Gabriel Mizrahi (@GabeMizrahi) joins us for this deep dive into identifying and overcoming imposter syndrome — the sinking feeling that your accolades are unearned, your successes are undeserved, and you’ll be discovered for the fraud you (think you) are at any moment by somebody — anybody — more qualified than you (which only seems to be everybody)! [Photo by Steve Lundqvist]
What We Discuss with Gabriel Mizrahi:
- Why you’re not alone in feeling pangs of imposter syndrome (or imposter experience or imposter phenomenon, depending on who you ask) — it strikes nearly everyone (even elite athletes and military special forces) from time to time.
- How to tell the difference between true fraudulence and imposter syndrome — and act accordingly.
- The three behaviors that should help you avoid feeling imposter syndrome but counterintuitively tend to reinforce it.
- The two common beliefs that invite imposter syndrome to visit most frequently.
- What you can learn from incidents of imposter syndrome to grow more resistant to its eerily convincing distortions of reality.
- And much more…
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Imposter syndrome refers to feelings of fraudulence that are not tied to an accurate understanding of our own competence. When we fail to internalize our talent and achievements, then we mistakenly believe that we haven’t organically earned our success. It’s this miscalibrated relationship to ourselves that causes feelings of fraudulence. We feel like imposters, but we’re not.
If we fail to work through this imposter syndrome, then we walk through life feeling like strangers, liars, and scam artists. But if we learn how to process it the right way, we can work through our insecurity and self-doubt and embrace our achievements in a way that makes life a lot more fun, connected, and fulfilling. In order to do that, we need to understand how this strange experience actually works — which is what we aim to do in this deep dive with Gabriel Mizrahi. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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More About This Show
In 1978, Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “imposter syndrome” to describe the experience of being unable to internalize accomplishments and feeling a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
This state, they explained, made us feel disconnected from our own talents, abilities, and achievements. It also created an anxiety — sometimes even a straight-up paranoia — that the world will eventually figure out that we’ve lied, cheated, or finagled our way through life.
People who experience these feelings of fraudulence tend to believe that they haven’t truly earned the success they’ve had, often despite clear evidence of their intelligence and capability.
Instead, they attribute their success to luck, random chance, or the ability to trick people into believing they’re more competent than they actually are.
And the really fascinating thing? Everyone has this experience at some point or another.
Imposter syndrome — also known as the “imposter experience” or the “imposter phenomenon” — visits people from all walks of life. Multiple studies have shown that impostorism affects both genders, and occurs in people from all professions, cultures, and levels of success.
“The reason that imposter syndrome is so troubling for so many people is that it’s a little bit more than being disconnected [from their achievements],” says Gabriel. “It’s not like someone could come into the room and be like, ‘Hey, just to remind you, you did the work. You went to school. You went through training. You’ve handled situations like this before. You’re going to be fine.’ And then you leave that conversation like, ‘Oh, yeah. Of course. I just forgot for a second.’ That’s a very different kind of fraudulence.
“What imposter syndrome is about is feeling like those accomplishments almost never happened and are not part of you. In fact, you might even trust that they happened and still feel like they’re not part of you. Like, ‘I did go to school. I know that I went there. I know that I’ve handled situations before that are similar to this,’ but somehow you can’t lock onto them or feel like they’re part of your identity, so they’re not part of your toolkit. So that’s a more profound disconnection.”
If you’ve ever looked up to a role model who’s accomplished superhuman feats — whether it’s an astronaut who walked on the moon or an Olympic gold medalist or a hometown hero on the path to the presidency — chances are pretty good they’ve struggled with imposter syndrome. In fact, it’s the people at the apex of competence and capability who most often find themselves experiencing its seductively ruinous sway, but Gabriel assures us that it really affects “people from all walks of life…both genders…across jobs and industries, locations, regions, socioeconomic backgrounds. It really cuts across all of humanity.”
Which you should find reassuring if you’ve ever danced with the imposter syndrome devil, because it means you’re not alone. You’re just a human being like the rest of us, and there are ways to overcome imposter syndrome without being some kind of moon-walking, Olympian leader of the free world. Listen to this episode in its entirety to tell the difference between true fraudulence and imposter syndrome, identify the three behaviors that should help you avoid feeling imposter syndrome but counterintuitively tend to reinforce it, understand the two common beliefs that invite imposter syndrome to visit most frequently, what you can learn from incidents of imposter syndrome to grow more resistant to its eerily convincing distortions of reality, why experiencing imposter syndrome often indicates you’re on the right path toward growth, and much more.
To dive even deeper into overcoming imposter syndrome, make sure to read this episode’s companion article here: How to Stop Feeling Like An Imposter.
THANKS, GABRIEL MIZRAHI!
If you enjoyed this session with Gabriel Mizrahi, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Gabriel Mizrahi at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- How to Stop Feeling Like An Imposter by Jordan Harbinger
- TJHS 4: Deep Dive | Learning How to Cope with Instability
- The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes
- The Impostor Syndrome [A.K.A. “Fake It Until You Make It”]: A Case Study by Robert W. McGee
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Transcript for How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome | Deep Dive (Episode 127)
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. One of the most requested topics for the show has always been imposter syndrome. In my 12 plus years of doing interviews, imposter syndrome seems to have affected nearly every single guest we've ever had from elite athletes and performers to military special forces and intelligence agents. Imposter syndrome, if you for some reason I have not heard of this, it's that feeling you get that somehow you made it through, you slip through the cracks, and it's only a matter of time till everyone at work, at school in whatever artistic venture you're doing is just going to find out that you don't belong there. You're a fraud. You slip through the cracks. You somehow made it through, even though you're an imposter. We all have this and it affects high performers, especially imposter syndrome itself of course has affected me in just about every step of my career, from law school to Wall Street, from State Department to hosting this show. And today, Gabriel Mizrahi, Head of Editorial over here on the Jordan Harbinger Show aka the superstar who makes me sound smarter than I am in real life, especially in all things written. Well, him and I are going to cut imposter syndrome wide open and flat out for you.
[00:01:08] We're going to explore exactly what imposter syndrome is and who suffers from it. Hint, if you have it, it's actually a good sign and we'll explain why. We'll also show you the difference between imposter syndrome and actually being a fraud. After you hear what we've got to say on this, you'll either have a lot of work to do and/or you'll get a reality check of one way or the other. And last but not least, we'll give you some real strategies on how to manage and overcome imposter syndrome. This isn't something that you've just got to live with and it's not something that should ever get in your way. By the end of this episode, you'll know how to flip imposter syndrome around now on it's back whenever it rears its head and do so in a practical way so that can no longer slow you down. I love this topic as it's not only near and dear to me, but to all high performers and I know you're going to love it.
[00:01:51] And if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits in just a few minutes a day, check out our Six-Minute Networking Course, which is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. All right, here's Gabriel Mizrahi and myself on imposter syndrome.
