Leonard Kim: A Fraud?

My name is Leonard Kim. I am a fraud. I am a fake. I am a tool. I am a loser.

I wanted to yell it from the rooftops.

But how did I get to this point?

Most people say fake it until you make it. The problem with me is that even though I made it, it felt fake.

For nearly this whole last year, I have felt like I was a fraud. Nearly each and every single day of my life, I felt like I was a complete fake. Like I was a poser or tool, or even a scam.

How did it all start?

It was all because I lacked the confidence in myself. I did not believe that I deserved the achievements I had accomplished. I could not process why they were given to me. I discounted everything that came my way.

It all happened after I was named a Top Writer on Quora, I had a Quoracast done about my journey in life and I was invited to do guest blog posts on other sites. It was unreal. I wrote about my failures, yet here I was, gaining momentum online.

It was around the time when I had 10,000 followers online, whom filled my inbox with messages stating that I had inspired their life. This was back when I was mentioned in the Los Angeles Times. Yet, I never knew about that mention until nearly half a year later when I was adding achievements to my LinkedIn.

Around this time, my accomplishments started to feel unreal. I was not rich. I was not successful. I was not a powerful leader. All that I was is this student who attended a community college, worked at an entry level job and had failed at everything in my life. I looked in the mirror. I saw that I had no girlfriend, I had no self confidence and I was just someone who had lost at everything in life.

When I tried to compare my online success to who I was in real life, I could not add it up. Each time I tried to do a comparison, I fell deeper and deeper into the hole of depression. I started to feel more and more fake, more and more like a fraud and more like I was a poser. Maybe even a scam or a con artist. But the weird part of it all was that I told the truth. Nothing shy of the truth. My story was real, my online success was real, but it was just not translating to dollars in my bank account, yet.

Was I just a tool?

It did not help to know that I lacked self esteem and as I gained popularity, I started receiving personal attacks online. Each attack that was made against me got to my head and made me feel like I did not deserve the online success that I had.

Harvard Business Review states that for each negative remark we hear, we need six positive comments to negate the impact of it. [1] For how much I had lacked self esteem at that point in my life, it was more like twelve.

It was weird though. I did not preach online about me being a success. I discussed my failures and how my life had fallen apart. People did not care what I had nor how I had it. They saw that I failed, yet had overcome it.

Deep inside though, because of my lack of self esteem, it still resonated in my mind and within my heart that I was an impostor. I was a fraud. I was a scam. I was conning everyone. As each day went by, I started to go deeper and deeper within these feelings, until they had overwhelmed me and engulfed my soul to their every demand.

Even though in my life, I was making achievements, gaining millions of views on my content and moving forward, I still felt that I was this impostor who was just faking the funk and I was scared that someone would find out who I truly was. But the funny thing is, there was nothing for anyone to find out, because I had told my whole story, exactly as it is online. A fraud hopes that no one finds out who they truly are. Me, on the other hand: I felt like a fraud because internally I did not believe I deserved the success I had, but no one could poke holes into my story because every word was true.

Then more success came my way.

I held Quora meetups with an average of 50 people in attendance.

I attracted a girlfriend who loved me for me, even though she earned twice as much money as I did, has a Master’s degree and owns her own home.

I wrote a book. 

I made friends all across the world.

I started to receive paid consulting and branding gigs.

I was mentioned or featured in The Huffington PostBBC’s front page, my second QuoracastAsk AltucherReadaddicts and many other publications.

I had over 9 million views on my content on Quora and counting.

I am working on coauthoring a few more books.

I felt like I did not deserve any of it though.

The problem was deep rooted, coming from a marketing background and growing up on a platform like AOL. I understood that no matter what, I did not have to be the best at what I did, I just had to have the best marketing.

Much like AOL, never have I had an original thought in my life. All the information I have gathered has been borrowed from other great minds. All I do is recycle information into my own words, through my own personal experiences.

By far, we all know that much like how AOL was not the best internet service provider of its time, I am not the best person to follow or the most entertaining or the most inspiring. I just did what I do best: I do my marketing well. That was what helped me achieve the success I did. So I felt undervalued compared to others who did accomplish true success through just their writing alone.

