Impostor Syndrome: 5 Reasons You Should Have It


“Oh, damn! Here we go again! What were they thinking? They gave me this role; don’t they know I’m faking it?” said Oscar winning actress Renée Zellweger.

Similarly, Michael Uslan, actor in the Batman movies has said, “I still have this background feeling that one of the security guards might come and throw me out.”

Even further still, Maya Angelou, the American poet has said, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”

1. It’s Wrong To Be Right

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re in good company. If you do know what you’re doing, you’re not taking risks. You’re relying too heavily on experience. And Paul Adren has said:

“This is lazy. Knowledge comes from the past, so it’s safe. It is also out of date. It’s the opposite of originality. Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed. You’re rooted in your own rightness, which is arrogant.”

If you want to be an innovator, you must first be an impostor. As Peter Diamandis confessed, “The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”

According to research, nearly 70% of people have impostor syndrome. Hilariously, if you don’t have impostor syndrome, you’re probably just ignorant of your own stupidity.

Act As If

“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.” — Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind

When you embrace the fact that you are a fraud, the lid of your creative possibilities blows completely off. It doesn’t matter how foolish you look. You’re an impostor. And you love it.

So you can now do anything.

You can write that book, as an impostor.

You can start that company, as a sham.

You can ask that beautiful girl out on a date, as a phony.

Are you sincere? Of course. But an impostor nonetheless. You have no clue what you’re doing. And you don’t care. You’re going to do epic stuff and you don’t need all the answers.

No one has all the answers. Although from our perspective, people in power and influence are perceived to know what they’re doing. The truth is, they are frauds from their own perspective. And that is actually their strength, not their weakness.

2. Most People Are Hostage To Invisible Lines

“Choose one thing and become a master of it. Choose a second thing and become a master of that. When you become a master of two worlds (say, engineering and business), you can bring them together in a way that will a) introduce hot ideas to each other, so they can have idea sex and make idea babies that no one has seen before and b) create a competitive advantage because you can move between worlds, speak both languages, connect the tribes, mash the elements to spark fresh creative insight until you wake up with the epiphany that changes your life.”­ — Justine Musk, Elon Musk’s X-Wife

If you become amazing at one thing, you can do a lot of good in the world. If you become incredible at a few things, you can change the world.

Sadly, many people will not cross certain lines. Their minds have been sealed shut. They are depending too deeply on their knowledge and experience — unwilling to test new waters of thought.

But when you become open to all other possibilities — when as a fraud you embrace being wrong over needing to be right — you become completely liberated in your work. Your ability to innovate and create become boundless.

3. There Is No “Right Way” — You Get To Build Our Future

Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle is the Way, explains what he calls “the moment,” which every skilled creative has experienced. “The moment,” is when your eyes are opened to the mechanics and behind-the-scenes of your craft.

Until you have this moment, it all seems like magic to you. You have no idea how people create what they create. After you have this moment, you realize that everything is done by a person intentionally creating a particular experience.

I was recently watching Lord of the Rings and it dawned on me that those movies would be completely different if they weren’t directed by Peter Jackson. Completely different! Every shot, every set, the lighting, the costumes, how the characters and landscapes look, and how the whole film feels and is portrayed. It all would have looked and felt completely different based on the experience a different director was trying to create.

Thus, there is no right or wrong way. Rather, it’s about doing things your way. Until you experience this “moment,” you’ll continue attempting the correct or best way to do things.

You’ll continue copying other people’s work.

But if you persist, you’ll become disillusioned to those who were once your idols. They are people just like you and me. They’ve just made a decision to create in their own way.

The idea of imitation will become abhorrent, freeing you to create as you see fit. You’ll emerge with your own voice and original work. You’ll be less troubled about how your work is received and more focused on creating something you believe in.

4. Prove It — Just Because You Don’t Feel Like An Impostor Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t One

“Your friends won’t start supporting you until strangers start celebrating you.” — Oprah

You can buy your way onto the New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-sellers lists. You can pay your way into Mastermind groups that expose you to incredible people. But at the end of the day, other people can’t do “it” all for you. Association is a powerful thing, but creating compelling work yourself facilitates organic association and respect.

Even with the right connections, if you can’t actually execute, those connections will be meaningless. People are busy. They don’t care about you until you’ve done something they value.

Regardless of how cool you think you are, try getting a job at SpaceX without having proved yourself in a relevant domain. It doesn’t matter how much “potential” you think you have.

Conversely — even if you feel like an impostor — if you’ve done work that is so good it can’t be ignored, even Elon Musk will personally hire you.

5. Ship Often And You Win

“Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly. Skip meetings. Often. Skip them with impunity. Ship.” — Seth Godin

So many people are afraid to hit publish. They think every word needs to be perfect. They spend weeks agonizing over non-essential details, like how their website looks.

According to Brendon Burchard, the perfectionist is a liar. They claim perfectionism as the reason they don’t put their products out on the market place. The truth? They’re a “lazy-ass” according to Burchard, who is “distracted and without direction.”

Perfect doesn’t exist.

If you are a perfectionist, perhaps you should instead become an impostor? At least then, you’d be open to your own fallibility. You’d be open to looking stupid. You’d be more concerned about serving people with your talents, rather than worrying what people think about you.

Hit publish.

Make promises.

Ship as an impostor. Stretch yourself. Take bold risks. And watch as the world begins believing in you.