During a recent mentoring session with a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) of a major multi-national company, the executive expressed a private fear. He attributes his past success as “being lucky” .. “being in the right place at the right time”. His fear is someone would find out that “he wasn't that good” and this his “fraud” would be reveled. He was suffering from impostor syndrome and it was impacting his ability to innovate.
What is impostor syndrome?
What you may find interesting is that most everyone suffers from impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. I have struggled with it myself.
Those who are working in the innovation and creative roles are more likely to suffer from impostor syndrome. Why? Because innovation and creativity are thought of as “gifts”. They have come to believe the lie that says your creativity is not the result of you but a gift you were given.
Which is bogus.
Creativity is a skill — a skill you can learn — a skill you can practice and a skill you can become proficient at.
But to realize your full creative ability, you need to get over the impostor syndrome. How?
How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome
Here are four (4) steps I used with the executive during the mentoring session:
Step 1: Acknowledge that others see your success: Collect notes, emails, messages, etc that others have sent you congratulating you on your success. Review them and acknowledge that others see you as successful. I have collected all the email people have sent me that were note of acknowledgement, success and of thanks.
Step 2: Practice positive affirmation: Write out a set of daily affirmations that you will then say out loud as you begin each day. Why? It will counteract our natural process of negastive talk. As humans, we use any criticism (from others or of ourselves) to justify why we aren't that good. My creating a set of positive affirmations, we can change the perspective of ourselves.
Step 3: Failure doesn't make you a fake: The best athletes have a high failure rate. Why should you be any different? Failure is a part of the innovation game and should never be viewed as a negative. Failure is proof you are trying. How do you get over them? Share you failures. In Silicon Valley, organizations now host FailCon‘s in an attempt to help people acknowledge that failures are not bad — and to move on. Hold your own personal FailCon.
Step 4: Take action: The impostor syndrome is a concept that cannot survive against action. Go and be creative. Go and create the next great innovation. By stepping out and taking action, you are telling yourself that yes your are creative and that your are not a fraud.
If you let the impostor syndrome go on and not challenge it, it can be debilitating. So challenge it and don't look back.
One final word of advice, when you experience that next piece of criticism about your work, you may fall back into the impostor syndrome. Don't. Criticism is part of the game when it comes to creativity and innovation. Get up and try again — and never give up. The world needs innovators like you to create that next game-changing innovation.
- Is the fear of failure killing your creativity and hindering your success?
- Collection of notes/feedback I've received
- Personal Creativity Lives in All of Us