I was promoted to Practice President in my early 30’s. I’ve never run a company before.

Before that — I was the VP of Operations, Director of Software Development, and Manager of DevOps. You would think with those titles and years of experience I would feel comfortable in my role.

Ever since I took my first management job I felt like I was going to be found out. I feared someone was going to look at me and realize I was not good enough for what I was doing.

In spite of the fact I still feel that way to this day, I have been able to succeed.

Why? Because I leverage my imposter syndrome to make me better.

Sometimes your insecurities and your inexperience may lead you to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values, but you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path — one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons. — Natalie Portman, Harvard Commencement 2015

Do you have the imposter syndrome? About 70% of people will experience the imposter syndrome in their lives.

“…victims of the imposter phenomenon persist in believing they are less qualified than their peers, and suffer from the fear of being found out.” according to Dr. Joan Harvey, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School.

Imposter syndrome traits

  • Constant worrying about expectations
  • Successes are attributed to outside factors, luck, or extremely hard work
  • Concern with being ‘caught’ or ‘found out’
  • Self-sabotage and undervaluing their skills/ability
  • Not asking for raises
  • Staying in positions longer because of a lack of confidence they can do more
  • Combat your imposter syndrome
  • Listen to other people’s stories

Typically as you become more successful you are surrounded by successful people as well. It is easy to develop an unrealistic picture of how easy it was to get where they are. Talk to them about their experience — find out the challenges they went through.

“I have written 11 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.” — Maya Angelou

Stop handicapping yourself Have you ever put off starting a task for much longer than you should have because you didn’t feel like you could do it? Self-handicapping is common with individuals experiencing imposter syndrome. Recognize when this behavior is happening to prevent it.

Evaluate yourself using objective performance standards Develop your belief in yourself using objective standards. Compare your performance objectively with your peers. Don’t miss a promotion or raise from a lack of confidence.

Fake it till you make it Jobs are more about your ability to learn, instead of what you know today. Don’t let the feeling of being an imposter hinder your actual work. Tackle work head on — even when it is scary.

Everyone else feels the same More than 70% of people will experience the imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. The most successful people in the world — and the most successful people you know — have felt this way.

What I have done to get over it I didn’t get over it — I acknowledged it.

I learned how to manage it by paying attention to when it influences me. But in reality, it has also helped me be successful.

Preparation I love to think through a problem multiple ways, and at scale. That preparation allowed me to accomplish a lot, often more than my more senior peers. I prepared more because I felt I needed to.

Value-focused I question the value I am providing to my company — which pushes me to constantly seek value. I am not happy with the wins of yesterday. I am focused on the value I am bringing today.

It is humbling We have all worked for terrible bosses. Having the imposter syndrome helps me by forcing me to be watchful of my actions. Instead of assuming what I do is right, I assume I could be making a mistake at any point.

I’m a better coach By experiencing the imposter syndrome myself, I am a better coach to the managers beneath me. I understand what many of them are experiencing and can better coach them.