Rita Clifton is one of the most successful businesswomen of her generation (FYI Hillary Clinton loves her), and she's sharing her take on the 'faking it 'til you make it' myth with practical advice on dealing with imposter syndrome
I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how many more times I can take the word ‘unprecedented’ without either sticking my fingers in my ears and going ‘wawawa’, or just reaching for the delete button. But of course, almost everything we’re living through is indeed unprecedented. So, it’s not unusual to have doubts about yourself and your abilities. Or worry about how to be your best self?
Well, that’s normal. Imposter feelings are experienced by more than 70% of people, women more than men. And I have experienced them throughout my career.
I started my first proper job in a recession. I’ve also had to make rounds of redundancies myself to make companies viable. Which is definitely one of the most upsetting aspects of running anything. I’m a mum with daughters who are trying to move forwards in their working lives at this most uncertain time.
Learn to love your imposter
These are scary times but, for lots of reasons, also a time when individuals can make a huge difference to the kind of future they’d like. Not just for themselves but for the world too. It’s time to make the most of you, flaws and all. Let’s ditch that artificial construct of ‘fake it ’til you make it’.
I say all this because now more than ever the world – business and governments – need to be run in a much more human way if we’re going to solve social, economic and environmental problems. They need to run by people who actually look and feel as though they care about other human beings. Real people with friends, families, pets, pulses. Even a sense of humour.
I hope that means you. Because if you’re feeling self-doubt or suffering from imposter syndrome about what you may be able to do, that’s a healthy thing. It makes you more human and empathetic.
You can learn to love your imposter, build your personal brand and save the world.
Do you want to stay in your current role and make a bigger difference? Or are you looking for a new role or desperate to go it alone with your own start-up? If you’re nodding your head and saying yes, it’s time to apply the tools and techniques practiced by some of the world’s most successful brands.
How to be your best self
One of the fallacies about branding is it’s all about logos, packaging and who’s spending the most on advertising. And even though these visible things can be useful, it has always been the substance that lies beneath that has made great brands work. Same goes for you and your personal brand. Here are a few things to think about.
You need a good understanding about who you are. What you’re really good at and what sets you apart (in a good way). If you don’t know or are confused, there are lots of free personal development courses out there. Ask friends and colleagues what they think are your distinctive strengths.
Having established what you’re really about and want to be, make sure everything you learn, do and communicate fits with that. For instance, it’s no use saying you want to run a company if you don’t know how money/finance works. Also, in almost any job where you want to have influence, you need to be a good communicator.
This doesn’t have to mean doing cabaret speeches. Just knowing a few techniques (like controlled breathing, using your eyes steadily, adapting the tone of your voice). Try video-ing yourself speaking as though in a meeting. You’ll notice lots of things you can improve.
And annoying though it might be, people are influenced by personal presentation; you wouldn’t suggest to a client that they should put a great product in a shabby old box.
Any organisation wanting to get ahead needs to keep on improving and innovating its offer. From a personal point of view, it’s really important to keep learning new skills, and keep everything about yourself up to date.
That may mean thinking laterally about how to use your skills in a different industry. Growth industries in the future are areas such as health and social care, logistics, IT services, software engineers and data analysts. If that’s not quite your thing, it’s worth remembering there are lots of different roles in these industries.
Your imposter self can be a strangely useful driver to help you achieve more. And it also shows you’re human. That’s exactly what the world needs right now.
* Rita Clifton CBE is a business leader and has been called ‘the doyenne of branding’ by the Financial Times. Her new book Love your Imposter: Be your best self, flaws and all (published by Kogan Page) and is on sale now