Imposter syndrome occurs when you feel inadequate and worry that others will "find out" you're a phony and don't deserve to be in the position you're in. Many people experience this at some point in time, but why does it happen? And, more to the point, is it avoidable?

The key to avoid falling prey to this feeling is where you place your focus: Is it on you, the ego-filled "I," or on the purpose, the "it"?

If your goal is based on acting out a role or merely striving for success, then you're likely to be prone to imposter syndrome. It occurs when you try to look the part of a badass entrepreneur rather than concentrating on whom and what to serve distinctly well. A trap of imposter syndrome is that it invites exactly the type of behaviors that only make it worse. Feeling like an imposter often drives people to puff themselves up, to project even more bravado. They start to tell slightly embellished stories, and bit by bit they create an illusion of someone other than themselves as they really are. Not only have they wasted time and energy with the wrong focus but they ultimately lose themselves in the distortion.

Luckily, there's an easily accessible antidote to imposter syndrome. It is simply to be yourself, and to be so deeply committed to a purpose that what matters is not how you appear to others but what is actually served. Take good care of your actions and your reputation takes care of itself. We each discover what matters not by focusing on our own needs but by paying attention to those of the world. The transformational power of just being yourself takes you outside of the "I" of self-interest to care about "it," a purpose. This shift in attention is how a dent can really begin to take shape.

Ideas are relatively easy to come by, but conviction demands the energy of purpose. We need to know that something matters, and why. Conviction is willingness to do the work, to live with uncertainty, to be open to asking for help and not to worry about the end result. Real confidence (as opposed to bravado) is born of committing oneself to that work.

The power of onlyness From the book: The Power of Onlyness by Nilofer Merchant. Copyright © 2017 by Nilofer Merchant Published by arrangement with Viking, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.


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