This first appeared on TSWT Finish Line, as TSWT CEO Jim VandeHei’s weekly report on hard-learned lessons for life and leadership.
Confession: Yes, that is a big chip on my shoulder.
- It was planted by the high school guidance counselor who told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to college. He was fertilized by my 1,491 GPA in 3rd year of college, validating his point.
- It has completely sprouted the moment I landed in Washington, DC, where most had fancy pedigrees and Ivy League degrees. It was daunting as hell for a small-town Cheesehead with a Supper Club plaid sports coat and little hope of finding a job.
- I’ve spent every year since, consciously or unconsciously, trying to prove that I’m smart enough to not just belong – but thrive.
Why is this important: None of us want to be insecure. But never underestimate the power your own insecurities can generate if you are aware of them and tap into them in a healthy way.
- Mine inspired me to try to outdo – and outdo – those I assumed had an educational or relational edge or advantage.
- I always like to read reviews and naysayers for an extra motivational boost. Sometimes I throw an inflammatory quote at the media to bait them. 😃
The truth is, we all suffer from some form of impostor syndrome (except the true narcissists around us).
- Punchbowl’s John Bresnahan and I, back when we were reporters together at Roll Call, talked about how after every scoop or big story we wouldn’t have time to savor it – because we instantly worried about can do it again.
- The insecurity led to many more scoops.
Here’s how to attack your own impostor worries:
1. Be honest with yourself. Insecurities are often rooted in some truth. Try to understand your weaknesses, real or perceived, so you can address them.
- Fear is a fabulous motivation.
2. Attack your weakness. Do the little everyday things to overcome the nagging insecurities. First try to tone it down, then make it a strength. You will be shocked at how perseverance and effort can alleviate limitations.
3. Arm the fury. Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan looked for the slightest levity from another player to create motivation, knowing it offered an added advantage. He was manic about it, but the trick works.
4. Give yourself grace. I can’t sing. I can not dance. I’m kinda bad at Trivial Pursuit. At some point, it’s wasted energy lamenting. Instead, double down on the things you do well.
The bottom line: No sane person is as confident as they look. We all carry baggage.
- The successful people in my life just accept that – and do something about it.