A vice-principal at a high school in my neighborhood floored me the other day when she told me that a surprisingly high percentage of kids in the gifted program are ‘cutters’. She explained they self-mutilate partly in response to the extremely high expectations that people have of them because they have the ‘gifted’ label.
You see, while they may be gifted in one area, it’s unlikely they’re gifted in all areas, so they don’t feel like they truly deserve the gifted label. And in the areas where they truly are gifted, it just feels natural — like it’s nothing special — and so they feel like a fake.
That sounded hauntingly familiar to what I see and hear so often in the Essential Message workshop. No matter how brilliant the participants are (and believe me, we have exceptional, successful people in the workshop), many of them seem to be the last people to see and acknowledge their own strengths.
Just like the kids in the gifted program, it almost always comes down to one of two possible reasons:
- They’re so good at what they do that it comes effortlessly to them, and that makes it hard for them to see there’s anything special about it.
- They know they’re really good at something, but whatever it is, it isn’t the job title on their business card, (which tends to be broader than their specific area of expertise), and so on some level — they feel like a fake.
It turns out there really is such a thing as the Imposter Syndrome. According to Dr. Valerie Young (www.impostersyndrome.com) it’s when you feel like you’re not really as bright as everyone else thinks you are.
And guess what?
Cindy Stone, psychotherapist/coach, author of The Incidental Guru (www.incidentalguru.com), told me that it’s especially common in people who she calls ‘extremely bright, high-achieving, broadband thinkers’.
Are you with me so far? Good, because here’s where it gets personal.
The more I researched the Imposter Syndrome, the more I understood the transformation that I had personally gone through when I created the Essential Message program.
You see, it wasn’t until I had to develop my own Essential Message (except I didn’t call it that back then), that I realized the usual elevator speeches and infomercials simply weren’t working for me. All that sales & marketing bumph felt superficial and fake.
I had to look elsewhere and I had to dig deeper. And so, working from my own skill as a copywriter and my interest in human behavior, I created a series of exercises and approaches that helped me strip away the veneer to get absolutely clear about who I am, what I do, and the true value I give my clients. It was the clarity I needed before I could get the business I wanted.
Those exercises evolved into what the Essential Message program is today. And it really is powerful stuff — as much for the personal transformation that participants go through as for the business results they achieve.
I finally understand why I am so driven to do the work I do. And I finally understand why people get so much out of it.
If you’re undercutting your own Essential Message, maybe you have something in common with those gifted kids too?