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Imposter Syndrome: Why We Have it, and How to Kick it in the Privates!

User Defenders podcast
Personal Growth
Imposter Syndrome: Why We Have it, and How to Kick it in the Privates!

Imposter Syndrome: Why We Have it, and How to Kick it in the Privates on User Defenders podcast

Imposter Syndrome is a very common and unwelcome condition especially among creative people. In Jason Ogle’s very first monologue episode, he…wait, it’s me writing this (and my voice matters, dog gonnit!)…I tackle the important, and very common condition among creative people known as imposter syndrome. I address what it is, why we have it, and how to kick it in the privates!

Confidence is Contagious…so is Lack of Confidence [ARTICLE]
Radical Empathy with Seth Godin [PODCAST]
Banish Your Inner Critic with Denise Jacobs [PODCAST]
050: We Can Be Heroes with Jason Ogle [PODCAST]
Banish Your Inner Critic [BOOK]
Mindset [BOOK]
Dunning Kruger Effect

Music at the end by Let Em Riot


Show transcript

Jason Ogle: Well, greetings User Defenders, it’s me your faithful host Jason Ogle. I am attempting something that I’ve never done before. I’m doing a monologue episode where I’m going to be addressing the important and very common condition known as “Imposter Syndrome.” The Imposter Syndrome is defined as a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Sound familiar? I know it does to me. In fact, I want to open this up with a story of something that happened really recently. Actually this is my second time recording this, and I’m kind of glad because what I’m about to tell you happened after the first time recording it, and I wouldn’t have had the story to tell you, and to get a little vulnerable with you about how I suffer from Impostor Syndrome. Recently, I had the immense and surprising pleasure of speaking to one of my marketing and UX Superhero’s, his name is Seth Godin.

I have a feeling that a good percentage of you Defenders listening have heard of Seth Godin. He is incredible, he’s awesome and he’s really been somebody I’ve looked up to and learned a ton from throughout the past 25 plus years of my career. And so, when he said “Yes” to being on User Defenders, I had about – first of all I was completely shocked, and completely humbled and grateful that he wanted to be on the show. And secondly, I had about a month plus to kind of realize that he’s going to be on the show, I am going to be interviewing somebody that I’ve really admired for so long so. Here’s a couple of lessons that I learned in this process that I’d like to share with you, and this is going somewhere, this is leading up into the main topic here of Impostor Syndrome.

So, for one I think the biggest mistake I made was working myself up so much leading up to my time with Seth. So, I had you know when in passing when I would talk to some folks about this opportunity, I would tend to frame it like, “Oh my gosh it’s happening. I can’t believe this is happening.” And just kind of worked myself up about it like kind of like, “Who am I to talk to Seth Godin?”, you know that kind of that second of mindset was that was kind of a minus one first of all. Because once you put somebody on a pedestal all they can do is look down on you so that was the first thing that I kind of learned about it so again all of these things leading up to it in making sure my questions were perfect and all these things I worked myself up.
So, the day of the interview when it did happen. I just was really starstruck, and I just was really nervous. And again, I felt like I didn’t belong, I felt like “Who am I to talk to Seth Godin?”, right and the reality is he said yes he said yes to me to be on my show and that should have been enough for me to go, “Okay great, there’s a nice validation right there.” But I didn’t view it that way initially.

So here’s what happened in the opening moments of my talk with Seth first of all. I was late, you know minus two right there. Seth was on time as he always is he’s such a pro the guy is an absolute professional through and through. 10 minutes before the time he sent me a text on Skype saying, “Ready in ten?”, and I was like “Yep”, and of course me being the recovering perfectionist that I am I had this panic attack moment about three minutes before my interview with Seth, I was of thinking like “Oh, this is so important that I can not – I have to make sure that my computer is totally fine tuned.” “I haven’t restarted my computer in a long time, oh crap I better do that.”

And so I told Seth, “I’m going to restart my computer I’ll be right back” And so all that to say you know that takes a few moments. It takes a few moments to restart, it takes a few moments to get all your applications back up and you know and with the gear recording gear and such right out from the outset me getting on the microphone and saying, “Hi, Seth.” [Laughs]

I’m sorry I’m late you know I’m a total unprofessional right now and how that was a big another lesson right there is be prompt. You know there’s a quote that I really like a lot it’s, “If you’re not early, you’re late.” And that was another big lesson for me in there.

