By Kawania H. Wooten CMP
In the spring of 1995, I had the honor of leading the conference and meetings department for a small non-profit association. It was a pretty big deal and an exciting time for me, but it was an incredibly stressful time for me too. You see, I started to quietly believe that I didn’t deserve this new job — I became afraid that my new boss was going to see my work and start to think she made a mistake by hiring an “imposter” or a “fraud.”
When I look back at that time, I shake my head in disbelief. I was educated, experienced and I was very good at my craft, but I feared that others weren’t going to agree. Have you ever had a similar feeling at work? If you have, you know that this fear can become a “monster” that needs to be slayed before you can succeed.
So, here are five (5) tips to help you move beyond this obstacle —
1. It’s an Emotion – It’s Not a Definition of You. Your internal script is very powerful — If you call yourself a leader on a regular basis, you will make bold, strategic moves. If you regularly call yourself an imposter, you will more than likely “over analyze” every decision you need to make. So, what should you do? Change your script. Daily positive affirmations really do make a difference to your mindset. This is what I told myself every morning — “I am smart and I work hard, and I deserve this job.” “My bosses are smart and they recognize real talent when they see it, and they see that talent in me.” “Today, I am going to make another positive impact on the growth and future of my job, and they are going to be in awe of what I bring to the table!”
2. Let Go of the Need to Be Perfect. When my struggle with my “imposter fears” was at its peak, I was also obsessing about the need to be perfect. As a result, I would take forever to start a task or project, and I would take even longer to complete it. It became a vicious cycle! So, what should you do? For my own sanity, I had to stop focusing on perfection and I had to become okay with the best job I could do (even if it wasn’t perfect in my eyes).
3. Share Your Fears with a Trusted Friend or Advisor. Share your fears with a trusted advisor or friend to gain some perspective, receive support, and quite possibly secure a solution. You may even find that you are not alone — For more than 10 years, I thought I was the only person afraid of being called an “imposter.” When I shared this fear with my executive coach, I was blown away by the fact that this was a pretty common fear — especially among female executives.
4. Go to the Source. When I find myself obsessing about the negativity I believe my colleagues, clients and bosses feel about my work, I have to remind myself that this is just a bunch of “MSU” in my head. Never heard of “MSU?” MSU stands for “Making Shit Up.” And, more than likely, the shit you make up in your head is 100 times worse than real life. So, what should you do? To combat my fears, I went “directly to the source” by asking my boss for feedback or a “mini-performance evaluation.” If the feedback wasn’t 100% positive, I used their candor as a springboard for lessons learned.
5. Celebrate Your “Wins.” When you think you are inadequate, you focus on your shortcomings instead of your blessings. As a result, receiving compliments or celebrating successes will feel awkward and uncomfortable. So, what should you do? Until you can celebrate “you,” honor the fruits of your labor. Eventually, you will get more and more comfortable with the positive aspects are you!
Kawania Wooten is the principal consultant at Howerton+Wooten Events, LLC. Known to her friends and family as Kay, she uses artistic skills, her keen attention to the smallest details and her strong commitment to customer service as the hallmark of her business. As the founder of the company, Kawania strives for professionalism, creativity and impeccable organization within every function planned by Howerton+Wooten Events.