[00:02:09] So imposter syndrome is one of the favorite topics of the audience and I think it's because so many people have it and they ask for advice about it or they just described as symptoms and lo and behold, everyone has this. I first experienced this when I got into law school, or I should say even probably before then, but definitely when I got into Michigan Law because I thought it's only a matter of time until somebody finds out that I don't belong here. How did I get in? And so if I've had it and half the audience had it, especially the guests that come on from Navy SEALs all the way to corporate executives who’ve had it. It's kind of a to put a dramatic spin on it, it's a little bit of an epidemic, and so I thought we should address it and spend an inordinate amount of time doing research about it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:02:55] Yeah, I'm glad we did it because I feel like it's such a universal experience, but it's also one of those experiences that people don't really talk about very often. They don't want to talk about it. I think there's a lot of like shame and embarrassment because we think we might be the only ones who have this feeling of like A, being out of our depth, and B, looking over our shoulder wondering when is everyone going to catch onto the fact that I don't know what I'm doing and I'm going to be found out. And that trifecta of like the fraudulence and the anxiety and the self-doubt can be really paralyzing. And the irony as you pointed out is that a lot of the highest performing people are the ones who wrestle with it. Ironically, a lot of the people who should be wearing about it don't. So how do we get ourselves out of that paradox if part of being competent and ambitious and stepping into new challenges and being able to take them on is also giving rise to this feeling that like maybe I don't have what it takes when in fact you really do. So I think it is an important experience, I'm glad we're getting to talk about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:50] So the one sentence definition of imposter syndrome is essentially from my perspective going to be how did I get into this law school? Or how did I get this job? Or how did I get into this relationship? It's only a matter of time till everyone figures out I'm a fraud and I will retreat to a cave in the mountains in shame. And that comes through high-performers all the time, but I would love to get a little bit more scientific with this. What is imposter syndrome really?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:04:18] Yeah. Well, in a nutshell, imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern and I think that's a sort of a fancy word in a way for just a set of feelings and behaviors and thoughts and beliefs that tend to congregate around this sense that like we're out of our depth and we're sort of frauds. But it's really a psychological pattern that was first coined in 1978 by two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. And what they described was this experience of being unable to internalize our accomplishments in a way that allows us to feel like we own them and that we've earned them, and that because we own them and earn them we can take them to new places and succeed. And when we don't get a chance to internalize those accomplishments then suddenly we feel like, well, if we don't have those, if we can't rely on them, if we're not actually competent enough to navigate these situations, then we have to invent a false self. Somebody who can step in as like a proxy on our behalf and that's where a lot of the fraudulence creeps in because it's this false self, who's doing all of the work. At least that's how the impostor starts to think.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:20] Is it then just a matter of being disconnected from what our capabilities are? Is it just a matter of being disconnected from talent or ability or achievement because it seems like the more we look at high-performers, the more we see that they have imposter syndrome and sometimes in the very areas that they are best at. Even some of the best people in the world at certain sports or other activities are the ones that find themselves feeling like they don't belong there. And it's like how does an Olympian who spent 20 hours a day working on bobsled and knows everybody else in the bobsled community, and one's the gold metal think, “Well, I got lucky.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:06:01] Yeah. So I would say that that feeling of being disconnected from your achievements is probably something you could attribute mild forms of fraudulence to, sort of feeling like a little bit like I feel like I'm good enough or I feel like I've done the work but I don't remember, I'm not so sure and like maybe that can explain some cases of imposter syndrome. But the reason imposter syndrome is so troubling for so many people is that it's a little bit more than being disconnected from them. It's not like someone could come into the room and be like, “Hey, just to remind you, you did the work.” You went to school. You went through training. You've handled situations like this before. You're going to be fine. And then you leave that conversation like, “Oh yeah, yeah, of course. I just forgot for a second.” That's a very different kind of fraudulence. What imposter syndrome is about is feeling like those accomplishments almost never happened and are not part of you. In fact, you might even trust that they happen and still feel like they're not part of you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:51] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:06:52] I did go to school. I know that I went there. I know that I've handled situations before that that are similar to this, but somehow you can't lock onto them or feel like they're part of your identity, so they're not part of your toolkit. So that's a more profound disconnection than what you were just describing. And I think that's what makes it so troubling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:08] It is. It's weird because it doesn't make any sense. It's not logical at all. We have these people who have a bunch of success or we have a bunch of success. We have clear evidence of our intelligence capability, work ethic, whatever. Instead, we just are so quick to assign this to luck, random chance, our ability to convince people that we're so great, even if that isn't part of our sales setup itself. Almost any reason.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:34] Anything that would explain why we got to where we are if it's not our own achievements.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:38] Right. Other than the actual truth.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:07:39] So as you touched on, and we keep coming back to, it's going to be a theme I think of this episode, was that a lot of the people who you think quote unquote shouldn't be dealing with imposter syndrome are the ones who deal with it the most. But it's worth pointing out that it does visit people who are ambitious and curious and high performing, but it really visits people from all walks of life. Psychologists who have done research in this area have found that it affects both genders.
[00:08:03] In the beginning of the research, what's really interesting is that at first a lot of the researchers thought it primarily affected women, but it really affects men just as much. It can affect people across jobs and industries, locations, regions, socioeconomic backgrounds. It really cuts across all of humanity, which I find reassuring because it means that you're not particularly prone to this feeling just because of your background or who you are or your gender or anything like that. This is like a deeply human thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:28] Yeah. So if you think, “Oh good, I'm not one of the people who gets affected by this.” You're probably wanting to people who gets affected by this the most.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:08:35] Yeah, or just as much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:36] Or you just haven't done anything in your life and there's no reason for you to have it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:08:39] There's always that possibility.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:40] Oh, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:08:40] Yeah, you're just not doing any of that. So multiple studies have shown that imposter syndrome affects both genders. It occurs in people from all professions and cultures and levels of success, which is also interesting that this could affect a new recruit as much as the CEO of the company and in a weird way, it ties those two people together. [It’s interesting] [00:08:57]. Despite the fact that A, they probably have vastly different experiences and also vastly different pay grades, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:03] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:09:03] And sometimes being paid more can even add to those feelings of fraudulence, which is something that we'll talk about. But Clance, one of those psychologists who initially did a research in this area found that about 70 percent of all people, 70 percent of all humans have felt like imposters for at least some part of their careers, and it's also something that recurs so it's not just like, “Oh yeah, I remember feeling like an imposter when I first got hired at my first job, but it took me six to nine months and then I sort of -- I was fine after that.” It comes up again and again as you take on new situations and challenges and in a way if you're doing your job right, it will come up again and again, because you will push yourself to new situations where you're not sure that your previous achievements will necessarily serve you.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:44] Exactly. This is really important because I felt it in, I felt it in getting into college. I felt I didn't getting into law school. I felt that when I got onto Wall Street and I felt it when starting a business. I felt that once I started on SiriusXM satellite radio back in the day, and now that we're doing more video, it's just every time you're on the edge of your comfort zone or the bubble sort of your cape, there's probably some graph we could draw where it's like your capability, a bubble. You're on the edge of what you're capable of, and your comfort zone. It's like right there.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:15] Right there, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:16] And then it's on the edge of that. You feel that imposter syndrome, when you start to get more -- ironically, the more comfortable you get with doing certain skills, the more you start to feel that imposter syndrome because you start to get recognition for doing well in those areas. And then you go, “Wait a minute, do I deserve it?”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:10:32] Yeah. And the recognition is a really interesting piece of this. And we're going to circle back on that because that's a huge piece of this puzzle. So imposter syndrome is a universal experience. Almost everyone on the planet walks around at some point or another with a feeling of fraudulence but some degree of feeling like an imposter. But we have to separate out a couple things before we get into how to solve this because there is such a thing as true fraudulence and that's a different beast from imposter syndrome. So people tend to talk about them like they're the same thing because it's like, “Well if I feel like a fraud I feel like a fraud. What does it matter if it's true or not?” But it actually does matter, because there are situations we find ourselves in where we're really out of our depth where we might actually have an objective gap between what we know how to do and what we have to do. That's true fraudulence and that really there's only one solution for that, which is to put in the work, to be self-aware, to understand what we need to learn and to learn it. And that's a very healthy gap. Like it would be kind of crazy and a little bit unself-aware if we were like, “Well, I don't ever want to feel fraudulent whether it's true or false, I'm just going to like ignore those feelings all together.” Well then you end up being an imposter, he doesn't know he's in a monster, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:39] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:11:40] When you really should be aware of it. So that's true fraudulence and that's like a very different experience from the imposterism that we've been talking about.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:47] So people who are wondering, do I have this? A good question might be have you now or at any other especially turning point in your life ever felt like you're the person who slipped through the cracks and you're the one who wasn't supposed to get hired, but somehow they were tired and they'd just eaten lunch, and so they saw your application and they needed one more person and they slipped you through the cracks? Or you're the person who got admitted to that special program because they needed somebody with your unique characteristics just to fill out a rounding -- some sort of internal document? Or they accidentally dropped your application into the yes pile? If you've ever felt like it's only a matter of time until you get found out as a fraud and you go home and shame, you have slash have had imposter syndrome and it can happen anywhere from getting an A on an exam in school all the way to meeting your significant other and hoping they don't find out you're a Schmoe.