Okay, so leading up to my kind of Impostor Syndrome moment where – and I like to share some audio with you and I don’t think Seth is going to mind because there is a good lesson to be learned here in this was our right before the interview started and as you Defenders know I like to read the bio of my guests leading into our conversation. I feel like it’s a great way if you don’t know somebody it’s a great way to kind of get a quick snapshot of who they are and where they’re coming from so high I read, I like really want to read his bio and I like to do that live I just feel like it saves time and I could not get through his bio. I just I was so nervous so I’m going to share a clip with you to sell Check this out.

Jason Ogle: My guest today needs no introduction but I’m going to go ahead and read his bio anyway because; that’s just kind of in the tradition of User Defenders podcast and for maybe for those of you who may not have heard of Seth Godin I’m just going to read this real quick.
Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and the marketing seminar, online workshops. Okay, let me do that again.

Actually, you know, I’m going to do the bio after.

Seth Godin: You sound great, don’t worry.

Jason Ogle: Is that okay? All right, all right. I’ll start over real quick:

Seth Godin is the author of 18 books that have been bestsellers around the world and have been translated into more than 35 languages. He’s also the founder of the altMBA and the marketing seminar which is an online workshops that have been transformed… [Laughs]

Seth Godin: Why don’t you do it after we’re done?

Jason Ogle: Okay, alright will do.

So that’s my story, that’s kind of the kick things off I just wanted to be vulnerable with you Defenders that I suffer from this, I have been doing this work in different of course capacities because the field has evolved so much but I’ve been doing this work professionally since one 1999 and unprofessionally another three years before that. I’ve been at this for a long time, so you’re not alone if you feel like you have Imposter Syndrome, which I have a feeling you do because most of us suffer from it.

So, that’s kind of the way I wanted to kick this off. So let’s talk about Imposter Syndrome, as I mentioned it’s just the feeling that you’re not good enough and you’re a fraud and you’ll be exposed at any moment and I wanted to just kind of talk about, why do we have it? You know, why do we have this thing, this psychological syndrome?

Well a lot of it kind of dates all the way back to I think you know early, early years of civilization. If you even want to go back to caveman days as you will. I’m not a believer in evolution but I know that there was once at one point there was a civilization that was certainly not modernized and so there’s the whole tribalism effect where people in order to survive tribal groups, groups of people they depended on each other in a great way and a great deal. Because if you’re on your own, there’s a greater chance that you will not survive because of different things farming, finding water sources, there’s the threat of hostile creatures/predators and all these things that you know we need each other and which that has not changed at all.
But going back into ancient times, if you were found guilty of a crime perhaps the chances are the consequence to your crime in those days could have been banishment from your community, from your tribe, and that was kind of one of those things were the whole community would be like, “Oh wow they’re dead to us.” That’s probably where that whole phrase “You’re dead to me” came from. Because I think a lot of the people knew that once somebody is excommunicated or banished from a community or from a tribe chances are they’re not going to survive, and they may have kids.

And I think of this movie called “The Witch” which I don’t recommend watching, but there’s basically the whole premise of this movie is these people in colonial times they were banished he was kind of seen as a heretic, so he was banished, he and his family were banished from their community and they had to go out and basically find, live in the woods and dwell in the woods and make their own home there on their own, and really bad things happened after that.

So, this is another example of tribalism, that’s why we kind of feel the need to kind of stay in the tribe so that the fear of being excommunicated. So that’s the reason we fear being exposed, we don’t want to face a consequence of being banished and being on our own in having to fend for ourselves so to speak. So, that’s a big part of the reason we have it psychologically and again it dates back a long time.

The other thing I want to talk about related to this is the “Dunning Kruger Effect” and Denise Jacobs and I talked about this in a recent episode you can check that out if you haven’t already. And Dunning Kruger Effect, this is a study by two psychologists, David Dunning and Justin Krueger, and basically in their findings they discovered that “Unskilled people lack the skill necessary to evaluate their own skill and that the skills needed to be competent at a particular task they are virtually identical to those required to evaluate one’s competence.”

