Notes & Thoughts

By The Red Notebook

Notes & Thoughts - Issue #5 - The Impostor Within

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November 12 · Issue #5 · View online
Notes & Thoughts
Hello! Welcome to the fifth issue of the Notes & Thoughts newsletter from The Red Notebook!
First of all, we’re terribly sorry for missing last week’s edition. A bunch of things happened that were outside of our control. We promise to do better (and to plan better for eventualities like this).
Secondly, some exciting news! We recently signed a partnership agreement with Eversend - a really, really cool e-wallet that allows you to exchange, spend and send money across Africa at the best possible rates.
I’ve watched Eversend grow from an idea to an essential service being used by tens of thousands of Africans to make transactions more efficient and affordable. They’re disrupting banking in Africa and the founders are the kind of entrepreneurs that embody the grit, tenacity and in-the-trenches spirit that we love at The Red Notebook. Download the Eversend app today (Apple & Android) and check it out!
I have a couple of weeks until the end of my one-month social media break, but our social media is in the capable hands of our Red Notebook team! Show some love by following, sharing and connecting with us on the following platforms: Our website -  Twitter -  Facebook -  Instagram -  YouTube -  LinkedIn and Telegram.
If you believe there’s someone who could greatly benefit from this, forward this letter to them and invite them to join the Red Notebook!
Thank you, and enjoy the newsletter!
Solomon King Benge

