“Impostor syndrome is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a 'fraud'.”
When I was getting certified as a StoryBrand Guide last year, we were taught that every person carries a set of problems or fears. If you are going to get their attention in an increasingly noisy world, you are going to need to identify and speak to all of them. The three problems are:
External - physical, financial, relational, etc.
Internal - doubts, fears, insecurities, etc.
Philosophical - right and wrong, good vs evil, your values vs competitors, etc.
External problems are usually pretty clear. It is the real and obvious festering challenge staring you right in the face. And the philosophical is usually pretty easy to get to as well. There is usually some overarching injustice they would like to set right. Some sense of a lack of fairness that they would like to change.
But the internal problem was a little more challenging to identify. An author I love has been talking about the way men “pose” or pretend for almost two decades. He says that most of us are seeking an answer to a great question:
Do I have what it takes? Am I a real man?
When we discussed the internal problem with StoryBrand, they said something very similar.
The internal problem is asking questions like:
- Am I going to fail?
- Is our business on the brink of failure?
- Am I going to screw this up?
- Do I have what it takes?
I smiled when we got to that last one. Not only because I had heard that very specific internal question identified before, but because I know it to be very true for almost everyone. Even some of the most successful and accomplished people I know are driven to that success by the desire to answer that question that they aren’t really sure about.
The acknowledgment of that isn’t a sign of weakness, but one of humility and honesty. We live in an overwhelming, chaotic, and way overcorrected world. The ease of comparison, the need to perform, and the pressure to keep up with other’s success is overwhelming.
In a nutshell, we all have internal fears or problems.
Oh, and by the way, so does everyone who works for you and every client or potential client of yours. Understanding their internal fear is not only the path to showing great empathy for them, but the path to a growing and sustainable business. Understanding your own fears will help you keep from making the wrong decisions. Understanding others will make you a more successful leader and business person.
Not only is the "imposter syndrome" alive and well, it is on the rise. Increasingly, people are working overtime to make sure their superhero image seems impenetrable, but inside it is a whole other story.
We search for solutions to our external problems, but we make “buy” decisions based on who it feels like understands our internal and philosophical problems and speaks to them. Understanding this is the only way to differentiate your business and survive in a very noisy world.
- Do you know what your internal fears or problems are? (Notice that I didn’t ask if you had internal fears or problems.)
- Do you know what your employees or customer’s internal problem is?
- Do you feel like you are missing out on additional business or effectiveness in your leadership because you don’t know?