So, that’s kind of the clinical definition, but basically what that means is they discovered that a lot of people were low in what is called “Metacognitive Skills.” Also known as self-awareness which is an imperative leadership skill by the way to possess. So Metacognition is hot thinking about thinking and knowing about knowing.

So, they did a test on college students that seems like most of our psychology research and information we have it seems a good portion of that has been tested on college students for whatever reason. But anyway they did a test and they discovered that people who thought they were really good at something they tested them and discovered that they really weren’t and so that’s kind of where that phrase comes from is that Dunning Kruger effect and of course we all know the American Idol syndrome that can almost be a clinical label as well I think and it’s directly tied to Dunning Kruger.

What happens during the auditions season right in the beginning of the show, you get some really awful, awful singers that come on and they just don’t know how bad they are. So, that’s a problem, and again they’re just lacking in metacognition. So, here’s the good news Defenders, if you have Imposter Syndrome, which I have a strong feeling that you do, and that’s okay we all do. You’re in a good place that means you know you can get better, and so that’s good, that’s a good thing. And if you have Dunning Kruger Effect you wouldn’t be worried about Impostor Syndrome that’s the bottom line. So, don’t worry about it…you don’t have Dunning Kruger.

And, so here’s where we kind of start getting into how do we overcome it, okay because that’s important. We want to know, okay we already know what Imposter Syndrome is, we already know why we have it. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty. How do we overcome this? This is a big one right here: We need to build confidence, we have to build our confidence. And there’s a big difference, I want to caveat this too because there’s a big difference between confidence and arrogance. And arrogance is really wrapped up in ego. Todd Henry says: “Confident says I can get this right, ego says I can do no wrong.” And as I always say, “Your ego is not your amigo”.

So here’s the thing, we need a little bit ego to be confident so there’s kind of a weird dichotomy at work here and kind of some paradox here. We do need some ego okay. I’m not saying your ego is a necessary I just – it is not your friend okay. So, be careful with the ego. We need some to be confident, and especially again as a leader because who wants to follow somebody that’s– is always looking at their shoes right and moping and just doesn’t have any confidence, right. So we do need to follow a leader that has some ego but if there’s a there’s a nice balance there but not too much to where they’re you know you’re an arrogant jackbutt is what I say.

So, again use your metacognition superpowers to find that fine line so you can walk it humbly and confidently. So, one way to build confidence is and this is super important Defenders right here–build up in embrace the little wins, okay. I know if you’re like me you kind of want those big victories because those are the ones that we tend to kind of really strive for we want to we want the recognition and that’s okay, but really it’s how often when we’re looking for the really big win, do we actually overlook all these little ones that have happened in our lives. And those moment of crisis when that inner critic is in our head and trying to tell us “We are no good,” we don’t have anything to lean on. We are just going off of what how we feel and what our minds are thinking in that moment. And if we don’t have some ammunition, we don’t have a way to fight back right?

So, this is really, really important. I would encourage you to start journaling your wins, even the little ones okay. Especially the little ones. Start journaling your wins. It could be something like, “Oh wow awesome I got my blog published on an awesome design pub.” Right, it could be something like that, like embrace that, bookmark that, put that in your portfolio.

It could be like, it could be even something like, “Oh wow, my website won a design award.” Things like that, like those are really neat things. I am not saying we should always try to win awards–honestly some of the best work out there is not quote unquote award winning, right.

And here’s an example like I love to go to the movies and I have a feeling you might to. How often when you’re looking at Flixster or something or like the Rotten Tomatoes and you’ll see like, you’ll see the Rotten Tomato rating which means like the film critics, the official film critics have rated it but then you also see like the viewers or users rating. And how often have you seen a movie that is like completely imbalanced right, like the critics gave it like you know 30% Rotten Tomatoes but then the viewers the masses which the movies are really made for primarily. The ones buying tickets those ratings are like skyrocketed, those are through the roof. So, that’s another example right there just to continue to reflect on your wins when you’re feeling like you’re just not good enough and a fraud. So, you can say once you look at that I use Evernote for this to keep a journal of little wins like this and I would say you could look at that you go, “Yes, I am good enough and here’s proof.”