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:12:40] Yeah. Well you're touching on something really interesting, which is that there's always some part of life that is attributed to random chance and accident. And that can be really confusing because sometimes you end up with some really good things, maybe not purely because of luck, but there was some component of it that really you didn't have control over. Now, what usually ends up happening is, is like it's some combination of your hard work and your skill and the luck, and the luck wouldn't have meant as much if you didn't put in the hard work. So even there, we can start to have a little bit of imposter syndrome when we attribute more of our success to random chance than to our own hard work or whatever, we did try to get it. But in those situations where random chance did play a role, it's important to recognize that, well, yeah, maybe I did get promoted six months or a year sooner than I thought I would, because that guy left and this woman opened up a spot and they reshuffled the department and suddenly I'm in control of like the whole marketing budget.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:33] Even though I'm only been here for 18 months.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:13:34] Exactly. Okay. So in that situation, that's like first of all prime real estate for imposter syndrome to start to develop, but there might also be a piece of that that is true fraudulence and that's not bad inherently. It just means that maybe we stepped into a role sooner than we were technically supposed to, and then it's on us to sort of meet that -- fill that gap and meet those responsibilities by putting in more work than we thought we would have to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:58] Okay, so true fraudulence doesn't mean you're a con artist and you deserve to be thrown in prison. It's just different from imposter syndrome and that in imposter syndrome, you do belong there, but you feel like you don't, and true fraudulence is you don't feel like you belong there. Same as imposter syndrome.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:14:14] And you might not in fact belong there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:16] Right. And there's still a gap between like, “Oh my gosh, I just got a live radio show for two hours on Friday. I can't do this. I don't have a live radio skillset. Maybe you're right about that.” Whereas imposter syndrome, it's, “No, you're not right. You're crushing this. You've got this, you've been doing this for years. This is supposed to happen to you.” The other one is, “Yeah, you really don't have that skill set, but obviously the station manager thinks you can build it really quick. And so your job is to actually lean into that and build that skill set so that you deserve what you have.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:14:46] Exactly right. Yeah, so imposter syndrome refers to feelings of fraudulence that are not tied to an accurate understanding of our own achievements or our own capability. So when you fail to internalize those real achievements, those real experiences, when you don't have an organic connection to that stuff, that's when we mistakenly believe that we haven't earned our success and we couldn't possibly be capable enough. That's imposter syndrome. True fraudulence, arises when there's an objective gap between our ability and our success and everybody knows that if they're being honest about the situation.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:19] Sure.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:15:19] Now is tricky and when I think you were just getting at is that A, it's really important to recognize true fraudulence when it arises, but it's also possible for both of those things to exist at the same time. So they can overlap, you can find yourself in a situation where there is some degree of true fraudulence. You were thrust into the new marketing role. You're in charge of a team and a budget and you've never done that kind of work before. Well yeah, there's a period of time in which you might sort of be a fraud in the sense that you were not totally trained or ready to take on that role. And then you do the work to fill it, but you might still do that work and then be like, “But there's no way I could possibly be head of this marketing portfolio with all the work that I've done. I still am not -- I'm not trustworthy, I'm not capable.” And then it's imposter syndrome on top of the true fraudulence. So it is tricky and we don't need to like obsess over which is which, but it's important to recognize that there can be both of these things happening at the same.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:15] So then you've got this cool looking Venn diagram of fraudulence that exist in your brain, and overlaps your self-esteem like a wet blanket.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:23] Perfect.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:24]
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:25] To marry both the third grade tool that I haven't used since--
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:27] That’s right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:28] Elementary school with like a really wet metaphor. Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:31] Are we making those things? I'm like, “Oh, teachers are like, these are important. This is a graph, you're going to use this.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:36] You’re going to use this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:37] I've never made one since. But I think mentally I've probably made several.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:40] Yeah, and I feel like I see them in memes on Instagram.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:42] You do see them, yeah. That's because most people look at memes on Instagram have stopped development at well fourth grade I think, myself included.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:52] I wish I had a good joke to tag on to that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:54] That's right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:55] It was perfect. We can edit that out, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:58] You can or we can leave it in.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:16:59] Just leave it in and be like, see, we're not imposters.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:00] That's right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:17:01] Left in the room [indiscernible] [00:17:02]
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:03] We don't have the skills to land that one.
[00:17:08] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Gabriel Mizrahi doing a Deep Dive on the impostor syndrome. We'll be right back.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:15] This episode is sponsored in part by Hunt a Killer. And I know that sounds weird, right? It's a game and you all know I'm obsessed with escape games. Jenny and I both are, we've dragged Jason do a couple here and there. Hunt a Killer is kind of like that, but you can do it at home. And so what you get is essentially you're corresponding with a serial killer and you're a detective, and so each month you get a new box of clues in the clues have these little puzzles like weird writing or missing letters or other sorts of puzzles and little objects come in. So it's not just letters, it's photographs and objects in evidence. So it's a monthly subscriptions but it's a game and you become a detective immersed in this murder mystery. So you're getting crime scene, photos, motive, suspect information you need to know to solve the crime. And it's so interactive, it's so convincing that it looks and feels kind of real and you can sort of spread this out on your kitchen table with your wife or your kids or whatever, and you can play it alone if you want to. It's a date night thing, game night with friends. You can exchange some theories. There's an online community, which is really fun. People who are at the same point in the story as you so you don't just sign up and get a bunch of spoilers, and they've got like 60,000 people playing this game online at the same time and you don't have to play online, you can play alone but you're not going to get stuck. And I think this is really cool. We, Jen and I played it and we just thought it was really, really fun. It was greatest thing. So I'm a fan of this, and if you want to check it out, which I strongly encourage you to do, especially now that you get some time over the holidays, go to huntakiller.com/jordan for 10 percent off the first box and they only accept 200 members per day because they kind of want to get everybody in heats if that makes sense. Huntakiller.com/jordan for 10 percent off the first box and let me know what you think of this game. But don't tell me any spoilers because I'm going slow. Got a lot going on, okay, don't judge me.
[00:18:58] This episode is sponsored in part by Mrs. Fields. Yes, I'm talking about the cookies and I've always had some trouble -- either I'm really great at giving gifts people that I know, I'm like, okay this, I'm going to get them this, and I've been thinking about it all year. Boom. Or I'm like, “Oh Aunt Edna.” Hmm. I have no idea. And for over 40 years, Ms. Fields has made delicious treats and you've seen them at the mall, now you can order them at home. They've got these signature chocolate chip cookies, hand frosted favorites, melt in your mouth brownies. The brownies were amazing, and they even got a hundred percent customer satisfaction guarantee, which I think is pretty funny for cookies and baked goods. So this year you can send a fresh big gift that nobody can resist and they've got these gift baskets and give tins, and they sent us one and I'll tell you, this stuff is pretty damn good.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:42] Mrs. Fields was a staple in Chicago. I got this stuff all the time and we would send it to all of our relatives and they are legit good.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:49] So funny story about that. That won't really help sell the product, but it's funny. So when I was a kid, there was a Mrs. Fields at every mall, and one of my babysitter's friends used to work there and she used to give cookies to us all the time. We were so excited about this because they were, you know, the freaking delicious, and when you're like a kid and you got a babysitter and your parents aren't around, you can eat 17 cookies for dinner and that's what's up. Well one day, she was bringing out all of the old stock because the way that she was able to take cookies home, which is not super legit, is to like throw stuff away. So they were throwing away one of those giant cookies that they keep in the display case.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:24] Oh, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:25] And you know, those things are like eight months old. I didn't know that. So we saw that in the car and we just started like ripping it apart and shoving it on that.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:32] Whaling on it.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:21:13] Don't forget we have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from this Deep Dive with Gabriel Mizrahi. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Thanks for listening and supporting the show. To learn more about our sponsors and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you'd like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe, and now back to our show with Gabriel Mizrahi.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:21:42] Okay, so I think by now we're kind of clear on what imposter syndrome is, but it can still be really confusing as to why it develops in the first place because it seems really maladaptive. Like why would the human brain have this weird quirk of doubting its own ability when really it should be sure of that ability. It doesn't seem to make sense.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:01] It never makes sense to me because in fact, I was wondering about this as well, where in our evolutionary psychology is it like, “Hey, so what we're going to do is have you to work really hard, achieve all these great things, and then feel like crap about it. Or just feel like you shouldn't have gotten them and that it's all so tenuous that it can crumble inside your hand and so that you can't enjoy it specifically, like we want you getting no pleasure out of your achievements.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:22:26] Yeah, exactly. We want you looking over your shoulder constantly even and especially when you shouldn't be.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:32] Yeah, what is going on here?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:22:32] Yeah, it doesn’t make sense. Well here, we can look back to Clance and Imes, who did the initial research on imposter syndrome because they explained the pattern in terms of three central behaviors. And what's really interesting about these three behaviors that make up imposter syndrome is that they're actually the most common ways that human beings try to avoid impostor syndrome. But in the course of trying to pursue them, they end up reinforcing it. And that's why impostor syndrome can be so hard to reason your way out of.
