FEAR OF BEING FOUND OUT
Can you believe we’re almost into February? Where the heck did January go?
I’ve been meaning to check-in to see how you’re doing, and also share a lesson I was reminded of recently. I thought it might be helpful to you.
I recognize you’re busy, so I’ll cut to the chase.
I want to talk to you about troublesome thoughts that get in the way of bringing our best selves to the table. The kind of thoughts that trip us up or make us question ourselves for no apparent reason. If you’re a high-achiever, I’m guessing you too have had these thoughts. The dreaded thoughts that bring on that horrible fear of ‘being found out’.
Just last week, as I was reviewing my slide deck for a team session I had to deliver a couple of days later, I read one of the outcomes from the session and it sent me into a tailspin, and started slipping into self-doubt.
“What possessed you to agree to do this?”
“You don’t know anything about this!”
“They’ll find out you’re a fraud!”
In that moment, I didn’t know what hit me, all I knew was that I had to come up with a plan to get out of delivering the session, before I got found out. I believed the thoughts were true - that I knew nothing about my subject, that there was no way I could deliver on that outcome. We’re talking about a subject I’ve been mastering for the past two decades, but in that moment, for some strange reason, this completely slipped my mind.
Sound familiar? Ever had these thoughts? My guess is that your answer is yes. If you’re a high achiever, you likely experienced these thoughts. Because guess what – they are universal thoughts. Meaning you and I are not alone in having these thoughts, second-guessing your worth, believing that we’re an imposter. These thoughts happen to everyone.
So. Now that we know we’re not alone, what can we do about it. Here’s a few tips:
- Honestly, other than recognize they are only thoughts, and that thoughts are sneaky, there isn’t anything more to do.
- When I catch myself and see my thoughts, I like to do a reality check – I tell myself I’ll test them in the morning to see if they hold any validity. Usually by the next day I’ve completely forgotten them.
- If I’m really stuck then I reach out to a friend I trust who reverse-coaches me by asking a question I’ve asked her many times when she’s been caught in her own spin: What do you know to be true? Once I start listing my truths, what I know about the subject, the value I bring, why my expertise is important in this moment, I get grounded again and start seeing through them.
- If you’re curious like I am, you can look for patterns that trigger this fear. That Monday morning, I made up a ridiculous story that ‘this client was different’, and that the stakes were higher. Higher than what, I have no clue, I’m not sure where it came from, I realized there was no truth in that story. In the past I’ve also noticed when I’m tired, or when I’ve had a long week, I start second-guessing myself.
So to wrap this up, here’s what you need to remember:
- The ‘fear of being found out’ is a universal thing.
- These thoughts are part of the human condition – we all have them.
- There’s nothing to do about them, other than recognize they are thoughts, and they often sneak in when you aren’t looking.
Nobel Laureate Maya Angelou once 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.' "
As you can see, we’re in good company!
When you share them with someone you know and trust, you get a quick reality check so make a point to reach out as soon as you see you’re in a spin. When you understand you’re not alone, it takes the edge off.
And suddenly, you remember – YOU’VE GOT THIS!