We’ve all experienced imposter syndrome at some point. We’ve all been reluctant to speak up.
- Sometimes, we fear that we don’t know what we’re talking about.
- Sometimes we fear that people will think we’re stupid, or wrong.
- And sometimes, we think that everyone already knows what we know.
This last phenomenon happens because you are so close to your knowledge, that you lose objectivity. It’s so obvious in your mind that you think it’s obvious for everyone.
But what’s old news to you, may be a brand new learning for someone else. In fact, in my experience, 99.9% of the times that I’ve spoken about something, I know for a fact that people don’t already know what I’m talking about…and it’s not because I’m unique, smarter or special.
- It’s because I have my own unique experiences.
- It’s because I have my own unique way of explaining things.
- It’s because I have my own unique interpretation of information I’ve consumed.
And in those unique moments where the reason is someone does already know what I’m about to talk about, one of two things is true.
- They already know the bulk of it, and may learn something new. In that case, don’t hold back. You’re helping them grow and more fully understand the subject.
- They already know everything you are going to say. In that case, don’t hold back. Take it as an opportunity to practice talking about what you know. If they react poorly, the world won’t end, and there’s still nothing to be ashamed of.
When we think that what we have to say is common knowledge, or unimportant, we get smaller. We shrink and retreat inward. We stop taking risks.
I had this happen to me on stage once. I got “caught in the lights,” I couldn’t see my audience, I didn’t hear much feedback…I felt like an amateur. I rushed through my keynote and ran off stage.
I know now that MANY people in that audience wanted to know—and needed to know—what I was talking about. The tweets confirmed it. But, I didn’t believe in myself so my voice got small and I deprived so many people in the audience that day.
After that, I took some time off and after some introspection, promised that I’d never retreat again.
“You can do it!” </s>
Look, I don’t do generic motivational content…that’s not my thing. So, please read the heading above in a sarcastic tone.
The fact is, I don’t know who’s reading this right now, so I’m not going to presume whether or not you know what you’re talking about, whether you’re a shy expert or a boisterous idiot. I don’t know whether you’re a confident person, or whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist.
But, I know that regardless of any of that, this advice is still useful if you want to grow or be a leader.
- Don’t let fear stop you from teaching, but don’t let arrogance stop you from continuing to learn.
- Stop doubting your gifts, but don’t overstate your expertise. Be confident, be honest, and be humble.
- Finally, remember that people often don’t know what you know. Some might, but most won’t. So, don’t use that as an excuse to hold back anymore.
You may think that everyone knows.
Also published on Medium.