Posts tagged with ‘reducing workplace stress’

05 nov

7 Signs You Suffer from Impostor Syndrome

Kerrigan2“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?’ And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” —Meryl Streep

“I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” —Maya Angelou

“I still doubt myself every single day. What people believe is my self-confidence is actually my reaction to fear.”—Will Smith

If you’ve ever felt like this, then welcome to the club — the Impostor Syndrome Club. Obviously, you’re in good company.

The impostor syndrome is known to afflict not only the rich and famous but many successful executives as well. Primarily career-based and achievement-driven, it is a phenomenon where people are unable to own their accomplishments or value, despite evidence to the contrary.

The sufferer has a nagging fear of being found out as a fake and a phony, as if they’ve fooled everyone into believing that they are competent. Any and all success feels completely undeserved and dismissed as luck, timing, or something other than talent, intelligence, hard work, and perseverance. Many professionals have a respect that they feel is not earned, and a title that they feel they don’t live up to.

Some experts say it’s cultural; some say it’s psychological. This expert (and sufferer) says, “Who cares?” It’s painful and chronic. It’s the most awful, sinking feeling that is the height — and depth — of insecurity.

Although everyone feels doubt and anxiety at times, this syndrome causes a constant cycle of shame and embarrassment, and manifests in self-defeating thoughts that amount to one thing: “I am not worthy.”

And yes, the biggest deceiver in all of this really is us: Not in how we believe we lie to others, but in how we lie to ourselves. You see, impostors tend to mistake feelings for facts. But, feelings, unlike facts, lie—and they lie often.

Understanding this an important step in letting go. By recognizing the lies we tell ourselves and challenging them, we gain perspective, clarity, and confidence.

So–How do we lie to ourselves?

1. You tend to focus on the one thing that’s wrong rather than what’s right.

When I was hired to lead operations for a technology startup, I was brought onboard for my leadership and operations skills: my ability to structure and unify a team, point them in the right direction, and execute strategy. Yet, my focus was my abysmal lack of technology skill. I was beating myself up constantly over this one point. The fact that I had a long, successful career was lost on me. I was too busy feeling defective.

We are drawn to and focus on the negative instead of the positive. Anxiety and fear just seem to feel more natural to us, and often, become habit. Whatever we focus on only intensifies, so try focusing on the good.

2. You think it’s too easy — that anyone could do it.

I have a friend who is terrific at technology. He can write code, design websites, repair computers, and do a million other techie things. I think he’s amazing. He thinks a monkey could do it. When you know what you’re doing, it seems effortless. And it is — to you. What you may think is nothing is really something to someone else.

We don’t understand that certain things come more naturally for us, and not for others, and so we devalue our gifts. Never assume that your own unique talents are easily duplicated.

3. You think it has to be difficult to be worthwhile.

Some of us are taught this at an early age by struggling for love and attention from one or both of our parents. They withhold love until we prove ourselves worthy. Since their love and approval means everything to us, we think that we have to fight for everything worthwhile in life. In fact, sometimes, we over complicate things just to compensate for anything that should be easy. It’s exhausting, and time to stop.

Forgive your parents. They were doing their best and relying on what they were taught. Because the lies we tell ourselves are often inherited, forgive yourself, too.

4. You believe that what you’re doing is never enough.

In trying to satisfy that inner need for recognition, we set unrealistic expectations. We also compare ourselves to others and think that we have to struggle to measure up. This paradigm means that we can only feel worthy when we are achieving, as that’s what it takes to get positive attention.

In the Harvard Business Review article, “How to Keep A-Players Productive,” Steven Berglas discusses the “extraordinarily punishing superegos” of over achievers such as Winston Churchill, who “voluntarily push themselves to extremes.” Churchill was enormously self-critical, reviewing everything in his head that he failed at, a ritual he learned at a young age from his abusive father.

Often, our self-critical, punishing voice is not our own, but one we’ve heard, loved and trusted more than our own selves.

We forget that no one is all achieving, in all possible ways, all the time.

5. You need the secondary gains, because you get something out of staying this way.

Often, we stay in the impostor state for a reason — even if we’re unaware of it. Sometimes, it pushes us to do our best work. In fact, I would hazard to guess that it’s the motivation that drives Maya Angelou each time she sits down to write a book. We become our own competition, always playing against ourselves.

I tended to prepare myself for failure, so it wouldn’t hurt as much if it actually happened. After the traumatic experience of getting laid off from a job I had and loved for years, I would protect myself with this psychological safety net.

6. You’re not in the moment because you’re too busy feeling and not doing.

When we allow our thoughts to wander, we can often over-think, over-analyze and feel lost. It is then that we see only the emotional and not the practical, and our overly-conscious selves can throw us off — and possibly out — of our game. We’re so focused on the fear that we lose the moment, and that’s where we really need to be.

Sports psychologist Harvey Dorfman helped baseball legends address fear by being and doing more in the present and talking and thinking less about the past or future. His mantra was “see the ball, hit the ball.”

