Imposter Syndrome Sucks

Updated: Apr 2

It was my first week as Chief Revenue Office at Fast Company. After 20 years working for Martha Stewart, this was the first time holding the CRO title.

That first week I was asked to represent the brand at ‘The Magazine of the Year’ awards. This annual rite of passage was held at Cipriani in midtown NYC, along with 500 of my peers.

The voices in my head told me that my not so friendly peers would be judging me and my ability to lead the prestigious business innovation media brand.

The brand is also considered cool. I am not cool.

Doubt and fear whispered in my ear asking if I could do this job, let alone was I ready to accept an award for work done the previous year when I was not there?

Did I have a speech ready? What would I say? Please, don’t say something stupid.

Judgement. Fear. Comparison.

I shouldn’t be the one.

And the award goes to….

I carefully walked to the stage as I told myself not to trip. Climbed the riser, shook the hand of the presenter, took the award and bellied up to the microphone. I can do this.

I looked out at the crowd. There sitting at the most immediate table in front of me was my former boss. In between leaving Martha Stewart and Fast Company, I worked briefly for a digital content company.

The funny thing—maybe not so funny—is that I was asked by the Founder of my new gig of that company to help recruit my new boss.

Four weeks and 4 meetings after my new boss started - WHO I HELPED RECRUIT - she fired me.

And there she was, sitting at Table #1. I could see nothing but her. She was now the new CRO of Wired magazine. They too were up for the award.

That moment in front of the microphone in front of 500 people and in front of a boss who fired me, I was drowning. The weight of imposter syndrome was heavy and holding me back.

Self-doubt touches all of us at some point. In fact, according to research, 70% of us – 2 out of 3 – have experienced imposter syndrome.

It erodes our confidence that tugs at our ability to perform at our best. It impedes our happiness. It can affect our careers, bank balances and the impact we were born to make in the world.

Self-doubt lies squarely in the thoughts we tell ourselves.

We tell ourselves that we are not the real deal. Wonder if we are good enough. What we tell ourselves during a spiral self of doubt actually magnifies the self-doubt and produces more of the negative thoughts that produce more of the same.

There is no cure. But, we can manage self-doubt by replacing the negative thoughts with the thoughts that will create the feelings that will put us into action towards what we want.

The key is to take the thoughts and get them out of our head and down on paper.

Putting your thoughts down on paper helps you recognize the negative impact of the negative thoughts.

Then replace the negative thoughts with the thoughts that will produce the feelings you want. Write down the thoughts that your Mom, Coach, best friend, or even better, your inner mentor, would tell you.

The act of taking your thoughts out of your head and putting them on paper is powerful. The act of writing down positive affirming thoughts is even more powerful.

Doing this exercise everyday will have a compounding effect on your life.

When I accepted the award I was not at my best due to the negative thoughts in my head.

I left the Cipriani ballroom and made a commitment to myself: If I wanted to create an extraordinary life, I needed to banish the thoughts of self-doubt, stop waiting for permission and start creating and believing in the thoughts that I was enough.

Somedays are easier than others, but consistency in how I manage my thoughts has proven to generate powerful results.


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