Give yourself credit
I hope that you are having a fantastic week.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? Or, do you know anyone who has?
Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon where an individual feels they’re not worthy and often hold a fear of being “found out” by others.
It usually happens in workplaces where the “imposter” feels like they are less capable or qualified than the people around them.
It is a confidence issue which can be temporary or long-lasting.
Of course, there are varying degrees to which an “imposter” might be exactly that – we’ve all heard of the “fake it ‘til you make it” crowd who learn on the job in the hope that they will pick everything up before they get pulled up on anything.
Godspeed to them, I say! (These kinds of things are sink or swim indeed, but throwing yourself in at the deep end can be a great way to quickly develop yourself.)
But for most everyone else, imposter syndrome is more of an irrational beast which is more a crisis of confidence than any genuine lack of critical ability to do what we do.
So why do we feel this way?
We recently had a training at the office with Vanessa Ugatti who is a great coach when it comes to pricing and helping people understand their true worth.
(Definitely look her up if this is a topic that resonates with you).
We brought her in because from time to time it is important for people to get a boost in confidence as it relates to the value they offer to our team and to our clients.
We covered a lot of different points (again, speak to Vanessa if you want the 411) but one point struck me as it relates to imposter syndrome...
The specific phenomenon I’d like to bring to your attention is unconscious competence.
Unconscious competence refers to the concept that there is a tendency for people to forget or overlook the pillars of competence they have acquired. Because we can do something easily, we discount it as being valuable.
Instead, we tend to focus on what challenges us and what we can’t do – which, of course, gives rise to feelings of inadequacy and – you guessed it – imposter syndrome.
Within our team, it might be dealing with the highly specialised and unique area of law that is intellectual property.
It is often important to remind ourselves that what might be very easy for us – is not so for any other legal team.
Our team, of course, have decades of experience and have spent their professional lives acquiring the experience and expertise to be able to look at a trademark claim and immediately know the best course of action.
Whilst it is easy and second nature to us... It is not so for everyone else, and solving problems like that effortlessly for clients is exactly where the value of what we do is!
An illustrative tale
There is a funny story about this…
A printing machine breaks in a newspaper press, and failure to make print would cost the company hundreds of thousands of pounds.
A specialist repairman comes to look. After an assessment of the machine, he pulls out a wrench, walks around the rear of the machine, opens a panel, inserts a part and taps the machine three times.
Suddenly, to the print managers’ relief, it bursts into life!
The repairman comes up to the manager, and writes the invoice, it's £2,500!
The manager is taken aback – the repairman only tapped the machine three times. So, he asks, "can you tell me why it costs this much, you only tapped the machine three times"?
The repairman says: “£50 for the part, £2450 for the knowledge of knowing where to put it and knowing where to tap to get the machine working again – you’re welcome.”
This is a repairman who knows his value!
In addition to that, the cost was minuscule compared to the value of a fixed and working machine to the print manager as well.
Cost is what you pay, value is what you get.
I am sure there are some "machines" that only you know where to whack to get working again - and that getting these working means a lot to their owners.
So don't discount what you do (either mentally or financially), even if you find it easy!
It’s worse for specialists!
Ok, so that might be a bit of an extreme example – but the point stands that people often forget to value their unconscious competencies.
A focus on what we don’t know often leads to doubts and a lack of confidence that further draws our attention away from what we do know - and being confident about that.
Imposter syndrome is especially acute for specialists, as we are so siloed in what we do, that it becomes obvious and second nature to us. It is easy to forget that we are in the vast minority of those who are capable of doing what we do.
Moreover, the fact that we can do it effortlessly and easily is actually more valuable even though it can often not feel that way.
Whereas to 99.99% of the population specialist areas are the most boffin, out-there, niche expertise out there.
I am reminded of this every time I have a conversation with a business owner and within 10 minutes we have: 1) gotten to the bottom of their problem, 2) have a strategy in place and a, 3) set of actions in line with their commercial goals.
Business owners' reactions to those kinds of conversations reaffirm my sense of value each and every time.
So if you operate in a specialist area, give your unconscious competencies extra emphasis.
How to: give yourself credit
So, what can be done to evade imposter syndrome and be more aware of our unconscious competencies?
Here are a few loose thoughts that you might find useful – whatever level you find yourself on the scale.
Catalogue your competencies
The first thing you can do, is catalogue your competencies. It is important here to be very wide-ranging, and make sure that things that you think are easy and obvious are also included. Remember: just because you’re a whizz with something and its basic to you doesn’t mean that it isn’t valuable and part of what you offer. Having and reminding yourself regularly of what you’re really good at is a great way to build self-efficacy (which essentially means confidence in your skills).
Ask yourself three questions
Number one: Is this belief I have about myself factually true, what evidence is there that disproves it?
Number two: Is it true that I will always feel this way? Or is it more likely that in time I will feel differently about how good I am at this?
Number three: Is there anything I can do to make myself feel more capable, what are my weak spots, and what can I put in place to improve?
Remind yourself, that people don’t care as much as you think they do
A lot of these feelings come from the worry that others will negatively judge you.
People don’t care as much as you think they do as simply put, they do not have time and a lot of the time are wrapped up in their own concerns and problems.
This can be a bit of a blow to hear initially, but it is actually quite a relief if you find yourself really worried about what other people think about you.
Whether or not you find yourself experiencing imposter syndrome – I think it is always a valuable exercise to get a sense of your unconscious competencies.
It only serves us all to be aware of what we truly excel at and share it with the wider world.
Don’t take yourself for granted and remember to give yourself credit!
But what do you think?
Did you find this useful? Have you experienced something similar?
I would love to speak to you about it.
Just drop me a line the usual way.
And as always, as far as it goes with intellectual property and protecting your big ideas – my door is always open.
Click the button below to drop me an email and get in touch.
All the best,
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