If we allow ourselves to be too self-conscious, we’re too busy feeling instead of doing. We get ahead of ourselves with too much anticipatory anxiety and miss the moment. For impostor syndrome, doing is the best antidote. When we’re in the doing, we have no time to criticize ourselves.

7. You don’t have perspective, and need to take a step back.

Perspective matters. It’s like a Monet painting—up close, it seems like a bunch of wild brush strokes that don’t seem to make sense, but from a distance, their true beauty and value are revealed to us. So it can be with our own lives and careers.

We often de-value the positive impact we have on others. If it was someone else’s life, we could see it objectively. It took me a long time to see the value I brought to many companies and clients. I finally realized that if I saw someone else who had my career, I would think, “Wow, that’s terrific!” And now, I do.

Here’s the thing about impostor syndrome: We have a limited amount of time on this earth, and it’s our choice what we do with it. So, why rob yourself of happiness and fulfillment?

Whatever we focus on the most will intensify, so focus on the good. It’s what we tell ourselves that really matters, so stop lying to yourself. Challenge and change those thoughts, so you can change your life. It is a wonderful life, after all.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan

For over three decades, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping businesses and private clients excel in the workplace and grow in the marketplace. She is an expert in developing the practical skills and confidence critical to high performance and productivity. With extensive leadership experience and practical mastery in operational excellence, Michelle is a powerful resource for navigating change, conquering fear and doubt, and solving day-to-day challenges, resulting in more effective leadership and teamwork, higher efficiency and revenue growth. In addition, Michelle writes and speaks about the roles confidence and self esteem play in achieving success, and produces a series for public TV, Workplace Confidence. More at: and

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Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on November 5th, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change, New Directions, Personal Stories | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

02 apr

Workplace Confidence: The Power of Faith in Leadership

MichelleKerriganLike many people around the globe, I watched as the new pope, Francis I, came out onto the Vatican balcony to address the world for the first time.

What struck me more than anything else was the view from the camera as it slowly panned around the faces in the crowd. I watched all those eyes and saw that look—a look I have seen many times before. I’ve seen it when presidents have addressed this nation and when great visionaries have shared their dreams.

I have also seen it on a much smaller, yet still powerful platform: at conference room tables and in corporate meetings.

The look is one of faith, and it is unmistakable. It shows a commitment of confidence that is a shared experience. There is nothing like it. Large organizations can appear more open and personal when a leader can evoke that brand of trust.

Just as the pope embodies the teachings of the church, so must a corporate leader represent the vision of a company. It’s what senior executives often can’t seem to grasp, and what is sorely missing in the workplace and marketplace today.

Faith is one of the greatest innovators because it drives us forward in spite of our fears. And, in this world of accelerating change, where nothing is certain, faith is the one thing that is absolute.

To invoke the power of faith—of trust—leaders must have a core set of values and a sense of identity that is consistent with their organizations’ brand. A leader needs to be the exemplary team player, with the same qualities expected from employees: respect, willingness, reliability, accessibility, patience, and empathy. Accordingly, customers respond favorably to such characteristics. The great thing about the shared experience of faith is that you inspire the behavior you exhibit.

While the business world has changed a great deal over the years, one thing hasn’t: employees and customers still want to have confidence that leaders will respond to their needs. That’s not fundamental in most of the corporate world today. And it needs to be.

One great example of a successful leader is Tony Hsieh. Hsieh built up an online shoe company, Zappos, based on his belief in superior customer service. His commitment was so strong, he made service the responsibility of the entire company, not just a department.

And it shows.

If you’ve ever ordered shoes from Zappos, you know what I mean. The staff is faithful to service excellence. There are no barriers—every interaction is easy. I love that they have open communication with customers by phone, with clarity, cheerfulness, no up-sell, time constraints, or scripts. Hsieh saw every contact as an investment in building lasting relationships with his customers—the same way he believed in building lasting relationships with his employees. He even wrote a New York Times bestseller, aptly entitled Delivering Happiness.

This is potent stuff. And it doesn’t stop here.

Zappos went on to earn over $1 billion in sales and made Fortune’s Top 100 Companies to Work For.

You see, the power of faith in leadership creates followers: repeat and word-of-mouth customers, as well as the retention of top-tier talent in an organization.

It even converts non-believers. Trust me—I’m one of them. I never thought I could enjoy shoe-shopping online!

Faith gives meaning to business—it’s why we sign on and stay. It has the power to ignite high performance and productivity, and is the motivational fuel that can carry companies to success.

Copyright 2013 Michelle Kerrigan. All Rights Reserved.

For over 25 years, Michelle Kerrigan has been helping businesses and private clients achieve workplace success by developing the practical skills they need to improve their confidence. Based on her own leadership experiences, Michelle provides an invaluable road map for conquering fear and doubt, navigating change, and solving day-to-day challenges, resulting in more effective leadership, increased productivity and revenue growth. Michelle also writes and speaks about achieving success, and is currently working on a series for public TV about self esteem and workplace confidence. More at and

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Michelle Kerrigan on April 2nd, 2013 in Career, Global/Social Change | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,