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“It feels as if each week, there is some lunch or some dinner or some phone call that is going to blow my cover, reveal that I am not nearly as bright or well read or business savvy or connected as I think people imagine me to be.”

–Bill Clegg, Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man

My first thought when I read this: Who is Bill Clegg and how did he get inside my head?

My second thought: This guy has Impostor Syndrome too?!?!?

Impostor Syndrome. I first heard the term in graduate school where, apparently, lots of people besides me are afflicted with the idea that they are frauds, admitted by accident, not smart enough, and on the verge of being kicked out as soon as anyone realizes the truth. This nagging feeling persisted as I started and grew my business, but it did not serve me at all—so I set about trying to crush it. Here are the strategies that work for me (most of the time):

  1. Get informed. If I’m reading 2-3 articles every day, keeping up with new developments in market research and survey methodology, attending conferences, and constantly learning—can I really be that clueless? “I know more than a lot of people” has become a mantra.
  2. Get feedback. Sometimes I still have doubts. Is this the right methodology for the client’s question? Am I thinking this through from all angles? Could I be missing something in this analysis? Luckily, I have a growing network of people to bounce ideas off of. If a well-respected colleague comes to the same conclusion I did, or my ethics consultant (I call her Mom) doesn’t think I’m doing anything wrong, I’m reassured that I’m probably on the right track.
  3. Get evidence. I keep a file called “Praise” where I store all the emails in which clients say things like “That’s exactly what we needed!” or “We never could have come up with this insight without you! Thanks, Jessica!” When I doubt my abilities, I look back at the evidence that I am, in fact, perfectly competent.
  4. Get a grip. If you’re so terrible at what you do, why do you have clients coming back for more work, sharing your name, and sending accolades? Just take a deep breath and get back to work. You are enough. You have enough. You do enough.
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