Here I was, feeling like I was a scam. Here I was, feeling like a fraud. Here I was, feeling fake, just like a loser inside. I did not even identify myself as a writer until just recently. When people told me I was an inspiration, I undermined my impact by laughing and thinking, if they only knew that I have not achieved anything with my life.

However, the people who supported me did know I did not achieve anything with my life. They read my life story right here. They knew I had overcome failing over and over to get to where I was today. Yet, I was not able to accept it because of self esteem issues and what some people have deemed to be impostor syndrome.

Each day, I felt like an impostor, a fraud.

I fell so deep into the whirlpool of negativity in my own mind. Each time anyone said something negative about me, it stung, like it was the truth being shoved down my face. The pain burned so deep into my soul, it nearly made me cry. When friends reached out, I pushed them away. I damaged relationships. I let myself physically crash from exhaustion. I went into depression. Even though the achievements were knocking at my door asking to be shelved on my wall of accomplishments, I was refusing to accept them.

That is, until I asked my wonderful friends on Quora for help. I started researching and looking into impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is a problem that many successful people face who are unable to digest their accomplishments. I read case after case and I was beginning to understand how detrimental it could be to a person. I was able to see that other wildly successful people had experienced the same thing at one point in their lives.

I found out that it is a true epidemic that many successful people face, such as the beloved Tina Fey, Chris Martin, Jodie Foster, Don Cheadle, Kate Winslet, Michael Uslan, Denzel Washington, Chuck Lorre, Meryl Streep, Maya Angelou and many others. [2] Impostor syndrome is real and has made its way into the hearts and minds of most of our most beloved heroes. It has been something we have all had to fight and try our best to overcome. It was something that we have fought so hard to accept, our own success.

It is not just celebrities who are affected by impostor syndrome, but tenured professors [3], engineers [4], successful entrepreneurs, book writers and other high achieving people in all walks of life. Even some other Quora members have faced and overcome these feelings head on.

Did you know that psychological research done in the early 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds [5] and Studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like impostors at one time or another? [6]

Neil Gaiman said, “The problems of failure are hard, but the problems of success can be harder because no one ever warns you of them. The first problem of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something and at any moment now, they will discover you. It is impostor syndrome.” [7]

I was experiencing what Neil Gaiman said head on.

But while I was learning, I was still overwhelmed with all the attacks and had lacked the confidence within myself. I still felt like a scam, a con artist, a loser, a fraud, a fake. It drilled deep down within me, that I had chased away amazing friends and even someone whom I loved with all my heart, my wonderful girlfriend. I did not have the confidence to believe or accept my success for what it was. Because of that, it was causing me to lose the people in life that I valued the most.

I wanted to yell from the rooftops, “My name is Leonard Kim. I AM A FRAUD! I AM A FAKE! I AM A TOOL! I AM A LOSER!” 

I wanted the world to know that I did not accept my accomplishments for what they were. I wanted to let the world know that I was not the man that they had thought me to be.

Instead, I was just this weak, poor hearted soul who had gone and lost everything that ever mattered in his life. Yet, I refrained. However, my lack of confidence had taken a toll of my life. I was losing what mattered most to me: My relationships. But then after the woman of my dreams had left my life, I began to realize that I can no longer live with this self-imposed lack of confidence because it was causing me to lose what mattered the most. Then I put my life put into perspective. Things began to click. The puzzles started to piece themselves together. My life picture was starting to land in place.

Even though I had lost the woman of my dreams, she had given me something that I did not have on my own: Confidence. I was living on her borrowed confidence during our whole relationship together, as I had lacked all confidence myself.

I was suffering from impostor syndrome, but…

I was not a con man, because I could not even con myself into accepting my reality. I was not a scam artist, because I could not convince myself that I was successful. I was not a fake, because I bared nothing but the truth. I was not a loser, because I had achieved more than most of my peers. I was not a poser, because I shared my real life stories. I was not a scam, because I designed what our society needs, not what it wants.

Then one day after a 30 day streak of being tossed into publication after publication, something exciting and life changing happened: An offer to be in a two letter fashion magazine came my way.

It was like an unrealized childhood dream come true.

That day, I finally accepted my accomplishments and was able to overcome all the feelings of impostor syndrome that had overcome my life. I was able to finally look in the mirror and accept myself for who I am, accomplishments and all. I was able to take that borrowed confidence my former love had given me and was able to translate it into my own.

