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Fear That You Aren’t Enough?

(First appeared in WRAL Techwire.)

Deconstructing impostor syndrome is like planning for battle. Once you discover the chinks in the armor, you can take that monster down with a swift arrow to the exact right spot.

In the last two weeks, we discussed the best way to counter the superwoman / superman and the soloist impostor archetypes. Today we’re going to equip you with everything you need to counter the expert archetype.

How do you know if you default to the expert? Well, you probably lean hard on credentials and believe more letters behind your name validate you. Here’s how it shows up in your everyday life.

Let’s say you’ve been plotting to make a career change. Your strategy is to demonstrate your value through knowledge because you don’t think your experience will cut it.  So, you earn a new certification, but after crossing that milestone, it still doesn’t feel like enough. No worries, you’ll just enroll in another degreed program and proudly frame the diploma behind your desk for all to see, but alas, that victory is fleeting too. Since you STILL feel like ‘the powers that be’ won’t value what you bring to the table, you enroll in an apprenticeship program, hoping that the combination of advanced qualifications PLUS experience will prove you worthy enough to apply for the job of your dreams.

In real-time challenging situations, the expert hesitates to put forth an opinion unless they know they have the chops to do so. The expert believes their opinions aren’t legit unless they’re backed by credentials.

Sound familiar? If so, add these arrows to your quiver to help you overcome the fear that you aren’t enough.

  1. Shake up your world view. The truth is not everyone places the same value on advanced credentials. It’s very possible that the people you want to work with don’t care if you have “The Joy of Happiness” Certificate issued through Stanford. So unless you’re pursuing a very specific goal that requires a specific degree, you’re probably putting pressure on yourself that is completely unnecessary.

  2. You didn’t get here on your good looks alone. You’ve probably already proven yourself several times over. Take a minute and list the skills and strengths you already have.

  3. Think about the times you voiced your opinion and were right. My guess is that you have ‘shelves’ of evidence – you just haven’t taken the time to appreciate them. Create a highlight reel that documents your victories.

The lie you’re telling yourself is that your worth and maybe even your identity is inextricably tied to the next earned credential, degree or certificate. Reframing this lie can be tricky but doing the work here is worth it.  Drawing confidence from within and affirming that you are enough is a tremendous gift and one worth fighting for.


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