Hi there! Have you heard of the phenomenon called imposter syndrome before? Let me begin with this. A few years ago, I was invited by IMF (International Monetary Fund) to lunch. The then leader of IMF, Christine Lagarde was coming to Ghana and they decided to invite some of the top women leaders in Ghana to meet with her for lunch. And they invited me! Whaat?!! So there I sat at a table with all these powerful women including the Electoral Commission boss, Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana and all these top CEO’s and I sat there thinking, “Are they all as broke as me?” (Haha). Of course we were not invited because of how much money we had, but my brain just had to ask that question! Honestly, it was humbling, but sitting there, I didn’t feel like I belonged in that group. I thought about the names of the many other women I know doing amazing things in this country and thought they were the ones supposed to have been invited, not me.
Similarly, during April this year, I was minding my business as usual when a notification from Facebook that I was tagged in popped up. I saw the post and realized I was being awarded one extravagant award in Ghana, Millennium Excellence Awards! I looked at it and just pretended I hadn’t seen it; I didn’t comment too. As more tags on that post kept popping up, I just replied “Thank you, thank you” and I discarded the post. About a week later, one of the ladies in my community took a shot of a newspaper article with pictures of renowned people Archbishop Nicolas Duncan Williams, Rev. Dr Joyce Aryee and of course Ama Duncan! As if that was not enough, there were pictures of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II himself PLUS President Nana Akuffo Addo! The caption read “Recognizing Excellence in Ghana” and I sat there thinking, “You people paa…hehe”. I thought to myself, this could not possibly be me with these great people. And I didn’t even muster the courage to show it to my community so they could celebrate with me.
Let me pause here and ask you a couple of questions. If you have a yes to any of these, then keep reading.
1. Have you ever received an honour or award and told yourself you didn’t deserve it?
2. Have you ever written an exam and thought you would definitely get a low grade but when the result came in you excelled to your own surprise?
3. Do you sometimes doubt the praise and accolades you get from other people thinking they are just trying to be nice?
Note, I have felt all these and more.
It is called imposter syndrome. This is a feeling that you’re a fraud, that something positive that you’ve been given is not really yours, you don’t really deserve it. To explain this phenomenon, I’m going to read this extract from We Should All Be Millionaires by Rachel Rodgers (That’s the book we’re reviewing this month in The Fabulous Woman Community).
‘The term was coined by two clinical psychologists—Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes—back in 1978.
Clance and Imes conducted a study on high-achieving women. They found that an astonishing number of these women felt inadequate, inferior, and perceived themselves as a “phony” or “fraud,” despite truckloads of evidence indicating the exact opposite…Although not a mental illness, per se, it’s often accompanied by anxiety, stress, depression, and low self-esteem.’
Personally, I battled with low self-esteem a lot while growing up and for that matter Imposter Syndrome is not new to me. Although it’s not a disease, it can kill your self-esteem thereby reducing your confidence. Its effect includes difficulty in asking for your worth. Also, you may not feel confident enough to pitch for a contract or even serve others. All these have happened to me before. This is why I feel strongly about sharing on this topic, so we can be more aware of what it is and how it may be affecting us.
I first discovered Imposter Syndrome from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. In the book, the COO of Facebook talked about how one of the popular magazines had named her as one of the 100 most influential women on earth. In the ranking, her name came before Michelle Obama! She wouldn’t celebrate or accept praise because ‘how could she be more influential than Michelle Obama?’ she thought. Well, until someone drew her attention to what was really going on in her mind. Gosh, I shed a lot of tears while reading her book because I could relate paa. Since that book, I have been more conscious about imposter syndrome although I have not totally crushed it yet myself. One of the biggest steps I’ve taking is to even be aware of this and so by this blog post, my goal is to let you know about what it is (just in case you are not aware already).
Here are 4 quick ways to crush imposter syndrome:
1. I remember that other women that I look up to also deal with it
The fact that other women I admire have and continue to deal with it makes me know that I am not alone. From many books that I’ve read including Marie Forleo’s book Everything is Figuroutable, she talks about how three of the stars that we all admire: Jenifer Lopez, Maya Angelou and Jamie Foster all battle with imposter syndrome.
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think “ooooh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everyone and they’re going to find me out.”” ~ Maya Angelou.
“Even though I have sold seventy million albums, there I was feeling like I am no good at this.” ~ Jenifer Lopez.
Like me, you probably thought ‘J Lo paa (lol)’? I recall when my Executive Coach asked me to rate myself in terms of my achievements. 1 – 10, I gave myself mostly 2s and 3s and the highest I got was a 5! She stared at me incredulous. She said, ‘Ama, you’ve done all these amazing things; why do you belittle yourself?’ Thank God she reminded me that I am great already as a fabulous child of God. And that it’s not my deeds that determine my greatness. Greatness is already inbuilt in us but most times we search for external validation. Know this, my sister or brother; you are enough!
2. Track your victories as they happen, from Rachel Rogers’ We Should All Be Millionaires
I think this is so cool. Sometimes when we feel we’re not good enough, it’s because we have forgotten who we are and what we have been able to do in the past. So if we keep records of all those things that we have achieved, we can visit them and reflect during the times we feel like a fraud. For instance, on my Instagram page The Fabulous Woman Network, I have one of my highlights just for testimonials with feedback from people who have been impacted by my work. If you have trophies or certificates whatever works for you, keep them in one place. When you’re feeling down go look at them.
3. Form a fraud squad, from Marie Forleo’s book Everything is Figuroutable
Say you have a group of entrepreneurs like you or people who do what you do, understand what you do and know how amazing you are. In those low moments when you feel like you don’t deserve something, you just call them and talk to them about how you feel and let them remind you of why you’re great. For me, I have my mastermind groups for such a purpose and more. We all need people around us to remind us of who we are sometimes.
4. Celebrate for you and others, from Jamie Kern Lima’s Believe It
In her book, she talked about how she was horrified when Forbes named her one of the richest self-made women. Interestingly, she found out how men would go to extreme lengths to prove their worth much more in a similar situation. Eventually, she realised that celebrating her win would go a long way to help other women know that it was possible for them too. If you look at it from that angle, you will not be doing it for just yourself but for others. Forget about people who will think you’re showing off. Focus on the people who look to you and are inspired.
So there they are; the 4 quick ways to crush imposter syndrome. Let me know if you have learnt something by leaving comments. And by the way, if you need help to brainstorm, clarify your business ideas or get accountability, book a discovery call with me here. Until the next blog post, continue to stay fabulous!
PS: Here are the links to the resources mentioned:
*Book a Discovery Call with Ama Duncan https://bit.ly/Book-A-Discovery-Call-With-Ama-Duncan
*Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In https://amzn.to/2UJy4q5
*Marie Forleo’s Everything is Figuroutable https://amzn.to/35IYWt7
*Rachel Rodgers’ We Should All Be Millionaires https://amzn.to/3fkpeXM