Home » Why It’s Time to Embrace your ‘Imposter Syndrome’
I contend that Imposter Syndrome – you know, that nagging doubt that you’re not as capable as others think you are – gets a bad rap. I have often said – half in jest – that I could never work with anyone who doesn’t display a touch of Imposter Syndrome now and again. This isn’t a power play on my side; I can just imagine that they’d be unbearable, what with all that self-assured confidence and swagger.

Instead, I’ve always viewed my (very active) Imposter Syndrome as a competitive advantage. It would seem I’m not on my own (which in itself is important to us Imposter Syndrome types):

Imposter Syndrome is a VERY common affliction in the high-stress world of presentations. It’s certainly a common topic of conversation in our training sessions. So, if your inner monologue of doubt gets turned up to 11 whenever asked to present, you’re not on your own.

And now for the really good news. If you turn that Imposter Syndrome on its head and embrace it, you’ve got yourself a Presentation Superpower (no, really).

Reason #1 – It Keeps Us Honest

Many years ago, back when I was a product manager in a large FinTech company, I was asked to speak at the annual Sales Kick-Off event. Long story short – I nailed it. I went on stage as a nerdy security print specialist and came off as a Presentation God. Everything clicked, from my carefully crafted story to the artfully designed slides. It was a buzz that stayed with me for weeks after.

Unsurprisingly (at least to my inflated ego), I was asked back the following year. I remember swaggering onto the stage, casually acknowledging the anticipation in the room for a repeat stellar performance, and then slowly dying a thousand deaths. I was awful. Truly dreadful. A shambles.

In my defence, I was young, foolish and maybe just a tad arrogant. I remember my boss taking to me one side after I finally slithered off the stage and asked me what the hell had happened. We both knew the truth – I’d believed my own hype, and it bit me on the bum. Hard.

My now-ever-present Imposter Syndrome would never have let that happen. That little voice in my head would have been saying, “You got away with it last time, but that was 12 months ago. Time to step up and throw even more energy and hard work at it this time”.

My Imposter Syndrome is an internal coach, and I deliver better presentations because of it.

Reason #2 – It Fuels Us

People can all say nice things and massage my fragile ego, but it’s my Imposter Syndrome that ensures that when I stand on that stage, I only have one focus – to add value to the audience. This simple objective – and the abject fear of not being good enough to deliver on it –ensures I continue to polish every element of a presentation (story, content, visuals, delivery, sustain tools) until I can see my face in them.

The perverse logic is simple:

Step 1 – My Imposter Syndrome says I don’t deserve to be there.

Step 2 – My rational response is that this corrosive internal monologue is 100% right IF I fail to deliver value to the audience.

Step 3 – If, however, I DO deliver something of value to the audience, I prove the Imposter Syndrome wrong.

Step 4 – So, I focus on proving it wrong and, by doing so, nail the presentation.

Step 5 – And repeat.

It’s a virtuous (if slightly anxious) circle, fuelled by a positive disdain for my Imposter Syndrome.

Reason #3 – It Provides a Measure of Progress

The wonderful thing about Imposter Syndrome is that it moves with you. As you develop, it does too.

This means that you can look back and see how far you – and it – have travelled over time. Remember when the mere thought of standing up and speaking to your colleagues at a team meeting would immediately turn you into a dribbling mess? Those days are behind you – speaking at a team meeting is just part of what you do every day. Follow this through to its natural conclusion, and the chances are that you’ll beat whatever presentation Imposter Syndrome battle you’re fighting today.

It’s a cunning way of turning that voice of dissent in your head into a measure of how you’ve beaten it before and can do so again.

No doubt, there are some very clever psychological papers on this topic. But, in the meantime, these are the real-life conclusions from someone who has wrestled with Imposter Syndrome for as long as I can remember. Eventually, your Imposter Syndrome becomes an invaluable guide – a reliable hand on the shoulder to help ensure you’re in the right frame of mind when taking on a new challenge, like preparing for that next presentation…


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