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What If they find out that I am an imposter?

Ana Polanco

picjumbo.com_HNCK2447Have you ever sat in an important meeting or for a major interview and thought to yourself “Any minute now these people are going to find out that I have no idea what I am doing.” Sound familiar?

That, my friends, is the imposter syndrome courtesy of the “Tu No Puedes” (TNP) Committee living inside your brain. Let me explain:

The TNP Committee is a strong set of voices that lives in your mind and has one purpose in life – to maintain a library collection of messages you receive from yourself and others. This collection is often largely made up of all the mistakes you have made, the insecurities you have about yourself and even those judgments other people have made of you, whether you believe them or not.

So when you want to take on a new project or get that promotion or a raise, here comes the TNP Committee with any number of commentaries. Often they sound like people you recognize. For me they often sound like people I love and respect gossiping around the kitchen table about me. They’ll say any number of things that sound like:

“She’s not ready.” “She doesn't know what she’s doing.” “Politics and business are not for women.”“She doesn't have the right credentials.” “She does meet all the criteria in the job description.” "She'll never get married if she keeps this up."

You get the picture. The worst part about the TNP Committee is that the voices are like the energizer bunny rabbit, and they keep going and going and repeating and repeating… And if you let them, you will start to believe that these ideas in your mind are true.

But guess what? The only imposter in the room is the TNP Committee. Y si tú quieres, you can retrain this committee so they are working with you and not against you. Let me tell you how I got started:

Take Back Control

You must regain control of your mind. What your mind and your heart think are DIFFERENT! Your mind is like the energizer bunny rabbit, simply recalling every message you never wanted to hear. But if you literally tell your mind to relax and stop, it will. You are in control. One way to begin regaining control is to make a list of all the negative messages your brain likes to repeat so you become aware of them. Once you identify those messages, write down a positive opposing thought to replace that idea. Here’s an example:

Negative message: “I am not qualified to do the job.”
Positive message: “I have all the skills and capacity to be successful in this position.”


Once you have the list (and if you’re anything like me your list might be super long) don’t get overwhelmed. Pick about three to five negative messages you want to change. Stand in front of the mirror for the next 30 days and repeat the positive messages twice a day-once in the morning and once at night.  By doing this you are reprogramming the TNP Committee library and so next time you have a doubt about anything, a positive message pops up instead of a negative one.

Mistakes are GOOD

My mother always said to her friends that she never had to punish me because I would punish myself. She was right! I am really good at reliving my mistakes over and over again no matter how small. And that’s a problem because reliving your mistakes results in more negative material for the TNP Committee.

Don’t get me wrong. It is okay to recognize your mistakes, course correct, apologize or do whatever you have to do to make improvements. And then MOVE ON!

No really. Move on. The next time your TNP Committee wants to relive your mistakes, over and over, tell your brain E.L.M.O.!  (ELMO – Enough, Let’s move on.) With time and repetition of positive messages, the brain will stop this bad behavior.

So you don’t know the answer. So what!

Pretending to know something means that you are missing a really big opportunity. It means missing the chance to learn something new, letting your boss see your progress or empowering your staff to support you.  As a leader, it is important to acknowledge what you do well and then to tap into those on your team or available resources who do have the skills that is needed.  You don’t have to do it all.

Always be in learning mode. By doing so, you open yourself up to new ways of doing your work and genuinely understanding others. It is also an opportunity to build trust and let people see you shine and letting others shine with you. It makes you seem expansive, compassionate and creative. You become a bridge to new opportunities.

Building Confidence in Yourself

You are an amazing human being capable of so many things! Every time you learn something new – celebrate it! Share that with others.  And remember, you are worth more than the opinion of an imaginary committee living in your mind.

Your turn:

What is one thing you have done to let go of the imposter syndrome?

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