Another celebrity confesses to Impostor Syndrome.

Posted by: on Jun 12, 2015 | One Comment

It’s graduation season, known as “commencement” in the US. We like this time of year and way back in 2010 Helga crowdsourced some advice to that year’s graduates on advice from people in her network.

In the past, we’ve enjoyed some great commencement/ graduation speeches from anumber of performers – from Tim Minchin’s Life Lessons to the wealth of wisdom and sagacity curated by Maria Popova on Brain Pickings in her list of Greatest Commencement Speeches of all time.

And at a recent commencement speech at Harvard film star Natalie Portman spoke of her time as a student there. She felt that, despite her excellent grades and academic prowess, people would think she was “merely” a celebrity who had bought her way in through fame.

So as we’ve highlighted before, Natalie joins the ranks of Peter Higgs and Maya Angelou in confessing to suffering from Impostor Syndrome.

So, other than take comfort that everybody seems to fall prey to the sense that they are not good enough and that they will be “found out”, what can be done about Impostor Syndrome?

We suggest three key behaviours in tackling this pervasive feeling:

  1. Identify your key strengths (if you are not sure what they are we’ve written about that here) and write them up somewhere prominent in your workplace –remind yourself of them daily. Impostor syndrome preys on our perceived weaknesses rather than celebrates our strengths.
  2. Next time you find yourself assuming someone else’s opinion (“People think I’m stupid” or “I’m not as smart as anyone else here”) find a way of instantly challenging that assumption. Ask yourself “Is that true or have I just made that up?”. If you genuinely can’t distinguish between the two you may want to work through those feelings with a coach or therapist.
  3. Focus on something good that you have done for others: value you have added or service you have given. Sometimes the Impostor Syndrome can be a reminder to focus on others and not on yourself.

This is summed up in a quote that is often mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela’s inaugural Presidential speech but is actually written by Marianne Williamson in her book “Return to Love”:

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?”

1 Comment

  1. Thomasina Carlyle
    June 12, 2015

    What a fantastic speech in relation to imposter sydrome. I am interested in your link to strengths on signature strengths but cant find that on the link you give.


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