[00:22:58] So the first major behavior that they talked about was diligence and hard work. So the fear of being found out by somebody important, like a boss or a parent or a teacher becomes so troubling to the imposter that the only possible solution or the most immediate solution is to just work harder. So that means put in extra time to study, stay later at the office, bone up on the material you need to study up on, take extra classes. Like this is what a lot of high-performers do, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:26] Sure, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:23:26] They're like, okay, I feel like I'm imposter, I'm just going to put in more hard work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:28] Yeah. Like, “Oh look, I've got a skills gap. What do I do?” “Try to fill the gap in those skills.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:23:32] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:33] Oh, I don't know if I can do video and radio better. Get a broadcasting coach, better get an onscreen talent coach, acting coach, whatever.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:23:41] Better spent hours online learning every possible nuance of this thing because I need to figure out how to not feel like a fraud,
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:47] Which helps you level up, which helps you feel more like you shouldn't have leveled up and you don't deserved it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:23:52] Yes. Exactly, they goes. The imposter ends up putting in longer hours, they end up putting in more time to study or perform or look good. And what ends up happening is that they end up usually getting approval from the source of authority that they were concerned about in the first place and that accomplishment validates them and gives them like that little boost that they felt they needed, that they didn't feel when they were the impostor. You're like, “Well I just want my boss to reassure me that I'm actually as good as I think.” After all, if I get that validation, if people are paying attention to me, then how could I possibly be an imposter, right? Like they are telling me that I'm not. But the accomplishment doesn't end up really doing the trick because it usually feels like a hollow victory over those authority figures. It's almost like the impostor mentality spins it immediately into being like, “Well, I managed to pull the wool over their eyes.” Right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:40] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:24:41] For this short period of time I've convinced everybody that I am actually as capable as I wanted them to think. And so once again it just falls back in on itself and you can't internalize the validation and the accomplishment that you were hoping to have from the very beginning.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:56] Yeah. I feel this when I get, not all the time. Of course, I love, first of all, I want to say I love getting letters from the listeners and I love hearing how the show has changed their lives, but depending on the day, depending on my mood, I can read the letter and go, “Man, if they only knew, that I'm sitting here and I broke my shoelace or whatever.” Some stupid little thing. Or “If they only knew how frustrated we were with getting traction in such and such niche,” or like that I spent the whole day proofing email copy. These kinds of things, you feel that imposter syndrome. So working harder does bring it back around. It ends up perpetuating the same catch 22 which may -- because it's like, well, if they knew that I had the skills gap, then they would never have written me this letter. So I better work on that skills. And you end up on the hamster wheel, but you can't get off the hamster wheel because what are you going to do? Stop working on yourself so that you stop achieving so that you stop feeling like an impostor. This makes no sense.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:25:54] You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. Exactly. And that's the trap of imposter wisdom. Now, there's another interesting way that a lot of us try to get out of this feeling, this pattern, which is to compensate in other ways that are sometimes a little bit inauthentic. In other words, you try to game the system around your fraudulence. So you see this a lot in offices, where there's an employee who really wants to please the boss, maybe he or she is feeling a little bit insecure about their position in the company. They want everyone to like them, maybe they're feeling a little bit out of their depth, and what they start to do is basically what we would call politics, which is starting to play the game of the personalities in the office. So I know that my boss loves this sports team and so I'm going to pretend to support that sports team to earn the loyalty or the admiration of my boss because I need that admiration to compensate for these other areas of weakness that I have.
[00:26:43] So you start to like play up those opinions in meetings or you start to talk about it over drinks or whatever that is, or sometimes it works the other way where you say you sense it yourself and you don't say the opinions that you think would be unpopular. So it could work either way. But what ends up happening is that you're not actually working on the substance of imposterism. You're not working on the real issue at hand, which is the quality of your work and your competence and your personality. You're working on like these other things that are sort of social or political or just like very idiosyncratic to your office. And so it just perpetuates the imposterism all over again because you tried to fix the gap that you were feeling, but instead of fixing the underlying gap, you were sort of putting a band-aid on it by playing the game of the personalities in the room.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:27] Yeah. So you end up adding another layer or the near on top of your real personality, which makes you feel like a faker every time you go into that place, such as your office where you need to be a high performer. So then the catch 22, we're kind of back into it because now we realize we're just trying to pull -- we actually are trying to pull the wool over [indiscernible][00:27:51]
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:27:51] Yeah, you actually are. Yeah, exactly. And the idea is like it comes from a good place because if we feel like we can't be perfectly competent, then at least we can be liked or needed or admired or just feel like we're part of the group. But that self that we create to earn that loyalty and that likeability is a false self because it's a self we invented to deal with the falsity that we were feeling. So it's just like another way that the catch 22 rears its ugly head. Like you tried to get out of it and then it happens, it happens all over again.
[00:28:21] Side note, this is actually worth exploring just this little subplot which is that this is actually super useful for founders and managers to understand, because they tend to attract a lot of high performing individuals, but it's the high performing individuals who are usually more obsessed about whether they're actually competent enough to do the job. They are the ones who take a lot of interest in whether they're actually good enough, whether people perceive them as good enough, and that's where the politicking that we just described can totally come into play. The thing is it's not malicious. It's not necessarily like people are always trying to gain the system. It can come from this like deep need to make sure that we don't walk around feeling like frauds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:57] Exactly, right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:28:58] The irony is that I can strike offices with people who are more competent than anyone else. You ended up whistling [indiscernible] [00:29:04]
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:04] You end up with yes man, around you because they feel the imposter syndrome not because you hired the wrong person for the job.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:29:09] Exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:10] It’s because you hired the right person for the job.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:29:11] Exactly. And it's also like a great reason to discuss this topic openly at work, which is something that most people don't do because it's like well A, it's like do we spend work time discussing this bizarre psychological pattern? Well, we have other more important things to do. We have customers, we have deadlines or whatever. But maybe that is -- maybe that does become part of the office culture that every month or every three months you take some time out to be like, “We're moving really quickly here and we have a lot to do and we're trying to do things in this company that are beyond our capabilities.” Let's about how sometimes that can make us feel like frauds and you kind of bring that out into the open and it can help resolve a lot of this stuff. But we'll come back to that when we talk about the principles for how to overcome imposter syndrome. It's just worth bringing up in this moment.
[00:29:52] The third behavior, and we'll just touch on this really quickly and it's very connected to the last one, is the use of observation and interest in charms. So another common strategy among imposters is to focus on using like charisma and perceptiveness about authority figures to win the good graces of those authority figures. Remember, these are the people like teachers and bosses and parents, sometimes even significant others or family members whose approval and validation we need so badly to not feel like the frauds we suspect we really are. So earning that admiration becomes really, really important.
