How to expose and finally dispose of every producer's biggest nemesis: The Impostor Phenomenon
An insurance producer called me in a rather panicked state, telling me that he did not think he could survive in his chosen profession and he was getting really worried.
He explained that he was recently invited to join an exclusive country club and this excited him because of the high-value potential clients he could now mingle amongst. However, the first day he was in the men’s locker room and was introducing himself to fellow members, a wave of apprehension swept over him.
He could not help but think that his past success was due to luck and getting some great breaks and remarkable referrals… not the result of his own ability, knowledge of financial planning or skill sets. Consequently, he found himself facing the “reality” that unless he continues to be extremely lucky, he could not repeat such success.
A series of negative, self-defeating thoughts swept over him that day in the locker room, including, “These wealthy people are smarter than me and they’ll see right through me… they probably already have all of the insurance they need… they’ll ask me questions I won’t be able to answer and I’ll be embarrassed.”
These thoughts generated extreme anxiety and he sought relief from this stress by quickly exiting, rather than mingling with the other people he just met. Not until he left the grounds of the country club did he feel relief from his anxiety.
We’ve all been there at some time in our careers. We fear that the persona we are portraying is not really representative of the weaknesses and failures that truly define us. Is it only a matter of time before parents, supervisors, colleagues and clients perceive us as the real impostor we see in ourselves? Our disguise will be exposed!
The cause of the Impostor Phenomenon
No one is born with this view of themselves. There is nothing in our DNA that predisposes us to this fear that we are fooling everyone and we are “not worthy” of their praise and adulation. All fears are developed by persistent patterns of negative, self-defeating thoughts that we habitually employ when we encounter difficult situations or events.
Specific patterns of negative, self-defeating thinking will be the subject of a future article, but the one most relevant to the impostor syndrome is “Catastrophic Fortune Telling,” where you predict that it’s only a matter of time before your deficiencies, weaknesses, etc. will be exposed, much to your horror.
Denying or ignoring these feelings leads to a gradual erosion of self-confidence and self-esteem. Perhaps this is a key reason why such a large percentage of producers wash out within the first year. They don’t recognize what they are thinking and they don’t realize that they can dramatically modify those thinking patterns. What is critically important to know is that like any fear, the impostor phenomenon can be eradicated easily, once you recognize it and the thinking that triggers bringing it to the surface.
How to eradicate the Impostor Phenomenon
Step #1: It’s critical to expose this phenomenon by admitting to yourself that you worry about being an impostor. Denying it will not help to eradicate it. Just admit it and you are on the road to recovery.
Understand that all professionals in all career fields have gone through these fears and this is not a weakness, but a small obstacle on the road to your ultimate success. Being perfect is impossible, yet a lot of professionals view their lack of perfection as a weakness and evidence that they are a “fraud.” Not true!
Step #2: Every time you experience these feelings of insecurity because of a fear that you don’t have what it takes to succeed, write down the specific, negative thoughts running through your mind in a journal or notebook. For example, thoughts beginning with the phrase, “What if” or “I hope I don’t” always lead to anxiety-filled emotions.
Step #3: Look at the pattern of thoughts thatyou engage in each time you begin to doubt yourself.These are the patterns that trigger the impostor feelings.
Step #4: Here is the solution. Each time you get those triggering thought patterns, ask yourself the following questions:
- “Do I really have any evidence to support the conclusion that I don’t have what it takes? (For example, what evidence do you have that you have just been lucky each time you succeeded?)
- “Do I actually have evidence that contradicts that conclusion?” (Reflect on the many successes you have had in your career that actually were because of your skills, knowledge and hard work.)
- “Could I be exaggerating the situation in my mind?” (Example: Just because your last prospect chose not to buy, has nothing to do with future prospects’ decisions. It’s a numbers game where you can be very successful even if you only get a “yes” from a small percentage of prospects.)
- “Am I turning a minor setback into a major catastrophe in my mind?
- “What is the probability that the disaster I am predicting will take place if I approach those clients will actually take place?” (Think about your past experiences in these situations. One failure does not make the probability of continual failures 100%)
- “Am I assuming the worst will happen without real evidence to support that conclusion?”
• Questions or comments? Dr. Jack will be happy to respond on this thread:
Next page: Healthy thought patterns of successful producers
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