Last Thursday and Friday I was lucky enough to attend the Wisdom 2.0 Conference in NYC. The event was born in SF and brought to NY to “bring business leaders and entrepreneurs together to explore the next wave of business, and how to bring greater compassion and awareness to the work place.”
It kicked off Wednesday night with an intimate event with Deepak Chopra at ABC carpet among a “Mindful Art” exhibit by Nobel Prize nominee (nominated by MLK I might add) Thich Nhat Hanh. His “Calligraphic Meditations” created over 7 decades were all around us. Being a tea lover, I was particularly touched by this one.
Throughout the following days of the conference we heard from CEOs, Yogis, Authors, Buddhist Leaders, Investors and Doctors from companies like Etsy, Twitter, Friends of Highline and MBAs Across America. The room was filled with people changing the world and the intellect high.
I was inspired. I was intrigued. I had a seat at the table and earned it. Then how come I found myself questioning whether I truly belonged there? Whether I was smart/good/worthy enough?
I confess, I sometimes suffer from “Imposter Syndrome,” and from what I’ve read I’m in good company. Imposter Syndrome, a term apparently coined in the 80’s, is experienced by many (up to 70% of people according to researchers!). From managing partners at big firms to Oscar winning actors, no one is immune. In fact, it’s cited as being the domain of many high achievers.
In an article by Forbes Magazine, Liz Bingha, Managing Partner at Ernst & Young is quoted as saying she once thought to herself“What are you doing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be found out.” Academy Award winning actress Kate Winslet confided: “I’d wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud.” And although common in women, men are afflicted too: Fellow actor Don Cheadle shared a similar sentiment: “All I can see is everything I’m doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud.” Even Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou once said: “I have written eleven 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.”
Wow, what is it in us to go so far as to call ourselves frauds and how do we reverse that? Instead of leading us down the self-sabotage path, how can we turn it into an empowerment tool?
I suggest that instead of fearing that you’re a fraud, own it and use its power for good! Focus on what you add, imperfections and all. Stop comparing yourself to those around you. Embrace challenges that stretch you, and go for it – it’s a great learning opportunity. At times you may need to give yourself a pep talk – I know I did at this conference.
We were on our own during the lunch break and people were breaking off into small groups and venturing out. I was tempted to go off and get my email done – that way no one would be the wiser that I didn’t belong there, right?
Instead, I took a breath and said to myself, “What the F is wrong with you – of course you belong here. You have emails, blog comments, letters and personal experiences citing where you have changed lives in imaginative, smart and thoughtful ways. Go have lunch with those interesting people!” Next thing I knew, I was having a very enjoyable and stimulating conversation with three people bringing a lot to the mindfulness party. I expect we’ll keep in touch and perhaps even do business together in the near future.
Once I told myself “I AM the real thing” and valued that in myself, others did too.
This is where some self acceptance and “how I kick butt” exercises come into play. If you too suffer from this affliction, take a moment and write a list of your 5-10 accomplishments over the last 5 years – I bet it will impress you. Then, take a step back and pretend someone else wrote it – note whether you are more impressed by someone else doing the same exact thing. Now pat yourself on the back and go tackle something hard.
The speaker I was most impressed with, Casey Gerald put it beautifully – “Don’t take comfort in helping someone like me (who has a Harvard MBA and is already successful). Go be uncomfortable.”
Discomfort leads to discovery, problem solving and yes, overcoming your Imposture Syndrome.
We may all feel like a bunch of frauds walking around, but we aren’t.
Marjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™
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