Imposter Syndrome - doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud.
Do you ever feel like someday someone will walk in your office while you are busy on a project and say "we figured you out, you aren't as good as you say you are, you are a fraud, get out." Or have serious doubt in your abilities to carry out and execute a project, or a recent promotion has you feel like you bit off too much to chew and should have given the position to someone else? These are all feelings that are associated with what people have termed as "the imposter syndrome", a feeling of you are a fraud or faking it in your current role...this is a brutal feeling that curns inside our heads, and the more I looked into this syndrome the more I learned that it was COMPLETELY NORMAL, and the majority of us actually feel this at some point in our careers.
For some reason at the end of every quarter I have a strange feeling that begins as an itch, and continues to grow to where it completely clouds my mind. The thought is so silly and but yet is frustratingly crippling. It isn’t brought on by any slowing of business or events we host, on the contrary: the number of events is extremely well received as well and is only gaining momentum! Even after a very successful experience of bringing an idea to the table and creating an extremely successful event for families and our industry, I still had the cloud only get thicker and have more coverage. I felt like what I was doing wasn't impactful, valuable, or beneficial, in fact...I felt like a fraud.
This is a strange feeling to encounter, it’s something that I’ve never felt before. I was getting accolades from colleagues I knew and also receiving words of encouragement and support from strangers, but yet I still couldn’t identify, nor agree, with what people were saying about me. I knew what I was doing was paying the bills and it appeared successful, but I didn’t/don’t have the feeling like it is a success. From Crüe Club events to launching Kids Crüe, I still could not feel what I was doing deserved that kind of recognition, nor was I really doing anything special. The inability to identify my success, or milestones achieved was extremely odd. It is a feeling of not being satisfied or better defined as the inability to feel the achievement of any success.
With me it is a “lack of a feeling” more than anything. It’s a feeling of where you know you should feel a certain level of pride, or achievement in something, yet you can’t get to that point. You want to get to that proud feeling or want to feel the achievements, however it is distant to you. It’s a constant feeling of doubt, that what I’m doing isn’t really worthy, or people will find out I really don’t have anything to offer and people will call me a fraud, or see through my shit immediately. In short: the curtain was about to fall. I couldn’t (and still can’t) shake that feeling, so I began researching what I was feeling, and there are a ton of great resources out there, but I believe what I was experiencing was the “Imposter Syndrome”, which in short is that you are a fraud and don’t really deserve to be in the position you are in, and if you are in the position you will be found out that you don’t know what you are doing.
This was exactly what I was feeling. People such as Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein, David Bowie, Tina Fey, and countless others have experienced this. In fact 70% of people at one point in their lives feel this! But if so many people feel this, then why do I feel completely isolated and alone in feeling these feelings. I’m not saying I’m Maya Angelou or Albert Einstein, but it does help me normalize the feeling in that even the great people in history who were and are clearly geniuses by society's standards share the same emotions as a 42 year old entrepreneur. Knowing that so many people feel the same way I do was reassuring to read. So the first thing I need to do was realize that whatever I was feeling was ok to feel, any self doubt or feeling like an imposter was something many people felt, not just me. So this helped me not feel so isolated and like it was “just me”. As this feeling is relatively new to me, several things I needed to realize while I process this emotion and try and trick or change the way I feel.
So why was I feeling like I wasn’t successful when clearly my endeavors since I started the company were extremely successful (numbers of attendees and inquiries about memberships were going up) and gaining momentum (we just hosted our first sold out Kids Crüe event)? I KNEW I was doing well, but I couldn’t feel it. Why not? It was time I looked in the mirror and figure it out. First thing I need to do is realize that what I was doing I was still in the infancy phase of building a company. I have only been doing this endeavor for less than a year (only 3 quarters). With most startups individuals find themselves in the red for the first several years, and don’t pay themselves salary for some time. So when I compared myself to some stories from fellow entrepreneurs I realized, that I was doing better than ok, I could at least sustain my household, pay bills, book flights, hotel rooms, etc. So in reality I was doing ok in the “startup infancy” portion of the company.
Second thing I needed to do, was define what success was to me, besides monetary and financial freedom. Looking back at the chapter before (not going to get into all that here) I was successful. I was getting industry recognition, I was executing on my plans for the company- and it was working and gaining momentum, I had repeat Crüe Club Members as well as people I’ve never met before reach out about attending the events, we had an idea to bring families together at the Museum for “an afternoon of energy and education” and we not only sold out tickets and sponsorships, but we had some major E&P presence and support there. So if building an idea out to reality and it going better than you originally planned was a measure of success I had to admit that perhaps I was being successful in my efforts.
Third thing I realized I had to do, was stop chasing the feeling of wanting to feel successful. If I chased or wanted to feel the feeling of success I noticed it began to get further and further away from me. I knew we had great victories (either small or large) and I wanted to feel the good feelings that came with them, I wanted to celebrate the successes and know I was on the right track. But the more I chased that feeling I couldn’t get to it, I was too bogged down with “I’m not where I should/need/want to be”. I was beginning to get these mental roadblocks that I again had to identify and more importantly maneuver around. I realized that I had to release the control of my mental state, outlook, and negative emotions. I had to just accept how I felt at face value in the moment. I couldn’t worry about comparing my current situation of reality to where I “wished” I was, if I always was living in the mindset of “wishing” I could be on a different level I would stay stressed, be negative, and beat up on myself. Once I began to focus more on the moment or taking the 5 - 10 minutes at the end of the day to reflect on how far I’ve come, versus what I need to do or where I need to go, I began to feel that maybe, just maybe, I was successful. I could now experience the daily victories and pat myself on the back for how much the company grew in 8 months.
Finally I had to stop taking myself so serious! I realized that in this process of building a company I was taking myself too serious. I felt I had to present myself a certain way to be “taken serious”. But the problem was, I wasn’t being true to myself. I enjoy cutting up, making jokes, having some laughs, and not taking myself or life too seriously. Yet here I was acting like I had to act a certain way, or have certain industry topics of discussion. Once I began to take myself serious, I was in essence suffocating the “fun” side of things. Just like my previous podcast, if I wasn’t having fun and enjoying myself doing something, then I wouldn’t stick with it and it would burn me out. So I began to try and take myself less serious and enjoy the events more without thinking if they were valuable or not. For so long I was worried that the events weren’t of true value and suddenly people would call me out, but I began to sit back and observe the connections and conversations that were being had at the table. They were deep, insightful, intense, sharing stories of a common interest, or discussing best practices when dealing with a problem. So just watching these events unfold squashed that feeling of if they added value, as everyone at the table were making connections…and that is what it’s all about! I had to begin to enjoy myself again and trust the process.
This something that takes an active effort to identify the feeling and emotions, and to quickly shift that and define what I was feeling as it was just in my head. One interesting convo I had from this, I was speaking to several leaders in our industry and this topic came up, I was the first one to admit I felt this way time to time. Suddenly the floodgates opened up and many of us in the circle admitted that they too felt the same. I was blown away that other people I view as extremely successful and industry leaders, often felt the same way!
Sometimes all we have to do is talk about things we think we are the only ones going through, or experiencing them. You'd be surprised how you aren't the only one in the room with those thoughts.