No matter where you are at in your career development, or how successful you’ve become, we’ve all been in situations where we feel like an imposter. That feeling can stop you from going after new opportunities and achieving your full potential.
I was in a meeting recently with my coaching team and one of my coaches said that she is working with an agent who said she had “imposter syndrome”. I found that interesting because, in reflection, most people have that same feeling at some point in their life.
We’ve all heard the term “fake it until you make it” and there is some truth to the statement. If you don’t know how to do something, fake it, and then figure it out. Confident people view that as a challenge and it excites them. Timid people view that as a threat and it frightens them.
Sir Richard Branson is a British billionaire and business tycoon. In the 1970s he founded the Virgin Group, which today controls more than 400 companies in various fields. Do you think when he started out he knew everything he needed to know to run 400 companies? Of course not. But he had a famous saying: “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure how you can do it, say yes -then learn how to do it later!”
We have all been in situations where we were uncomfortable because we felt like a duck out of water.
- Perhaps you were invited to a country club soiree and everyone you met seemed to be uber successful and you felt like you didn’t fit it.
- Perhaps you were invited to go on a luxury listing appointment, and you weren’t confident that you knew the best way to market the property to get it sold.
- Perhaps you were invited to speak at a board meeting, and you were nervous that the crowd would know more about the topic that you did as the presenter.
No matter what the situation is when you feel like an imposter, or out of your element, you need to know you are not alone. Agents who take my classes often tell me that they finally have the confidence they need to handle any situation that real estate may throw at them. Confidence does not come from knowing everything; it comes from knowing you have the ability to find the information you need and the desire to keep learning something new.
If you are comfortable in your job, you are not pushing your boundaries. You may never feel like an imposter, but you also will never achieve your full potential. It is only when we push ourselves to do things we are uncomfortable with that we grow.
Most people who struggle with imposter syndrome believe they aren’t as smart as the people around them, or they don’t deserve their achievements. They often view their accomplishments as pure luck, or they were just in the right place at the right time. Most people who struggle with this are perfectionists. They feel like they must do everything perfectly and when they don’t, they feel incompetent and anxious. Approx. 25-30 percent of high achievers suffer from imposter syndrome, and about approx. 70 percent of adults (especially women) experience it at least once in their lifetime. If it has happened to you, you are in good company.
Knowing you are not alone is a good first step. If we know others have felt the same pressure we have, and they have overcome it, it gives us faith that we can too.
The second step is changing your mindset. Imposters put so much pressure on themselves to complete tasks flawlessly. They fear that any mistake will make others feel they aren’t good enough or smart enough for the job. Let me let you in on a little secret: no-one is perfect. In real estate, we can never know everything. Give yourself permission to make mistakes and remember is that we are after progress, not perfection. If you don’t accept the fact that you don’t know everything, and you don’t give yourself leeway to make mistakes, it will prevent you from going after new opportunities.
I believe the quickest way to get past imposter syndrome at work is to specialize. You can’t know everything about every market and every type of client. If you spread yourself too thin, you will constantly feel like you don’t have the expertise you need to serve your clients well. If you specialize in a specific area, or a specific type of client, you can quickly become an expert at that slice of the market, and it will alleviate your feelings of insecurity. We all like to feel like we have all the answers we need to do our jobs well. The more comfortable you are with a specific segment of the market, the more answers you will have at your fingertips. That is not to say you shouldn’t get out of your comfort zone and try new areas or new types of clients. Every time we try something new, we grow. You can have more than one specialty. As you perfect one, you can add another to your portfolio. Learning should be a life-long endeavor to keep life interesting.
If you are ever in a situation where you feel like a fraud, it may be your mind’s way of trying to avoid feeling insecure. No one likes to be uncomfortable, so we avoid uncomfortable situations. Stop doing that. In life, no risk means no reward. What is the worst thing that can happen if you say the wrong thing? What is the worst thing that can happen if you make a mistake? You are smart. You work hard. You want to do the best job you can for your clients. No-one can ask more of you than that.
My suggestion is to start small when you embark on an activity you’ve never done before, and work your way up. Never shy away from an opportunity, but the first time you do something, practice, practice, practice. Preparation won’t make the butterflies go away, but it will help them fly in formation.
Leader’s Edge Training