inadequacy. So, this person works even harder and as a result, higher achievements are realized. Recognition, attention, and accolades continue to pour in at an even greater rate. The cycle repeats, and the symptoms of impostor syndrome increase.

Give yourself credit for what you create at any level of achievement. You might get lucky now and then and enjoy some notable success. However, it will only happen consistently if you make it happen. That means you must stop feeling like you got lucky and start accepting your worth.

You may have skills and abilities that are greater than others. You could have dedicated more time and effort to create a positive outcome. If that's the case, you deserve any recognition you get from yourself and others. Don't let impostor syndrome keep you from enjoying the credit you receive for doing great things.

Ready to go deeper? You can take my online course "The Imposter Syndrome Solution" and I will guide you through the complex maze of Impostor Syndrome, shedding light on its intricacies and equipping you with effective tools to dismantle it.

Are you interested in coaching, leadership development or organization consulting support? Lets set up a call, I love to help leaders like you!

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