[00:30:26] So a good example of this is an employee. Let's take the employee we were just talking about who feels like she stepped into a role sooner than she expected and suddenly she has all these responsibilities. So that employee who might be wrestling with imposter syndrome might seek out other responsibilities beyond her immediate role that or even beyond the things she didn't feel like she knew how to do to make up for the fact that she might not be doing all of them very well. It's a very common.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:49] So volunteer to set up the Christmas party, join all these art committee, the decoration committee in the office, and then suddenly you're the office PTA lead who's doing every bit of all of the planning and then your regular job.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:31:04] By the way, I love your Dunder Mifflin version of those like extra office responsibilities like the holiday party. But yeah, it could be, it could be as simple as that, because that would be another way to like earn everybody's loyalty and affection. If I'm the person who plans to the party. But there are so many ways that can happen. You could walk to another department and say, “Hey, listen, I noticed this thing in my department. I think it touches yours.” “Do you need some help? I can offer. I got a half hour.” You know what I mean? Like there are all these clever ways, but of course those behaviors, they can be perfectly productive and healthy. They can be signs of an employee who really wants to do well by the company, but they can also be a way to compensate for perceived weaknesses. And so once again, you're back in the catch 22 where it's like, I felt like I wasn't good enough. So I took on all these extra responsibilities, and even if I do well in those things, I'm still not addressing the fundamental because of the imposter syndrome. If anything, I've extended my fraudulence to these other ways, and lo and behold, I still haven't been found out, so I must be pulling the wool over everybody's eyes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:04] Just for the record, I think I've employed all three of these strategies if I had to, because I was like, “Oh, which one is my favorite?” And I was like, “Well, I do try to work hard and fill in the gaps,” so there's that, and then, “Oh yeah, that's true. I do definitely -- I have definitely tried to be really observant and agree with the right things,” or be kind of a little bit of I don't know, yes, man maybe in earlier career or jobs, and then yeah, insurance charm. And I'm like, “Oh crap, I've done all this.” I've done all of these. I'm looking through the article like, “Oh no, you have to give each one.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:32:32] No, I'm glad that you brought that up because it's not like a shameful thing that these are the behavior. This is the normal human response to this very universal experience of fraudulence, and I've done them all too. And if you've worked at bigger companies, it's very common because there's a lot of that politicking. In weird ways, you also get rewarded for some of these behaviors ,right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:52] Sure.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:32:53] If you take on more responsibility, you're more visible within the company. You know there's a perverse system of rewards that reinforces fraudulence and that can be really hard because remember, all of this is coming from a very good place. None of us wants to feel like a fraud. We all want to do the work to try to not have that imposter experience. The problem is that the three main strategies that we just talked about, they seem like the easiest ways to get out of it, but they just lead us right back in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:20] I find that this was really -- this type of content, this article in the content that we're using here really did give me a lot of perspective to look back at people I used to work with where I thought, “Oh God, that guy was such a blow hard or you know what's this guy's deal?” And I realized, “Wait a minute, the guy who's overcompensating in the office by acting like a know it all is really just throwing a shade onto one of these three behaviors.” Like, “Oh well if I act like I know everything and I'm a little condescending to everybody and I make them feel like they should know the things I know, then nobody will notice that I'm the guy who doesn't know what the hell is going.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:33:53] Yeah. That's so easy to forget that if we feel like we're wrestling with impostor syndrome, the chances are that a lot of other people we work with or talk to are wrestling with. But because it's one of those secrets we all share i.e., stuff we don't want to talk about because we think it's just about us and it'll make us look bad. Then it becomes this thing where, well you forget that other people are wrestling with it too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:16] Exactly.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:34:16] It becomes highly personal, which it's not.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:34:19] You're listening to the Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Gabriel Mizrahi in our Deep Dive on Imposture Syndrome. We'll be right back after this.
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Jason DeFillippo: [00:36:18] Thanks for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers is what keeps us on the air and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals, and don't forget the worksheet for today's episode. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Now for the conclusion of our Deep Dive with Gabriel Mizrahi.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:40] Of course, you see people doing those types of behaviors. You also see the introvert version or the behavior number one version where an example comes to mind of law school. There was this kid who was just brilliant. His name is Shivah, and of course, he was from an Indian family and everyone in his family was a doctor and he was the one guy who thought, “I don't want to be a doctor, I'm going to be a lawyer.” So his parents, he used to joke, “I'm the loser of my family,” but he kind of wasn't joking because surgeon, surgeon, surgeon, doctor, doctor, lawyer, and he probably graduated. I would say number one or number two in our class almost for sure. Wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being a clerk in the Supreme Court or something like that.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:37:18] Attorney general, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:19] Yeah, exactly. And I remember he was super nice. Everyone loved him. He seemed to pick all these concepts up intuitively. I would wake up early and go to the gym. I'd see him on the way to the library. I'd come home super late after a late night out, I'd see him coming home from the library ,and I was like, “Why do you study so hard? You already know all of this stuff or is it that you know all this stuff because you study so hard?” and he goes, “I can't -- I feel like everyone else is smarter than me,” and I just thought “You're wrong. You're like objectively, you’re incorrect.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:37:49] Yeah. If you feel that way, what hope do we have?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:51] I remember thinking, “Geez man, you know what? I'm screwed.” If you think you're going to get as a B minus, I'm not even going to get -- I'm not going to get passed my name on the exam.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:38:01] Well, it's a classic example of just not being able to internalize that accomplishment, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:05] Yeah. And that's such a weird thing that like we can do the work, we can have the achievements and we still can't feel like they're ours. So I think really the impostor at the end of the day feels like they're not truly competent. And so if they look for the approval or they put in the longer hours, then even if they get some benefits, like people start to reassure them or they do feel a little more secure for a period of time. All of which is to say that if the impostor feels like there are fraud then no of validation or hard work is going to fix it, because those things might make them feel more secure or they might reassure them or it might make them feel special in some way. But if underneath all of that they feel like, “Well, I shouldn't feel the need to be special.” If I'm not really a fraud, then there's no way to get out of it as long as you don't address the underlying issue.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:56] Right. So how the hell do we get out of this paradox? Because it's like, “Hey, you feel imposter syndrome? Work harder.” “Well, that's not going to work. You're going to end up with more.” “Well, you could always just pretend like you don't need it.” “Well that's going to make it worse.” So congratulations, if you've got imposter syndrome means you're a high performer and you just can never get rid of it. I mean, this is like a wart on your, you know what, at this point like can I get catch a break?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:39:19] Yeah. How do you actually overcome imposters.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:21] yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:39:21] Well, the good news is that there is a way to do it, and before we dive into the actual techniques and principles, it's worth -- it's worth calling out that as you pointed out, this experience has visited you at different chapters in your life. It's not a kind of one and done thing. It's not like I fixed that in 2005, and I've never had to deal with it over ever again.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:40] I used to be -- I used to be an imposter. I used to have a lot of imposter syndrome issues, but now I'm amazing.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:39:45] Now, I'm fine. So it's all good, yeah. You're like, “Oh, that guy sounds like a fraud.” But it's a process and it's a practice, and it's the kind of thing that will arise multiple times in your life and just knowing that it's going to arise at multiple times in your life is already reassuring.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:01] Takes edge off a little.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:40:02] It takes a little bit of the edge off, yeah, because you can expect it and you won't be surprised when you suddenly find yourself feeling like, “Oh, I'm wrestling with these feelings and fraudulence again.” So to know that it's kind of a fact of life and it'll pop up as you challenge yourself is already, I think at least half the battle. But there's a practice involved with this, which is coming back to these principles over time, and each time they take on new meaning because you're dealing with it in a new way. So that's worth calling out at the top of everything we're going to talk about in this episode is something that will guide you throughout your life and it's not like you have to put in a ton of time cram and get rid of it right now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:36] And you're not going to cure it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:40:37] And you're not, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:38] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:40:38] You will cure it, but it's an ongoing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:40] Not permanently though. Yeah, you might be able to do some work on whether you're feeling it now, but then in three years when you get another promotion or you end up in a certain situation, it's going to creep back and realizing that it's going to recur and that you're not regressing. It's actually a signal that you're moving forward in some fields or some ways is important because when I start to feel imposter syndrome now I go, “Oh, that's good.” That means that we're embarking on something new, or there's some new challenge to tackle as opposed to, “Oh crap, I knew it, I'm a fraud and I just forgot about it for a year or six months.” That I think is important because it looks the same in every form. You feel the same way, but it's of course not the same impostors. The same imposter syndrome I have now, or the version I have now is not the same version that I had when I got into Michigan Law in 2002 or three or whatever it was. It's the feelings for different reasons because I think it's easy to say “I am an imposter, not I'm feeling imposter syndrome about my new job.” It's easy enough to just say this is part of my identity.