On the 10th February, I was lucky enough to sit down and share a virtual cuppa with our In The Spotlight Entrepreneur for February Steph Edusei. We had a chat live in the community and we talked about all kinds of topics ranging from her work as a coach to her love dance and performing arts and the importance of making time for the things you love, no matter how busy you are, but the one thing that struck a chord with our members was the discussion we had around Imposter Syndrome.
In the days after the interview was aired, I had so many comments, questions and declarations of ‘that’s me!‘ or ‘I do that!‘ and I realise, not for the first time that this is a topic affecting most, if not all of the people I work with one way or another. Michelle Obama talks extensively about it in her brilliant book ‘Becoming Michelle Obama’ and Emma Watson, Kate Winslet and Sheryl Sandberg have all said they’ve suffered at one time or another. If these incredible women and the First Lady of the United States can be affected then we’re all in good company!
But what exactly is it?
Imposter Syndrome can be likened to the feeling that you’re going to get found out for being a fraud. That somewhere down the line, maybe today, someone will realise that you’re winging it and that you don’t really know what you’re doing. It’s your inner mean girl calling out ‘you’re not good enough for this‘ and when she shows up you need to be able to shut her down, fast.
Let’s face it, we all have days when we don’t feel we’re doing a great job, that we could do better, but when this feeling (or your inner mean girl) starts to show up regularly you know it’s time to get to work on it.
How does it show up?
Like most bullies, Imposter Syndrome shows up in all kinds of sneaky ways and the first trick is to learn to tune in to what you’re thinking and recognise when the feelings are rising to the surface. Checking in with how you feel regularly, without judgement, is a great place to start. Master Coach Susan Hyatt recommends checking in with yourself every hour. Set a timer and just notice how you’re feeling in that moment. What are you saying to yourself? If you can recognise it, you can deal with it.
Some of the ways Imposter Syndrome shows up could be;
- You worry people will discover you’re not as good at your job as they originally thought.
- You totally downplay your rise to the place you are. For example, you’ve worked your butt off for years gaining experience and qualifications but when asked, you say something like ‘anyone could do it‘ or you tell them it was a ‘lucky break‘ or joke about it being a case of mistaken identity.
- You disregard compliments from peers. You convince yourself they’re only saying it because they feel sorry for you, or they’re just being ‘nice’.
- You question your decisions constantly, convinced you’re wrong.
- You procrastinate on starting your business/ publishing your work/ asking for a promotion/ applying for your dream job convinced you won’t be good enough or that you will fail and be exposed as a fraud.
- You keep your talents as a ‘hobby’ so that you can avoid judgement from a paying customer.
Sound familiar? I know I’ve talked with you before about not hitting publish on my book for twelve months. TWELVE MONTHS it sat there while I convinced myself it wasn’t ready but really It was me. I felt that I wasn’t good enough, that what I had to say wasn’t relevant or that I would be left vulnerable and exposed if I sent it out into the world.
Imposter Syndrome can show up at any time but typically tends to rear its more than unattractive head when we’re just about to do something big or are on the verge of a breakthrough or opportunity. Something that has the power to take us in a forward direction, you know, when it’s most inconvenient. Just when we are faced with progress, whack! Up come the feelings of self-doubt.
So what do we do?
Firstly, it’s important to realise that this kind of self-doubt isn’t going to disappear. It’s something we have to work on and understand that it’s a journey. I try to think of it as a fairly annoying back seat driver, sometimes she’s loud and distracting and other times, when I work on her, she sleeps or amuses herself elsewhere. I get a break when I stop the car and look at the scenery and remind myself of where I am, in the moment, and take a look at my destination on the map. If you’re suffering right now I would highly recommend you take some time to watch Stephs interview here. You could also try some (or all) of the following:
- Say a simple thank you when someone compliments you or your work. Resist the urge to downplay the skill involved or the time it took. Lean into the compliment and see it for what it is, a reflection of the way you are viewed. That person took the time out of their day to tell you they appreciate you, own it! It’s can also be helpful to keep a journal or diary of compliments you receive that way when Imposter Syndrome shows up you can re-read them and get into a better-thinking state. Or silence the back-seat driver with some hard facts.
- Stop comparing your work/ business/ body/ whatever it is to others. In all honesty, it’s none of your business anyway. I am so guilty of this myself I can’t even tell you, but trust me, when you stop life is easier. TIP: You’ll notice this more when you get used to checking in with yourself and eavesdropping on your thoughts – It’s an eye-opener!
- Talk about it. When Steph opened up about her own journey it opened the floodgates for others to do the same. You are not alone. Use The Community, talk to friends, reach out to a coach or mentor and talk it out. There’s nothing like a fresh perspective to change your state.
Ultimately, you get to choose. You can view Imposter Syndrome as a reason to stay stuck and static or as a reminder that growth is on the horizon and expansion is just a decision away. Remember, you can’t banish it altogether but you can use the tools above to at least co-exist and maybe you can make the car journey just that little bit easier if you turn up the volume of self-confidence along the way.
Until next week,