So, in my interview with Denise Jacobs who wrote a great book called “Banish Your Inner Critic”, which I highly recommend, that’s another way to overcome Impostor Syndrome at least cope with you know again it’s going to be really hard to overcome this and I’m going to get to that in a second but her book is really great in giving you the ammunition that you need when that unwelcome voice starts yapping in your skull.

I wrote an article too, I’m going to put this in the show notes it’s might help as well. It’s called “Confidence is Contagious so is Lack of Confidence.” And that was a quote from the great coach Vince Lombardi.

So I also want to talk about, I want to kind of share a quote from Ira Glass because he did this interview way back in 2009, so nearly 10 years ago that is also known as “The Taste Gap”, and it’s this interview this is a snippet, this is a clip from that interview that he did that is still inspiring newer creatives today and an even seasoned ones. I read this and I was like, “This is awesome, this is gold. I’m going to bookmark this as well.” So I think you’ll agree. Here’s what he said:

Ira Glass: Nobody tells people who are beginners, and I really wish somebody had told this to me is that all of us who do creative work like you know we get into it, and we get into it because we have good taste but it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff what you make it isn’t so good, okay it’s not that great it’s trying to be good, it has a mission to be good but is not quite that good but you’re taste, the thing is that you understand. Your taste is the killer and your taste is good enough that you can tell what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you, you know I mean. A lot of people never get past that phase, a lot of people at that point they quit.

And the thing I would just like say to you with all my heart is that most everybody I know who does interesting creative work, they went through a phase of years where they had really good taste and they could tell what they were making wasn’t as good as they wanted it to be, they knew it fell short. It didn’t have a special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing I would say to you is everybody goes through that and for you to go through it if you’re going through right now if you’re just getting out of that phase you’ve got to know that’s totally normal and the most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work, do a huge volume of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month you know you’re going to finish one story because; it’s only by actually gone to a volume of work that you’re actually going to catch up and close that gap and the work you’re making will be as good as your ambitions.

In my case I took longer to figure out how to do this than anybody I’ve ever met. It takes a while it’s going to take you a while it’s normal to take a while and you just have to fight your way through that, okay.”

Jason Ogle: So, I’ve got good news and bad news. Okay, let’s start with the bad as I kind of alluded to really, we’ll never totally overcome Impostor Syndrome. Why? Because wherever we go, there we are. So, I think it just comes with facing it we need to face our fears always. And I love what Seth Godin says, he says, “We need to dance with our fear.” I love that framing. The thing is, is that we can learn here’s – the good news right we can learn to overcome it and even banish it to the point to where once it even rears its ugly head in our heads, we can immediately stop and we can gain the superpowers to actually silence that critic and as Denise Jacobs says, “Banish it,” which I love that.

So, you know apply the things. Here’s a way apply what you learned in this episode. I hope it was helpful, and please let me know if it was on Twitter and also my inspiring interview with Denise Jacobs, that just aired previously so this is two parts, so please check that out as well.

Because it’s just like in warfare you know once we know our enemy through and through, we are more equipped to battle that enemy and achieve the victories necessary in this ongoing war. So, this is again this is a war and the war – a battle means it’s one and done right, but a war means it’s ongoing. So, here’s the thing, we are in a war but the good news is we can overcome and we can win battles, every battle that comes if we truly desire. Use our growth mindset, Defenders.

So, in closing, fight through it as Ira Glass encouraged us. I love his quote. We are good, we do have good taste, we just gotta fight through the bad stuff. And there’s another thing, get through you know if you have a bunch of bad ideas just get those out and then you’ll eventually get to the good ones. That’s another great exercise to do as well. You’re not alone, we’re all making it up as we go along, and you know what, you got this Defender.
If you found value in this little monologue, the first one ever on User Defenders podcast, please share this episode out on Twitter and mention User Defenders, and I’d love to know what you learned and if this encouraged you and also let me know on Twitter if you have other areas that you’d like me to address in like a monologue format like this because this might become a habit, so but that depends you know.

As Jared Spool says, “I’ll need you to encourage my behavior.” So, thanks so much for listening to this, I really do truly hope that it helped you encouraged you and inspired you to know that you got this, you are good enough, okay. So yes, thanks so much and again, there are some links in the show notes you can check out. Last but not least, as always, I just want to say “Fight on my friends.”

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