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:41:44] I think that's a really nice place to start and we should just make that the first principle, which is that when you feel the feelings of fraudulence, it's very easy to incorporate those feelings into your identity. Well, if I feel like a fraud then I am a fraud, I've always been a fraud. I will continue to be a fraud, and anything I take on will involve my fraudulent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:03] Yeah, it's confirmation bias. So I've been feeling this as long as I can remember with five-year gaps in between. But yeah, forget about those. Think about the four major times in your life that you felt that way. Well, it must be true now.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:42:14] Yeah. But the moment you observe your fraudulent, you say, “Oh, I am experiencing some fraudulence right now.” You've already put a little bit of distance between your true self and the feelings of fraudulence, which makes it so much easier to deal with.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:26] Yes.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:42:26] I think that's a really nice place to start, and it goes hand in hand with recognizing imposters and when it arises. I mean that might seem kind of obvious because look, if you're listening to this episode, you're already curious about imposterism, you probably will notice it when it comes up, but a lot of people don't want to deal with it when it comes up because it's so uncomfortable. So we tend to suppress a lot of those feelings, like we might be vaguely aware of them in the background, but it can become so paralyzing that we don't even want to deal with it. And so you end up kind of keeping in this like vague blurry mess in your psyche, which makes it really hard to attack it and address it if it's just sort of like, “Well I sort of feel vaguely anxious and I sort of don't feel connected to all the things I wish I were connected to. But like “I don't have time or luxury to think about that very much. I got to do this thing.” So it just kind of festers. You never really acknowledge it. But if you bring it out into the light, which is what we're doing right now by the way, and talk about it with people which is another principle we're going to visit, like then it becomes something that we can work with. So it is very important both to address it, but not to turn it into the identity that you just talked about.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:26] So what do we do? We feel it. We accepted that we're feeling it because we have no other choice. What did we do with the feelings that accompany it? I want to fight those. I want to talk myself out of it. I want to reassure myself, but I don't know if that's the right course of action.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:43:41] Well everything we're going to talk about from this point on, we'll be answering that question but I think one of them is worth discussing, which you'd kind of just touched on which is let's stop making it the secret we all share and start talking about it. I think what's really interesting about talking about some of our more shameful experiences with other people is that we, first of all, we always realize that we're not alone. You sit with somebody, especially if it's somebody who shares some of your experiences, like they work at a similar company or at a similar level or they have a similar background. You notice that like everybody is kind of walking around with some degree of fraudulence and it's not just a you problem. And that's really important because it's the aloneness that can make it feel so difficult to discuss and to work on. So I think you'd agree, I'm convinced that if we all copped to our imposterism, it would be a much less damaging experience for everybody involved.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:33] But so vulnerable. Oh my gosh!
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:44:36] Yeah, it is vulnerable, yeah. But I don't know if that vulnerability is worse than the feeling of walking around with the secret.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:43] Probably not, yeah. And telling other people, “Hey, I feel like I don't really belong here.” And having them say, “Yeah, me too,” and mean it, is pretty reassuring. I remember doing that on Wall Street and being like, “I don't get what's going on. I'm going to get fired.” And everyone else saying, “Yeah, I felt like that my whole first and second year.” But “You, you're great at all this.” “Yeah, but I wasn't before,” and they expect this and this is how the career goes, you know? That was kind of a big moment because I really -- at that point I was convinced I was the only one. And it took a lot of time for me to trust my coworkers because I thought, what did they tell the partners? And then of course the conclusion that I came to was, what are they going to do? Say Jordan thinks that he's not smart enough to be here. Well, it's so obvious -- in my mind it was so obvious to everyone else that I wasn't smart enough to be there, it wasn't news. So if they told someone wouldn't have mattered anyway. What we found was that everybody had had the exact same set of feelings or still did.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:38] Yeah. Yeah, it's actually reassuring to realize that in a lot of cases, somebody who's just waiting for someone else to open that door and then everyone can be like, “Oh thank God. I felt that same way.” So now can we talk about it finally, because it's really becoming an issue. Now there's another benefit to talking about it besides just destigmatizing it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:55] Sanity, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:45:57] Yeah, sanity, de-stigmatizing it, and then also learning how other people deal with imposter syndrome. I mean I think when you get an a group of people who are sharing a similar experience, everybody has a slightly different way to deal with it. And if somebody is like, “Oh yeah, last year, I almost threw up every time I came to work because I honestly thought our clients were going to figure out that I don't know anything about what they're trying to figure out.” I have attorney friends who are literally like, when I get assigned to a new case, I go back to the book, whatever, you're a lawyer. What's that book, that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:26] Sure, which books are you talking about?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:29] [indiscernible] [00:46:29]handbook of.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:30] There's a lot of books.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:31] Is that the penal code? I don't know. There's like case president or something.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:34] Sure, case law.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:35] Like case law.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:36] We call it LexisNexis, books are [indiscernible] [00:46:39]
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:38] Sure, let’s throw every possible database, I don't even know what they're called, but you know, like she was a really accomplished attorney and she was just confessing to me basically that the first step of any new case with a new client in a field she didn't know it was to go back to the book and like teach it to herself. Now, the clients didn't know that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:55] I'm pretty sure every lawyer is like that unless they've had a hundred of the exact same stuff come through the door.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:46:59] And I have a feeling she was willing to tell me that because she had talked about it with other lawyers who were like, “Yeah, I do the same thing.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:04] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:47:05] But you know those little techniques and tips can be really helpful because everybody has a different take on how to solve it. So there are a few different reasons that we should be talking about it, but that's one of the biggest ones.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:15] Yeah, that's funny. Yeah, I remember in law school, one of the first things they tell you is whenever somebody asks you a question, even if you think you know the answer, generally you shouldn't say. So you have to say, I need to check and research this and get back to you. Unless it's so clear and so obvious, especially if it's a client, if it's your boss, you can say, “I think it's this, but I'll double check.” With clients, you can almost never give a definitive answer because everything is case law dependent and so it's a great place for lawyers, because we kind of have imposter syndrome built into the way that we do business entirely. And we built a way out in there, because even if you think you're sure you're not really certain because you're not the judge or you're not the person who's going to adjudicate this if that's going to happen.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:47:58] So that's interesting. You just put it as like built away out of it. But I would say that in some ways that's a very healthy way to deal with normal fraudulence. I would say that that's an example of kind of true fraudulence because somebody brings you a problem, you don't know how to solve yet. Now the truly fraudulent way to go about it and where impostor syndrome can get really bad is where you're like, “I might know half of the answer to that question and the rest I'm going to fake,” and then I'm going to cover for the fact that I'm kind of ignorant about the nuances of the solution I'm about to pitch, and then I'm going to go, when I get out of this meeting, I'm going to go do all the work and then try to like make it look like I knew that the whole time, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:34] Right. Like that's not what I said earlier. You must've misunderstood me.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:35] You must misunderstood, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:38] After I did 600 research.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:48:38] And then I'm going to send a 12 page memos, so everybody, you know what I mean? And then you start falling into the behaviors we were just talking about. But to call out your ignorance and to acknowledge your fraudulence instantly takes the charge out of it. If you're like, “Okay, so here's my understanding of the problem. This is what you're wrestling with. I'll be perfectly honest, I've never seen this before, but I think I can figure out enough to piece it together after this meeting. So I'm going to take that as a to do and we'll circle back on it.” You almost like you step around the problem by not trying to cover for the fraudulent. So you're just moving it out into the open and then doing the healthy work to bridge that gap.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:14] Don't say that if you're a doctor or if somebody is about to go to jail or lose their house.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:49:19] Fair enough yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:19] Then you might want to lay a little layer of confidence over it and say, “But I need to make sure and do some double checking and some research and confer with my colleagues to make sure we're on the right course of action.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:49:27] So it's an interesting point you're making, which is that there are certain fields where the A, you have to be so competent, and B, there's a piece of this where you never want to make the patient or the client feel like you don't know what you’re doing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:38] Right. Because I'm envisioning, “No, no, no, it's definitely cancer. That part I'm sure about. It's the operability of which I am not sure about.”
