Gay Hendricks’ book, The Big Leap, is one of my favorites for thinking about how to use imposter syndrome in our favor. Hendricks explains we all reach obstacles in our growth he calls our “upper limit problems”. The purpose of the upper limit problem is to signal a potential breakthrough on the horizon.
Imposter syndrome is an upper limit problem. Think about moments when your imposter syndrome was at its worst. What were you doing? Most people report it being at its most debilitating when they have taken on a new job or task, or gotten a promotion.
In these moments of upward movement, our brains are alerting us to the danger of a new situation. In order to keep ourselves safe from the unknown, our brains deploy imposter syndrome to stop us in our tracks. We create an upper limit problem.
I recently talked to a young woman who had never heard of imposter syndrome, and when I described it, she claimed she had never experienced it. When I questioned her about it, she explained that she always quits if she starts having negative feelings. “It’s why I never finished college,” she rationalized very matter-of-factly. She hit her upper limit problem and allowed it to define her upper limit.
An upper limit is a defined boundary. An upper limit problem is an opportunity for growth!
When you start feeling your imposter syndrome creep in, how do you respond? When it tells you that everyone else is judging you, or you are the least experienced person in the room, what do you do?
Do you allow the voice of imposter syndrome to define your upper limit or do you see it as an upper limit problem to overcome so you can achieve growth?
If you have allowed it to define your upper limit in the past, are you ready to revise that way of thinking? You don’t have to let your past results define your future. Now that you know your imposter syndrome messages are just signaling a crossroads in your journey, you have the power to decide your direction.
Harnessing that power is the next step. What message(s) does imposter syndrome give you? Write them down. They usually don’t vary from situation to situation. Our brains are fairly lazy. Once your brain finds the message that keeps you safe from trying new situations, it usually sticks with that message.
My brain always told me that I wasn’t as smart as the other people in the room. They had all the experience and all the great ideas, so it was better for me to just keep my mouth shut and listen.
When I realized that message was signaling my upper limit problem, I decided to challenge the message. I talked one-on-one with other people about my ideas first, but one day I spoke my own unpopular opinion in a large group of mostly men who all had more experience than me.
No one agreed with me.
However, after that moment, the way they treated me changed. They talked about me as the person you could go to when you needed honest feedback. They told other people I was a tough leader who could do the hard things even when those things were unpleasant.
I was shocked, but I also loved the way people thought of me! My peers didn’t think I was stupid or a problem-causer when I spoke up. They respected my voice. I had broken through my upper limit problem to a whole new existence all because I didn’t allow my imposter syndrome to limit me.
I love thinking about imposter syndrome as an upper-limit problem because I know when it hits, I’m about to achieve something next-level.
Are you ready to break through to the next level? Watch your inbox for an amazing opportunity in the next few weeks! I have put all of my experience working with women with imposter syndrome into one course, and I am ready to help you push through your upper limit problems!