Imposter Syndrome: My Story — Is it Yours Too? | Prasad Kaipa
IIW Web Team 26 September, 2023
Ever feel like a fraud, even when you know deep down you’re more than qualified?
Well, for starters, you are not alone. I feel like an imposter all the time.
Let me elaborate. It does not matter that I have a Ph.D., written books, worked with Nobel laureates, coached Fortune 200 CEOs and made contributions in three different fields but wake up feeling like a fraud and wondering how I justify what I have to say. This blog is about what I do to break out of its clutches and how you can do it too.
Welcome to the world of Imposter Syndrome. It’s not confined to a particular demographic; it’s a shared human experience. Our experience at the Institute of Indic Wisdom (IIW) with executives, scientists and entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, India and around the world seems to mirror the fact that it goes beyond gender, age, experience, professional accomplishment, national origin, and educational background.
Your problem is not unique. You can overcome it.
First, let’s break down what we mean by Imposter Syndrome. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re not as competent as others think, that your success might just be a fluke and others might find out too! You have nagging self doubt, feel inauthentic and hesitate to put your point out there because, yeah, you feel like a fake!
A common trigger for imposter syndrome is the dissociation between the sense of who one is, what one does, and how one expresses oneself. This dissociation manifests in various contexts:
In situations where one feels unsafe, there might be a tendency to their hide vulnerability (and the parts most valued), and present an armored persona instead.
In situations where one is seeking love and affection, to avoid a rejection of their real self, they might offer a façade.
In situations where conditional acceptance is experienced, one might present a partial self, there by manipulating oneself for rewards or to avoid punishment.
In situations where others project their fantasies, the feelings of inadequacy may arise, and they struggle to fulfill others’ expectations.
Do these points resonate for you? Are you nodding your head when you are reading any of the points above? Now that you know how you experience it, how do we tackle this complex and common issue? There is so much written about it.
What did I find useful for myself? A blend of Western insights and Indic philosophies have been a game-changer me.
Focus on Actions as we do in the West (so that you can do something about it)
Talk About It: Open up about your feelings. At last, I am finding courage to write about it after struggling with it for 30+ years! What do you need to talk about?
Learn from Failures: See failure as an opportunity for growth. I have over 1800 articles that are unfinished. One book has been on line for 20+ years and was downloaded over 9000 times and has a preface from Peter Block but I have not published it so far. I have at least 10 failures for each success. I have cofounded Mithya Institute in 1990 (www.mithya.com) and four other start ups (CPR Group, CEnter for Collaboration, Kaipa Group, SelfCorp.com); TiE Institute for entrepreneurs, Center for Leadership Innovation and Change in ISB before starting IIW. I learned so much from each failure. You can do it too.
Celebrate Success: Embrace and celebrate your achievements. In each attempt, I learned a lot. I learned that I am great with ideas and coaching but not great as a manager. I can help a lot with creativity, new ideas and getting people to take next steps and need partners who can focus on the processes and structures to make first steps sustainable. I am good at integrating brain research, Indic wisdom with my management consulting. Working with Raghu Ananthanarayanan, Sai Sambat, Somayaji Manikantan, Sreekumar T S, Anil Grovor, Thomas Milus,Ajay Viswanath, and Ravi Anupindi in addition to others in IIW, I am able to go lot further than I have ever been.
Focus on Reflections as done in the East (so that you grow your inner strength)
Non-Attachment: Focusing on what worked and what did not work helps you learn but let go of attachment to both successes and failures. I had to do it again and again.
Mindfulness and Meditation: Stay present and accept your feelings. Focus on the present because it grows into your future. Meditation, however successful each session is helps you strengthen your inner self and it is most important. It focuses on your being and not your doing.
Understanding the Self: Recognize that you will continue to be yourself – warts and all. I wanted to be like Deepak Chopra and Peter Senge but continue to be Prasading. Truth is that they cannot bring what I do just like I cannot bring what they do. When I am at peace with myself and satisfied and have feeling of ‘enough’ and joy of giving my best, I sleep well.
Try out what works for you. Stay with a practice till you become comfortable or clear that it is not for you.
Here are Everyday Practices you could integrate into your daily life. These are mine as well.
Reflect and Meditate Regularly
Encourage Open Conversations where you can learn as well as share.
Embrace Your True Self: Express your authentic feelings and what it really means to you..
Seek Support and Mentorship: Don’t be afraid to reach out. I wrote the first draft and shared it with my community and left it there. Manikantan reminded me early this week that I have not taken any action on it and asked me what it takes to put it out there. Then two of my good friends Rajesh Setty and Anant Kadiyala helped me to gain perspective and their perspectives added different elements to my own writing. Finally, I had a 20 hour travel from US to India. It helped me to reflect on multiple versions and give me courage to say things that I did not say in first couple of versions. So here it is with all your help. Is it final? I am going to put it out whether it is good or bad. It is time!
Imposter Syndrome is not just a buzzword; it’s a reality for many of us. But, understanding it through both Western research and timeless Eastern wisdom gives us tools to navigate it with confidence and grace.
Whether you’re a Silicon Valley tech genius, an executive woman reaching for the C-suite, or someone just recognizing these feelings, know this: You’re not alone, and you’re certainly not an imposter.
Embrace who you are, cherish your success, and let’s walk this journey together. Your success is no accident. It’s earned, and it’s yours.
Fortunately, Imposter syndrome is not solely a negative experience. A fascinating studyfrom MIT Sloan School of Management in 2022 points to a commonly overlooked fact: those with impostor thoughts often excel at teamwork and cooperation! Humility really pays off!
Have you experienced imposter syndrome? If yes, how have you dealt with it? Please share it so that we can learn with you and from you!