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:49:45] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:46] Like you might want to say, “I always get a second opinion when it comes to serious things like this. So right now let's not jump to any conclusions and what you're thinking is that's for sure cancer. I'm not the guy who's going to get it off. So I need to talk to the guy who might be able to do that and he's not around until next week.” But I'm going to tell this person that we've seen this before and we've taken care of it before because there's nothing he can do now, aside from worry. That’s the bedside manner that your you should have as a doctor. Not that I'm giving anybody advice on that, but lawyers were similar. It's not, “Oh yeah, that's going to be so expensive. I've never seen anybody win a case like this.” That's not really where we want to go with it.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:50:23] No. And obviously there's always some role for tact and politics and sensitivity.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:27] Which many of us don't have, yeah, which many of us don’t have.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:50:30] I mean, but you know the fields you're talking about law or medicine, I mean there's a reason that imposter syndrome becomes so intense in certain fields because the pressure to know what you're doing is so high. So I think it's just important to appreciate that there are certain places where this stuff can develop, can really fester because the expectations are so brutal.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:48] Basically, the more education and the higher up performer you need to be to be there, the more impostor syndrome is likely to rear its ugly head.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:50:55] Yeah. And it also doesn't help if somebody is paying you $800 an hour to know about this exact thing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:00] Right. So I think there's a way to deal with this that is unique to each field where you sort of embrace your competence but also handle your fraudulence in the right way given the relationship between the client and you are the patient and you, so there are nuances here.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:12] So we discuss it with other people. Find out it's the secret we all share, all right?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:51:15] Yep.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:16] And copping to it seems to help out a little bit by taking the wind out of the balloon a little bit so to speak.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:51:24] Another important principle is knowing that imposterism will arise in your life from time to time, but even more than that, that it should arise in your life from time to time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:33] It's a good sign that we're on the right track aslo.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:51:36] A 100 percent because as you pointed out with that, I think you had this bubble metaphor where you're like in whatever role you're doing or whatever project you're taking on, there's always going to be a place where you push beyond your current capabilities, and that space between what you're able to do and what you want to do, that gap will always exist if you're pushing yourself. So that might mean taking on a new role at work. It might be taking a skill to an adjacent industry. It might be picking up new work or exploring clients in other fields. I mean, there are so many different ways that we can push ourselves, but when you get to those places, if you know that imposterism, that the feeling of imposterism is going to creep in, as soon as you push yourself, then you can know you can trust that you're actually growing as a human being and that can reframe the whole experience of fraudulence. It stops being this thing of like, “Oh, I've pushed myself and now I have no idea what I'm doing, everybody's going to figure it out and I feel like a personal failure. This was a mistake. It completely reframes that experience too. I sort of knew that this might creep up. I consciously chose to push myself to a new place. I know that this gap tends to develop in this area and now I have to step into it with the hard work and the experience and the social support and all of the other principles we're talking about, and that becomes a signal that you're onto something meaningful, that you're actually pushing yourself in the new challenges. So I think that's actually a really healthy use of imposter syndrome and it's one of the ways that you can use it to teach you about yourself instead of just sitting there and suffering with it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:04] There are two kind of catalyst belief systems or beliefs that have to be in place for imposter syndrome to take root. One is that I'm supposed to be more talented. I'm supposed to have gone further. I'm supposed to have more accolades or accomplishments in my past, and I know this one well because of course everybody who feels these things, they invented them, so that I should be more than I am. And the other one is that it shouldn't be this hard or I shouldn't have to struggle this much because look at how other people who have more in my opinion, this other person's highlight reel, they haven't done as much. So what's my problem? Why am I getting it wrong?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:53:40] If you believe that you need to be more than you are at this moment, then you're already in a state of mind to invent the false self who can be more when the real you can't. So if you believe that you need to be beyond your capabilities that you need to be more hardworking, you need to be more likable. I'm not saying that those aren't true, they could be true, but if you believe that you need to be more at this exact moment, that's when it becomes very tempting to go to the most -- the easiest and most available solution which is to develop the fraudulent self. That's some of the stuff we were just talking about where it's somebody who pretends to know what they're talking about but doesn't really or puts on a persona who's like super likable and friendly, when like that is not their real self and they were just doing it to gain the admiration or appreciation of their colleagues to make up for some of the fraudulence.
[00:54:27] So I think it's really important to observe those beliefs in action because the moment you ask yourself if I really do -- if I really believe that, like do I really in this moment, I'm not talking about in my career in general, I'm not talking about the last year, I'm not talking about the next six months, but in this moment, do I need to actually know more than I really do? Well, maybe I don't. Maybe I should be just as experienced as I am right now and do what I can within that experience. It's really hard to be an imposter when you're in that mindset. It's very easy to be an imposter when you want to be more than that.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:00] Right. That makes sense. And it is so tempting, you're right to come up with this persona, which is -- again, my internal dialogue is nobody's going to notice if I become funny or better looking, whatever. I mean it's certain positive quality here. I think we're in Hollywood right now. 90 percent of Hollywood, the successful folks anyway, look at any comedy star, any comedian, any actor, a lot of it is if I bulk up, when I get huge, then people respect me. If I become hilarious and people respect me, if I get famous people, I mean this imposter syndrome built this town in a lot of ways and these two catalysts, beliefs are a part of everything that happens here.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:55:41] Absolutely, and I would say that it probably exists in every industry because as we talked about at the beginning of this episode, this visits everybody from all walks of life share and all backgrounds. So like you will find this in a hospital as much as you will on a comedy set in Hollywood. But you're right, it's probably a little more exaggerated in certain fields. I want to dig in for a quick moment on the second belief that you were talking about, because I think this other belief, you call it a catalyst belief, which I think is a nice way to put it, is the idea that like we shouldn't struggle as much as we should, is also a really great way to slip into imposter syndrome without even realizing that that's what's happening because we all know that having to grow and learn and stumble and fail and do all the stuff that goes along with growing and learning is uncomfortable. It's not fun. It's a lot more fun to be like, “I'm the guy who already knows all the answers,” and I'm just going to like do what I know I already know how to do. That's the fraudulent self that's trying to protect us from the discomfort of having to grow and learn.
[00:56:38] So whenever I have a little bout of fraudulence, I like to check in with myself and ask myself if I'm holding either of these beliefs. Do I think I need to be more than I am right now? I cannot tell you how many times that's been true. It's like, “Yeah, I wish I were a better writer at this moment, but I'm not a better writer than I am at this moment. I'm the writer I am right now.” So let me stop pretending that I need to be more than that and let me work within this, and of course, as you always find out, that's the only way to become the better writer, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:03] Sure. You don't get to become the better writer by pretending and then backing your way into it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:07] That's a good point. It's really tempting to put a persona on and then be like, “Okay, I'm faking it right now, but I'm going to fake it till I make it. If I fake it now, then I kind of learn what I need to do. No one will notice.” It actually puts a roadblock in the way because you’re sort of pretending you don't need these skills, so fewer people are helping you. You're really not looking for the right resources. You're looking for ways to look like you know what you're doing instead of ways to really learn how to do it. Coaches aren't going to respond to you that well because you already know everything, and then so you've got to switch the persona on and off. But the one that's currently working for you short term is having that persona on, so your loads to turn it off, which again makes it harder to actually learn. So backing into it, it's kind of, it's almost a myth. You kind of have to sit there and say, I don't know what this is, I'm not good at it right now. How do I get better at it? Find the right people around you and lean into the fact that you don't know what the heck you're doing.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:58:05] Which is so much more uncomfortable, but ultimately so much easier than wrestling with the false self.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:10] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:58:10] Everything you just described is the mentality of the student, like the true student. The student of life or of human nature or the craft that you're trying to master. Being a student is not always fun, and I think it's a lot more fun and alluring to be the person who already knows. But then you create so many more problems when the fraudulent is creeps in. So which one would you rather be? I’d rather be the student. So I have to keep reminding myself of that whenever the fraudulence creeps in. So I think those two beliefs are really worth investigating and they both lead us into like the last major principle that helps us overcome imposter syndrome, which is to commit to authenticity. So in many ways the other side of the fraudulence coin is authenticity.
