Imposter syndrome? Watch Wizard of Oz

Every year during the annual PBS fundraising campaign when I was a kid, they would play Wizard of Oz in all it\’s glory. I watched every bit, except the part with the tornado. That part terrified me!

I haven\’t seen the movie in years, but as a Kansas native, I will always consider it a part of my history. What I don\’t think I ever considered is how the timeless classic would have a powerful business lesson!


Here\’s the thing: have you ever noticed how pretty much all the main characters (at least the good ones) suffered from imposter syndrome? The Tin Man, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and even Dorothy thought they were lacking in some way.

Yet, what they finally learned from each other throughout the movie and from the \”Wizard\” at the end is, every single one of them had what they needed inside themselves the whole time.

As I looked into this further, I discovered another thought that hadn\’t occurred to me. The Wizard (you know, the guy who pretended to have powers he didn\’t have only to figure out he didn\’t need fake powers to help people?) suffered from imposter syndrome, too. Except he hid from his true talents by creating a mystical image that was literally filled with smoke and false pretenses. This made him seem untouchable so people wouldn\’t find out he was just a regular guy. Turns out, the regular guy was able to do the most good for each and every other character.

Here are four things each character needed that I think we can all learn from when we face any of the various forms of imposter syndrome.

They needed a support system

This may seem like it\’s \”anti\” towards the idea that we have what it takes already, but a support system is that group of friends, colleagues, or whoever helps you figure things out. What\’s more, they are willing to bring you along on their journey until you find what you need.

Dorothy leads a team of characters who each had their own talents but thought they were less than because they had been told over and over that they were lacking. Along the journey down the Yellow Brick Road, each team member encouraged each other and celebrated each other\’s existing strengths.

They quit listening to negative nancies

For some reason, Dorothy became easily convinced that she needed some mythical creature in another far off land to figure out her way home. The Tin Man became convinced that because he didn\’t have a pumping heart, that he didn\’t have compassion (despite showing it the entire movie). The Scarecrow came up with new lyrics and was able to problem solve from the very beginning but he assumed he couldn\’t because he had straw under his hat. The Lion lived by himself in the scary forest and confronted strangers but thought he wasn\’t brave enough.

All those ideas got planted in their head by someone else or by someone else\’s examples. Once each character quit listening, their mindset started to change.

They quieted their own negative self-talk

Once they had a positive support system and quit listening to naysayers, the adventurers were able to discover their own problem-solving skills, their own brains, their own heart, their own courage, and their own ways of helping people. Yes, they got physical reminders from the Wizard, but I also think that\’s important (see the next point).

They accepted physical reminders

Did you know that for the first four or five years that I did any kind of public speaking I wore a necklace with a charm on it that says \”I\’m Enough\”? I needed that reminder to feel like I deserved to be on that stage sharing my wisdom and expertise.

Last year, I forgot the necklace and didn\’t notice until I was done speaking. I haven\’t worn it since because I no longer need the reminder that I have earned the right to be on that platform. I imagine that the (no longer) Cowardly Lion, Tin Man, or Scarecrow eventually did not need the gifts from the Wizard to feel confident in their abilities.

How do you battle imposter syndrome? What other lessons can we learn from the Wizard of Oz (or any other movie)?

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