Hello, Impostor. Can We Talk?
We’ve all been there (well, most of us): you’re sitting in a meeting, or standing on a stage, or having a pretty serious conversation, or looking at a proposal or application, or walking into an office (yours or someone else’s) or maybe preparing a presentation and suddenly, you feel like someone is going to find out you’re not who you say you are.
You’re afraid that at some point, you’re going to say something that will make people realize you don’t belong in that room. Suddenly, you’re overwhelmed with the feeling that you’re quite simply, not adequate, skilled or talented enough.
My notebooks (red or not) and journals are filled with dozens of entries in which I question my capability, worth or authority in something, even though I am deeply aware that I am where I am because I have consistently proven my capability, worth and authority.
“Each time I write a book, every time I face that yellow pad, the challenge is so great. I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.”
― Maya Angelou
The Impostor Syndrome is real, and it cripples us by making us question our adequacy, and making us think we are frauds or impostors. And ironically, it affects the most capable people, in stark (and hilarious) contrast to the Dunning-Kruger effect, a bias in which people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability and superiority.
For many people, the impostor syndrome can be a huge driver for growth and success, because it pushes us to always be better tomorrow than we are today. But that can also cause constant dissatisfaction with our current state, creating an endless cycle of doubt and restlessness.
Dr. Valerie Young - an expert on Impostor Syndrome - categorized it into five distinct types of people which The Muse expands on pretty well.
The 5 Types of Impostor Syndrome
  1. The perfectionists who set very high goals and will never be satisfied with their achievements, even when they actually achieve those goals. They always feel like they could have done better.
  2. The Superheroes who never feel adequate amongst their peers, so they push themselves to do more to feel valued, to stand out or to measure up to their colleagues.
  3. The Experts who believe they don’t and can never know enough to be an authority, often turning down promotions, or other engagement offers to the detriment of their growth and professional development.
  4. The Soloists who feel like asking for help may reveal their weaknesses, so they prefer to work alone within their productivity comfort zones. For these people, working alone proves their capability.
  5. The Natural Geniuses who, like perfectionists, set their goals pretty high, but also judge themselves on their inability to do things “naturally” with ease. If something it takes too long, they feel like they’re not good enough, even if they’re executing the task well.
So, Why Do People Have Impostor Syndrome?
Well, this is a tough one. A lot of it is outside of our control, like our work environment, discrimination and negative reinforcement from the people around us. Some high-performance workplaces, environments, groups or communities can exacerbate our impostor syndrome.
Additionally, like the Jonah Complex - which we discussed in an earlier newsletter - the cause varies tremendously, ranging from the quirks in our own personalities to family upbringing.
From The Times: There’s no single answer. Some experts believe it has to do with personality traits—like anxiety or neuroticism—while others focus on family or behavioral causes, Ervin explains. Sometimes childhood memories, such as feeling that your grades were never good enough for your parents or that your siblings outshone you in certain areas, can leave a lasting impact. “People often internalize these ideas: that in order to be loved or be lovable, ‘I need to achieve,’” says Ervin. “It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.”
Reflect On This: Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
It’s common knowledge that one of the ways of overcoming a problem is identifying and acknowledging the problem. According to psychologist Audrey Ervin, it helps to observe the thought that crosses your mind when you become aware of it, and then critically question the thought. Ask yourself “Does that help or hinder me?”
Additionally, we can reframe how we respond to the challenge when it crops up. “People who don’t feel like impostors are no more intelligent or competent or capable than the rest of us,” Young says. “It’s very good news, because it means we just have to learn to think like non-impostors.” 
What does your peer support group look like? Think of your friends, family, work colleagues, etc. And how often do you get professional feedback? Honestly sharing your insecurities can create room for an objective assessment from people whom you trust, especially if they, too, are honest with their feedback.
It’s important to remember that this feedback must be objective, genuine and professional, meaning it shouldn’t be feel-good feedback, but a good evaluation of your capabilities to help you re-calibrate your strengths and skills and (hopefully) reduce the impostor syndrome that could be holding you back.
Read This: Unpacking Michelle Obama's Impostor Syndrome
We often underestimate how serious and debilitating Impostor Syndrome is, especially from the outside looking in, because we look at someone and wonder how they can think they are inadequate.
This article “Unpacking Michelle Obama’s Impostor Syndrome” from Dr. Young’s blog is a (long) but insightful look into Michelle Obama’s struggle with impostor syndrome. It’s an article from the outside looking in, not a direct interview with Mrs. Obama, but I found that it offered helpful perspective and insight.
Also read this article from the American Psychological Association that examines the mechanics of impostor syndrome, with some helpful tips on how to resolve it.
Listen to This: The Imposter Syndrome with Dr. Valerie Young
The Life and Leadership Podcast sat down with Dr. Valerie Young for a very in-depth conversation around Impostor Syndrome.
Valerie begins by defining imposter syndrome and explaining how it manifests differently in men and women. She walks us through the ‘perfectly good reasons why you might feel like a fraud,’ sharing the social and situational factors that fuel self-doubt. Valerie also discusses the concept of stereotype threat and offers examples of how being an outlier influences our behavior. Listen in for insight around the coping mechanisms we use to protect ourselves from imposter syndrome and learn how to reframe imposter thoughts and replace them with new ways of thinking!
Listen to the podcast here. This is a direct link to Google podcasts, but you can find it on other podcast services.
Watch This: The Surprising Solution to the Imposter Syndrome | Lou Solomon
Mike Cannon-Brookes is the billionaire CEO of Atlassian, which he started 18 years ago with $10,000 and which now generates billions of dollars in revenue each year from its millions of users.
In this down-to-earth and very humorous talk (for someone worth 12 billion dollars), he shares his journey with impostor syndrome and how he leveraged it to become a better leader and person.
How you can use impostor syndrome to your benefit | Mike Cannon-Brookes
Sponsor Segment
Don’t forget to check out our new sponsor, Eversend. Their mobile platform enables rapid and affordable financial transactions across Africa.
And their partnership with the Red Notebook enables us to create great content for you to grow your leadership and management skills and help nurture stronger and more resilient organizations and businesses.
Connect and Share with us!
The Red Notebook is building a community of African entrepreneurs and business professionals, and we leverage social media heavily, so please take a minute to connect and follow us on the following platforms: Our website - Twitter - Facebook - Instagram - YouTube - LinkedIn and Telegram
And lastly, communities are not built in isolation. If you believe there’s someone who could greatly benefit from this, invite them to join the Red Notebook!
Thank you, and see you next week!
Solomon King Benge
Founder - Fundi Bots and Curator - The Red Notebook.
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