[00:58:50] So the true self and the false self are always doing this dance. You put it about turning it on and off. So I think we're usually pretty in touch with the true self even when we feel like we're not, because we wouldn't need to be frauds if we weren't aware that the true self wasn't enough in some sense.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:07] Good point, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:59:08] It's always there, and it's there whether you have the fraudulent self or not, it's always going to be underneath the surface. So I think this is where the practice comes in and it's not a one and done kind of thing, but we have to always keep coming back. I always have to keep checking in and being like, “Am I really being the truest version of myself in this moment?” Sometimes it's yes, sometimes it's no, and when it's no, that's when the fraudulent starts to look really appealing. So being truly authentic is probably the best and the quickest antidote to slipping into the imposter experience.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:39] So how do we commit to authenticity? Like it's really easy to say--
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:59:44] Be yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:44] Just be yourself.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [00:59:45] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:46] It's very Pollyanna and people, even when we aren't trying to be Pollyanna and we mean it, people go, “Great. I'm not sure how that's done. What are we doing right now?” You know, we show up, we try to get better. We try to be honest with ourselves. But what else?
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:00:00] Well, first of all, I just want to point out that, that part of the answer to your question is everything we've been discussing in this episode. I mean it's kind of been like the unspoken theme of this episode, which is that fraudulence creeps in when we're not connected to who we really are. Even when who we really are is less than competent or less than experienced and it can be so much easier to just say, let me just -- let me just check in with myself and decide that I'm going to be that person, at least in this moment.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:25] And it doesn't mean you can't be confident. It just means we have to admit to ourselves where we need to be.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:00:30] Exactly. You are as confident as you can be given your experience, which is usually more confident than you would be if you faked it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:36] Sure. Yeah, good point irony.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:00:38] So that's one thing to keep in mind. Now the other thing is that we also have to cultivate the sense of being a lot more interested in our own self-opinions than in the opinions of other people.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:47] Ooh, tall order.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:00:49] I know, and it's another one of the things where it's like, “Can you just tell somebody to do that?” “No.” It's a practice, and it's something that we work on over the course of our lives, but when we value what other people think about us or what's much more common, what we think other people think about us, then the true fraudulence starts to creep in hardcore. Because suddenly we're trying to satisfy other people's expectations of who we should be, what we should know, how good we're supposed to be with clients, how much responsibility we can actually take on, the temptation to create the false persona is so much bigger when we're concerned about other people's perceptions over our own.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:28] This is a problem acctually that has hit me more and more recently because I had to start the show over with the team before it was like, “I don't care. We've got something good going, we're fine.” But when you find yourself starting over and you have to pick a direction, you pick a direction and then you end up second guessing yourself, and a lot of the fodder from that is kind of the paradox of choice. And of course, you have so many choices, you don't know which direction to go in, and so the opinions of other people, you start to look to those to inform you where you might want to go, but then the problem becomes when do you stop -- when do you choose a path and stop listening to those? And you find that when you're changing careers. I think imposter syndrome also creeps up in and the authenticity paradox, if you will. Creeps up in these, these gaps when it's like, “Well, I'm retiring from government. What should I do now?” Well, I wasn't caring what other people thought when I was working in a government job, but now I'm switching. So now I'm looking to other people for maybe ideas, but also a little bit of approval. And that's when you can really run into walls and get into the quagmire of worrying about and thinking about what other people want for you or think of you.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:02:38] Yeah. Because the false self is designed to make other people perceive you a certain way, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:44] Right.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:02:44] I mean the discomfort that it's trying to mask is really a discomfort about how other people are going to perceive you and how you -- the anxiety and self-doubt you feel about your position relative to other people. So it's almost impossible to like cut other people's expectations out of that false equation. It's just so part of the experience. So it's not that we have to say ignore that because I think, I mean we're not saying you have to be a sociopath or you have to be comepletely.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:07] If you have no -- if you've never felt any of this before. I'm curious about that.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:03:13] You’re wrestling with more than impossible. You know what I mean?
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:14] So I'm wondering what other things are going on upstairs.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:03:17] That's another Deep Dive.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:18] Yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:03:19] But you know, the answer is not to just turn that off because we're social creatures. There's always an element of how do I fit in and am I taken seriously? Am I liked? I mean we should be concerned about those things, but how important is it relative to our opinions about ourselves? That's the question.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:37] So in the end, imposter syndrome, actually it can be a good thing. It can signal that we're on a growth curve. It's not necessarily a symptom that something is wrong or that there's something wrong with us. It can actually be an indicator that we're on a growth path and that we're a high performer. Since high performers are the ones that typically suffer from imposter syndrome in the first place.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:03:56] Yeah, I mean as long as you expect it to arise from time to time, and it's coming up in moments when you're pushing yourself, if you know how to handle it, then imposter syndrome actually becomes a really helpful teacher. You start to look to it to teach you more about yourself and one of the best things that can teach you is the things that you need to learn to grow and step into those new roles. So I think imposter syndrome is extremely debilitating and scary when A, we don't talk about it. B, we don't understand it. C, we turn it into an identity like, well, if I feel like a fraud now, then I must be a fraud always and forever period --
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:30] Period, yeah.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:04:31] Full stop. But if we look at it as an opportunity to step more into our accomplishments, to remember the things that we've done to see that, well maybe they haven't prepared me fully for the next thing, but they've given me a foundation to work with and now I have to do the work to fill that gap. Suddenly it becomes like this passenger who comes along with you to these new experiences and is like a teacher, but it's only a teacher if you're using it in the right way. So all of these principles taken together are the way to use it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:57] Gabriel, thank you so much. I think we probably made a lot of people aware that they have imposter syndrome and a lot of people who are already aware that they did, feel a little bit better about having it in the first place. So thank you very, very much.
Gabriel Mizrahi: [01:05:08] My pleasure. It's so much easier, more fun to talk about when you stop thinking of it as like a one off thing and more as a process and a practice. So thanks for having me on.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:18] I'm so glad we got a chance to cover this imposter syndrome topic. Finally, this is again one of the most requested topics here on the show, and Gabriel Mizrahi did a bang up job of researching it and throwing some science behind it and I hope you've got some concrete ways to manage and mitigate imposter syndrome. Remember, it's a good sign when it happens. It means you're on the right track. You just have to handle it in the right way.
[01:05:40] And if you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, do check out our Six-Minute Networking Course which is free and takes just a few minutes per day. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course, and I know a lot of people saying, “I've got to do that. I hear you talk about it all the time.” Don't kick the can down the road. You can't make up for lost time when it comes to relationships, when it comes to networking, these relationships aren't going to appear when you need them. This is the number one mistake I see people make. Postponing this, not digging the well before they get thirsty. Once you need these relationships, you're too late to build them. Again, this is the stuff I wish I knew a decade ago. This is not fluff. This is crucial, and it's all at jordanharbinger.com/course.
[01:06:22] Speaking of building relationships, tell me your number one takeaway here from the impostor syndrome episode. I'm @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, and don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you just heard today from Gabriel Mizrahi and myself, make sure you go grab the worksheets also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[01:06:42] This show is produced in association with PodcastOne, and this episode was co-produced by Jason “De Imposter” DeFillippo and Jen Harbinger. Show notes by Robert Fogarty. Worksheets by Caleb Bacon, and I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful, which should be in every episode, especially this one. So please share the show with those you love and even those you don't. Lots more in the pipeline. Very excited to bring it to you. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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