Even being at the height of your career is no guarantee you’ll feel comfortable in your own professional skin. Afflictions like impostor’s syndrome and other limiting beliefs could be holding you back from experiencing deeper fulfillment and creating greater impact.
I’m well acquainted with all of these afflictions because I’ve had my version of each of them at different stages. For the vast majority of people, confidence and ease come with practice and accomplishment, except when they don’t.
Scholars, VPs, corporate consultants, established authors, professors, media personalities, restauranteurs, tech whizzes, spiritual guides, entrepreneurs, coaches, performers. They’re motivated by wit, persistence, and a hunger to learn. They also have their own set of limiting beliefs that aren’t serving them which are keeping them from playing big.
The Impostor’s Syndrome
This is perhaps the most common of all the afflictions and limiting beliefs. The relationships counselor who wants to write a book about relationships, but who’s own relationship is a complete mess. How can he possibly be an authority on the subject? The VP who runs a tech firm but cannot organize her personal life and feels like a fraud. The spiritual teacher promising enlightenment who rages at erratic drivers on the road.
The Impostor’s Syndrome arises when an accomplished creative, entrepreneur or professional feels that what she’s promising is inconsistent with what she’s doing or how she’s living.
- Many people look up to accomplished creatives and professionals. So they might feel an obligation to uphold an image of perfection.
- Related to the above, the professional or entrepreneur might be unforgiving of his ever-evolving status in his professional and personal growth.
- Promise what you can deliver on, and refrain from promising a perfect permanent state. Promising “enlightenment” or “perfect health” or even “happiness” as a permanent state is not only unrealistic; it’s likely a lie. Promising such permanent states and perpetuating guru-like images of perfection also perpetuates people’s feelings of inferiority or repression.
- Take a cue from Walt Whitman: You are wide and full of contradictions. When you recognize your own contradictions as potential creative paradoxes, then you stop expecting your “self” to be monolithic and simplistic.
The Field-Crossing Shame Affliction
This arises when someone accomplished in one field wants to excel in another field. Since I work with numerous authors, I witness this especially when an accomplished professional in a non-writing-related field wants to write a book to build their thought leadership but doesn’t know where to start.
It also comes up with accomplished creatives and entrepreneurs who don’t know where to begin with building a platform or brand, how to expand their online presence in the world, or how to pivot their career. They think they should have it figured it out. These people can be delightful to work with when they recognize their skill deficiencies and become inquisitive “apprentices” of sorts.
Several years ago, when I started working with a business advisor many years my junior, stumbled over my know-it-all mind at times. But when endeavoured to put aside whatever I thought I knew, even about my own fields of expertise my business and I grew immensely and rapidly due to his wisdom and my openness.
Creative entrepreneurs and professionals, even those with master status within their fields find it challenging to submit to new knowledge, frames, and concepts in a new field. They feel they should know what they’re doing. They’re used to being in charge, being the ones with the answers. Creatives who feel shame for not knowing about brand building, marketing or authoring a book don’t recognize that these endeavors each require a different yet complementary skill set.
If you want to enter a new field or excel in a new field, break down the skills you need to learn.
- Find models and study them. Practice and prototype over and over.
- Find a mentor or resources you can trust, and open up.
- Ask more questions, test out, and remember what it felt like to be an inquisitive, experimental, open-minded apprentice or student.
- Recognize that field knowledge and domain knowledge change so rapidly in the 21st century that we all should perceive and present ourselves as perennial amateurs and apprentices.
The most successful, gratified, and influential entrepreneurs, leaders, and creatives do this.
The Intra-Field Knowledge Affliction
This one also comes up often and has to do with what gets in the way of an accomplished professional or entrepreneur advancing their authority and thought leadership within her existing field.
For instance, the accomplished author or MFA or professor of creative writing “knows” a lot about writing. If I or someone else suggest, say, a new way to shape a book or book proposal, the professional might respond with, “Yeah, yeah, I know that. Been there, done that.” An existing incomplete frame of knowledge biases the person in being able to grasp the new, expanded frame of knowledge
Or they’ve become so attached to their own process and find it challenging to break from that process even if doing so might lead to the kind of break-through in their project or life they yearn for.
An accomplished professional’s or entrepreneur’s reputation might be built on comparable knowledge. For me or someone else to come along and suggest that there’s more to know about something like writing or authorship, marekting or their brand story can be threatening.
It takes a confident person to submit to new knowledge. When someone presents a potential new way of looking at an “old” idea, open up and see what insight you might take away. An open intelligence, that’s the operative mindset.
A growing number of emerging and established business leaders, creatives, authors, professionals, entrepreneurs, teachers, coaches and consultants make up our Tracking Wonder Quest Community. We’re a group of people committed to to doing business from a place of authenticity and wonder and I’d be pleased to have you join us. It’s absolutely free. And freeing.