The Antidote to Imposter Syndrome

Eve Ensler

“Oprah has signed on!” 

I and a circle of other women — staff and volunteers for V-Day, an organization to stop violence against women and girls — plotzed when founder Eve Ensler shared the news.

Oprah would be joining the likes of Jane Fonda, Glenn Close and other powerhouse actresses to perform Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues at Madison Square Garden: making it THE fundraising event of 2001.

Mind officially blown, a co-worker asked, “How are you so calm, Eve? This event keeps getting bigger and bigger! How are we gonna pull it off?“

I was glad she asked. I was wondering, too.

Eve didn’t plan for her tiny, off-Broadway one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues, to take the world by storm, capture the hearts and minds of women worldwide, or to be used as a vehicle for international women’s empowerment, safety and freedom. No one in the room had put on an event at Madison Square Garden before. Few had even worked for nonprofits.

Eve, being the brilliant, mission-driven powerhouse that she is, said something I will never forget.

“Ya know, I used to think that people in power, on Wall Street, or Capitol Hill, they knew what they were doing, while the rest of us were bumbling along, figuring things out. But as I grew, and talked to people, I realized — formality and structures aside — nobody really does. Everybody’s just making it up as they go along.”

That statement let all the air out of the imposter syndrome balloon hovering above us.

We forged ahead, asking for the help we needed, figuring it out as we went.

More recently, a client was asked last minute to fill in for a speaker on a well-regarded panel. This was a big professional opportunity. But she wanted to decline, because she wasn’t prepared, and had never before been a panelist. She didn’t want to let the presenters down.

I had to knock some sense into her. OF COURSE she knew plenty about the topic. OF COURSE she would learn about being a panelist and a speaker by doing it. OF COURSE she was exactly the right person to fill in and they were lucky to have her expertise, even if she didn’t show up perfectly rehearsed.

You grow and stretch by saying yes, trusting yourself, learning on the spot. You can’t promise to deliver on things that are not within or related to your scope of practice. I mean, for god’s sake, if you’re not a brain surgeon, you have no business doing brain surgery. But within your scope of practice, doing things you’ve never done before doesn’t mean being an imposter. It means growth.

We’re all just making it up as we go along. 

Authorize yourself to grow. To be challenged. And to rise up.

The world depends on it.

Listen to me discuss more about authority, imposter syndrome and getting out of your own way on branding expert Jennifer Maggiore’s podcast, Catalyst Conversations!

2 responses to “The Antidote to Imposter Syndrome”

  1. Loved this! Particularly that we’re all making it up as we go along! After 40 years in practice I recognize I’ll always be a novice at a lot of things, even within my scope of work. A new indie documentary “Maiden” reveals (in the final part of the film) how it feels to let go of feeling not enough as the leader AND also how it feels to finally be seen as others see you. These were the first women team to sail around the world in a world cup race in 1989. Highly recommended (see this after interview of the skipper, Tracy Edwards: Thanks for this inspiring post.

    • Blair Glaser says:

      Thank you, Cynthia! I do know some people involved in that film and am looking forward to watching it. And thanks for reading and your insightful comment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *