The Impostor Effect: Why We’re All Impostors

August 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

I can remember my first ever marketing consulting assignment.
It was a sofa store.
A reasonably successful store too.
And predictably, my first client wanted more customers.
But wasn’t doing any structured marketing.
Which is where I, the ‘marketing expert’, stepped in.
I was going to show this store not only how to get new customers, but I also had the lofty ideals of ‘reactivating dormant business clients.’

There was just one teeny-tiny problem…

I barely knew how to get new customers myself.
And as for ‘reactivating dormant business clients’…um…I was
going to a workshop to learn how to do that.
I’d run bang, smackity-smack into the ‘Impostor Effect’.
So what’s the Impostor Effect?
The Impostor Effect is where we’re desperately trying to teach
someone else to do something, when in fact, we’re struggling to
achieve that something for ourselves.

So aren’t you being a crook?

Isn’t it unethical to teach something you don’t know yourself?
Actually, no. And here’s the reason.
We’re all impostors.
We’ve always been impostors.
We’ll always be impostors.

Because the truth is, we teach what we most want to learn

So when someone says they want to teach you to get ‘life-balance’, it means their life isn’t quite balanced. When someone says they want to teach you to ‘have more compassion in your business,’ it means they need to learn to ‘to bring more compassion to their own business’.
When someone says they want to teach you to take a three-month vacation, it means they want to learn how to consistently take a three-month vacation, year after year after year.

But here’s where we run into an ugly ego factor

The word ‘impostor’ makes us look like frauds.
Like cheats.
Like we were deliberately trying to rip off someone.
How dare this article insinuate that we don’t know what we teach, you think to yourself!
Is this article saying that we don’t know what we’re doing?
Not entirely. You do know what you’re doing, but it doesn’t make
you less of an impostor.

So how do we know that this ‘Impostor Effect’ is true?

It’s true because right after you teach someone about something, you realise how little you know about it yourself.
Right after you give someone a detailed plan of what to do, you
realise how little of that plan you’re implementing in your own
business or life.
If you’re true to yourself, you’ll realise that you’ve always be an
So when Steve Jobs talks about the perfect phone, it’s because hedoesn’t have one yet. When Stephen Covey talks about the ‘Eight Habit’, it’s because he’s just about stumbled on it. When Iyengar (who started the Iyengar Yoga Movement) teaches you, it’s because at every class he’s learning something new.
Being ‘the impostor’ is part of who we are. And like any impostor,
we can either be cocky about our limited knowledge.
Or accept ourselves for what we really are.

We can call ourselves ‘gurus’ till we’re blue in the face

Or learn that we’ll never be a guru, and always the student.
Always ten steps behind what we really need to know.
Twenty-three steps behind where we really need to be.
Confident about what we know, and humble about how much there’s still to learn.
That the ‘self-proclaimed guru’, is anything but.

Understand the importance of being the ‘Impostor’

Way back in 2002, I desperately wanted to work out a system that would enable me to understand ‘how customers think.’
And why ‘customers say no; and what causes them to say yes.

My own struggle forced me to think of ways to resolve that problem.
And the more I spoke about the topic, the more I learned.
The more I sought to explain the topic in words, the more the ‘fog’ lifted.
I’m still learning. Those brain cells are still churning.
I was, and still am the impostor.
I hope I never change 🙂
And I hope you never do too!

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