I won the battle against impostor syndrome.

I had been able to accept myself for all that I am and all that I am not. I had been able to accept myself for me and all the accomplishments I have achieved. I had been able to regain the confidence I had once lost, when I started to feel like an impostor.

Luckily, I had laid out the foundation to my life through the last year and half by sharing my life journey through the Internet. I had been able to accept my accomplishments. I had been able to accept that I have made a positive impact in the lives of others. I had been able to overcome all odds that I have faced throughout my life.

I had been able to accept that I am real, genuine and true to who I am.

Now I am prepared and ready to tackle, head on, any challenges that come my way. I am ready to create efficient change in the world. I am ready to take on the right opportunities that come my way. I am ready to grasp the responsibility given to me to create the change that our society needs to improve our world as a whole.

Overcoming impostor syndrome had been one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It had cost me so much opportunity and relationships in my life. Because of that, in order to help others who may be facing or will be experiencing the same thing, I am willing to speak with and help anyone who has, or thinks they are experiencing impostor syndrome.

tl;dl I felt like a fraud because I did not have the confidence in my achievements. I lost some of my close friends and my girlfriend because of it. Now I have found confidence within myself and I am working on a book on how to overcome impostor syndrome, because losing stuff sucks.

Leonard blogs at LeonardKim.com.

If you liked this post, recommend it.

Leonard Kim is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.

0 thoughts on “Leonard Kim: A Fraud?”

  1. Hi Leonard,

    Wow! Just when you think you know a guy… a girl, a neighbor, a friend or family member. From my vantage point, and I will venture to guess, probably that of many others who’ve had the good fortune to stumble upon your writings, I could only imagine you feeling great about your accomplishments, especially given your humble start. I guess as a licensed clinical social worker in private practice, clearly, I should no better than to draw any conclusions (especially online) from what little bit a person decides to reveal about themselves. That said, I also believe through my training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), that despite great successes + development & resolution of imposter syndrome, the brain often continues to store unprocessed negative events and experiences from our past. This unprocessed material can rear it’s ugly head at any given time, or as a result of unconscious triggers and as a result the person re-experiences those negative unprocessed emotions and bodily sensations. Outside of a therapeutic setting, or self-awareness, regarding the brain’s ability to store, retrieve & reprocess disturbing memories, people cannot generally on their own, retrieve this suppressed information that is periodically disrupting their lives. However, once they are able to retrieve, make the necessary associations, & process this information, they are most often free & clear of it for the rest of their lives. For further reference, on EMDR and the validity of this treatment approach: https://brainworldmagazine.com/how-emdr-therapy-opens-a-window-to-the-brain/
    As a side note, I am going for training in Accelerated Resolution Therapy, (ART) in a couple weeks, with it’s founder, Laney Rosenzweig MS, LMFT. It a relatively new approach and from all that I can gather appears to be EMDR on steroids!
    So stay tuned 🙂 and as always, thanks for sharing Leonard.

  2. Imposter syndrome and Perfectionism is a mental illness.
    A system in which one can not win. Ex. in success feel like an imposter/failure/not good enough. In failure feel like a failure.

    A balanced system is one in which there is some understanding of rationally bounded control.

    Perfect decision making ability with imperfect data in game theory can lead to the wrong choice and devastating consequences.

    A rhetorical question: How does one deal with failures outside their own control? How does one deal with success within their control?
    -How you answer these two questions shows your character.

    How does one deal with failures within their own control? How does one deal with success out of their control?
    -These two questions also show your character.

    A common solution: people have looked to the flow of the universe, higher order being, someone with more knowledge, processing power, and organizational ability. People commonly seek these forces and rely on faith and hope for the best.

    I’ll tell you what I would do in decision making.
    What do I know I know
    What do I know I don’t know
    What do I don’t know I know
    What do I don’t know I don’t know

    Weight of importance of each.
    Make a decision.

    Dealing with
    1. Failure Outside: Humility(I don’t know what I know)
    2. Success Inside: Pride(I know I know)
    3. Failure Inside: Encouragement(at least now I know, what I don’t know)
    4. Success Outside: Gratefulness(I don’t know what I don’t know)

    Food for thought.


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