Overcoming The Impostor Syndrome
Overcoming The Impostor Syndrome
Overcoming The Impostor Syndrome

It takes a bit of ego to blog, write books, give speeches and the like. You have to have enough confidence in what you have to say to hang it out there because you’re opening yourself to criticism. But it’s human nature to have self-doubt. Regardless of how much you prepare, how smart you are or what brilliant revelation you unleash on the crowd, you’re always second-guessing yourself, even if just a bit.

When Jay Baer, Amber Naslund and I sat down to talk about The Now Revolution, they said they were relieved I liked the book. I knew where they were coming from. When I give talks in front of the two of them, or other contemporaries I consider über smart, I’m a nervous wreck. Amber pointed it out as the Impostor Syndrome. You’re irrationally afraid you’ll be found out as not smart, qualified, enlightening, etc.

Someone's an impostorIt’s that fear that drives some of us.

In March, I attended the Dachis Social Business Summit in Austin, Texas. With great presentations by outstanding intellectuals and thought leaders in business, not just social media, there was plenty of brain food on the buffet. While talks from J.P. Rangaswami from Salesforce.com and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research stood out, the thought that percolated for me was that these folks aren’t saying anything many of us don’t already know or believe. They’re saying it in unique ways and with nice research on the back end, sure. But even at an exclusive, high-thought-level event, I heard too much THAT we should be social as a business and very little HOW we do it … or help clients or executives cope with the stress of change if they’re uncomfortable with it.

Seems to me that in a room full of it-getters and believers, we’d hear less rah-rah and more how to implement, operationalize and create an environment for social business success. While Power of Pull author John Hagel did touch on his premise of small changes in the right places as the most effective way to fan the flames of organizational change, I didn’t takeaway how to look for the places to implement them, or examples of how the philosophy might work. I’m sure he’d tell me to buy the book.

Several weeks and dozens of conversations later, I’ve been able to find the takeaway from the Dachis event. It’s an important one and the same Jay and Amber took away from my reaction to their book.

We’re smarter than we think.

All of us.

About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Hi Jason,

    I agree that the Impostor Syndrome is widespread, but I disagree that it is inherent in human nature.

    Worrying what people think of you and feeling you don’t deserve to have what you have is the result of beliefs, usually unconscious and usually formed in childhood, such as: Mistakes and failure are bad; I’m not good enough, what makes me good enough and important is having people think well of me.

    If you get rid of these and other related beliefs, the fear of being found out will disappear. We’ve helped thousands of people get rid of that fear.

    I wrote a post on my blog that explains how these beliefs are formed and how to get rid of them. http://www.mortylefkoe.com/stop-worrying/

    Thanks for your blog. I read it regularly and learn a lot about marketing my work.

    Regards, Morty Lefkoe

    • Thanks for the ideas here, and on your site, Morty. I appreciate the
      perspective. You’re probably right … I suppose the impostor syndrome
      doesn’t have much effect on narcissists, etc., but I think self-doubt
      is natural. But thanks for the smarts. I’m forever learning.

  • I can definitely relate to this post. Especially each and every time I write a post here for Social Media Explorer. I know that Jason will give the post a once over and then the huge number of smart folks who read this blog each day. It is the reason I still hold much of what I do and think close to the chest until I can confidently package it up and present it to the world. I feel perfectly comfortable speaking to crowds, but sharing a recording of me speaking is another story. Thanks for touching on this Jason.

    • Thanks, Adam. For the comment and for sharing your wisdom on the world. You
      wouldn’t write here if you didn’t bring something to the table, bro.

  • I did a presentation for 250 health professionals about online privacy last year. Immediately after I completely trashed my preso by the time I got to the car, I emailed two friends who do this a lot more than me and told them both I had gained a new appreciation for what they do. One said “get used to it, it only gets worse” Ha!

    Before consulting and doing speaking and workshop presentations, I was in radio for many years and had to stand in front of crowds often. The nerves were bad before the event and my knees would almost give way as I walked off stage. Self-doubt is one tough business associate but over time it is replaced by an inner coach to simply point out improvement points over time.

    Thanks for this, Jason. This is clearly one of the reasons I don’t apply to speak at some events where I know smart folk like you may be watching. Time to get over myself. :-)

    • A fellow old radio hack. Awesome to know about you, Kneale.

      Getting over yourself is necessary, dude. You’re smart as hell and should be
      out there talking to folks. Worry about you, not them. And yeah … you’re a
      hell of a lot more qualified than you think.

  • You know how I feel Jason. This exactly describes how it is each time I’m in front of folks like you, Chris Brogan and more. It doesn’t matter if you get a dozen pats on the back. It’s tough.

    One day though, I think you wake up on the other side of the line. You’re still in awe of those you know just not so much in awe you think of them as way better than yourself.

    Regarding the show vs tell – still a big fat #FAIL in my opinion. So many great ideas but not enough practical example. This isn’t a new problem just more exposed with the easy access to more presentations and texts.

    What I’d like? More real world examples, or a chance to spend a day with one of these folks. Seeing things how they see them.

    Sigh. A man can dream.


    • Thanks, Todd. Good to know I’m not the only one!

  • You know why the kid with the Michigan gear on is sitting all by himself? Allow me to offer a few possible reasons:

    1. He’s in a (better) league of his own.
    2. He’s ahead of the curve.
    3. He’s figured out how to make Michigan football relevant again, but is waiting for others to follow.

    Go Blue.

  • Jason,

    This post is so timely…

    For several years, I worked in non-profit – a very specific, unique niche. At the time I was still learning the ropes, I was pretty young, and it was in my head that it was normal not to know everything. An over-achiever – I just learned as much and as fast as I could. Then, after a few years, I took on leadership roles, and a few years after that, I was one that people turned to as an expert.

    As industry and economy changed, the role I would have to take on was not one I wanted. Choosing to leave the field, I found myself in unfamiliar waters (not excitedly so). And, choosing to explore social media, there have been many times I’ve felt like the guppy in a shark tank. Like Ilana, it takes me longer than it should to pump out a blog post.

    It’s been recently – sitting in Mastermind Group meetings – that I’ve come to the realization that:

    I sooo don’t know everything. But I know more than I thought I did!

    People have started calling on me for answers. And at first I turned around to make sure they were talking to me. Groovy cool – they were!

    A lot thanks to you, Jason!!

    We are indeed smarter than we think.

    SMSS10, FBSS10, BSS11, SMSS11

    • Thanks for the reinforcments, Keri. It’s good to know it happens in other niches as well. And I’m glad I maybe helped out a bit here and there. Thanks for saying so.

  • I guess the question is — when do we graduate this “social media thing” from ‘you should do this’ to ‘here is how to do this’ discussions. I know that for most people I am coming into contact with, they still need convincing.

    But in a room full of it-getters as you say, it certainly seems that the discussion should have graduated.

    • I sure would have liked to take something more from the day than I did. But confidence certainly left with me. ;-)

  • I think what will ultimately separate the smart talkers from the successful practitioners will be one thing: Initiative. You don’t need to be genius to make things happen. You just have to be courageously stubborn.

  • Confidence is the key..and once you have it then you have a recipe for success..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Jason,
    This is so true. The imposter syndrome is why it takes me so many hours to write a post. The only positive side is that it keeps us humble, but I’d rather have confidence. Thanks for the note at the end.

    • Right there with you, Ilana. Love the fact that it keeps us humble a bit. I need that.


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