What are you dressing up as for Halloween? A wizard? A princess? A firefighter? RBG?
It’s fun to spend a day or an evening pretending you’re someone completely different from who you are the other 364 days of the year.
But on those other days, are you really who you are? Or are you still wearing a costume—in a way—by pretending you are someone you really aren’t? Are you wearing it so nobody will figure you out?
Take the young woman who got promoted to sales manager just six months after she started working as a sales rep—and it was her first job out of college.
She felt out of her depth, unprepared, undereducated and downright afraid to assert any type of authority or to act like the manager that she now is.
So she put on a mask—not the pandemic protection kind, but the figurative kind that we all have worn on occasion when we have felt out of our depth. She suited up in a mental costume so she could masquerade as a confident, competent expert who knew what she was doing and who was taking charge of a staff and a department at the small business where she worked.
In short, she was pretending to know what she was doing so nobody would guess that she didn’t.
There’s a name for that—imposter syndrome. And it has its upside and a downside.
Everybody gets into this situation every now and then: the one that makes you feel like you don’t know anything about anything but you can’t let anybody know.
It happens when we get promoted at work, get into a group of super-smart new friends, have a baby or change careers. It might happen when you invite friends for dinner even though you don’t know how to cook or volunteer to run a voter registration drive when you’ve never organized anything in your life bigger than a playdate for a couple of toddlers. It can even happen when we’re overwhelmed by the pandemic and working online and teaching the kids—and we act like we’re just fine.
We put on our costume and mask, and we set about figuring out how to make it all happen. We talk the talk. We assure everyone that we don’t need any help. We pretend.
We fake it. And we hope nobody “catches” us.
Eventually, though, we get the hang of it. And then, we can take off the mask and trash the costume. Eventually, what we were pretending to be is who we are and the know-how we were faking is truly ours.
Sometimes, we leave the mask on long after we need to. Then, it becomes more than temporary. Then, it becomes the thing that keeps us from being our authentic selves.
If your imposter mask has become a permanent fixture, ask yourself this serious question: Why do you need it?
Are you modeling your behavior after someone you admire or who you think has it all figured out?
That’s OK for a minute if it helps you through as you find your footing. But the fact is that you’re not that person. You have your own personality, your own capabilities and your own comfort level. You’re just you, and that’s who you should show to the world.
An example: A new saleswoman observes some older, more experienced—and very successful— sales reps telling loud stories, laughing uproariously at everything their customers say and slapping each other on the back to show their appreciation and friendship.
So she does the same thing, only it falls flat. That’s because it’s just not a good look for her. It’s not a good look because it doesn’t “fit” her.
She’s more comfortable with telling her own stories during a one-on-one conversation that goes two ways. She likes to listen to others as much as or even more than she likes to talk. She doesn’t like to show off or draw too much attention to herself. She likes to give her attention to others instead.
Neither of these sales reps is wrong. Both can be equally successful. But each should be himself or herself and stop behaving in a way that isn’t authentic.
Everyone has a brand—the best side of herself that she wants to show to the world. Make your brand authentic, and you will be able to consistently show the world who you really are and that you don’t need to pretend you’re someone or something you are not.
Halloween only comes once a year, and it only stays for a day. Take off the costume and get back to your authentic self as soon as you don’t need to pretend anymore.
Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn.