8 Great Tools to Navigate Imposter Syndrome.
#5 Embrace being a wounded teacher.
Have you ever faced a situation where you are presenting to a group of influential people, and all you can think about is how they will figure out that they made a mistake and that you know nothing?
This taunt of vicious self-talk has a name; it is imposter syndrome and affects even the most successful executives and CEOs. Even though you know it’s not only you, it still doesn’t feel good. The inner critic will take any opportunity to use this as a weapon against you, especially when it counts.
What if you embrace imposter syndrome as something like the flu and use the appropriate preventative remedies? You don’t have a meltdown when you get sick; you head to the pharmacy and dose up on meds. Perhaps you even got the flu vaccine as a preventative measure?
The good news is that you can create a unique vaccine and start to work on preventative approaches to manage your imposter syndrome. You don’t want to keep treating the symptoms but work on the underlying cause. You don’t think twice about taking extra vitamin C to keep your immune system up, so here are the tools you can use as prevention against imposter syndrome:
Embrace being seen.
When I first started writing, I had massive imposter syndrome. Who was I to write! The two main driving forces were the fear of judgement and the fear of not being perfect.
After a while, those fears dissipated because I had discovered the underlying cause — I was afraid of being seen. It’s easy to quote other people’s work or share research on what others had done because it was still a safe option. When I decided to share my experiences and my truth, I was no longer hiding; this is where discomfort is at its highest.
The more you can create comfort challenges for yourself by putting yourself out there and creating opportunities to be seen, the more imposter syndrome dissipates.
Challenge yourself — write a piece for Linkedin, paint your masterpiece, create your craft, speak up in the next meeting, volunteer for the next project — embrace being seen, so it becomes who you are.
Give yourself validation.
When you are no longer hiding, you now face what you crave the most — external validation and approval. Am I good enough? Was that ok? How did I do? Sometimes you don’t get immediate feedback, and so you are left in your anxious thoughts, wondering if you have sabotaged your career.
To eliminate imposter syndrome, you need to be able to validate and back yourself first. How can you expect others to believe in you and be inspired by you if you don’t believe in yourself?
Believing in yourself is the most overused and cliched line in personal development. It almost makes you cringe but guess what — it’s the foundation of your success.
Seth Godin said it beautifully in his book, The Practice:
Before you are a “bestselling author,” you’re an author, and authors write. Before you are an “acclaimed entrepreneur,” you’re simply someone who is building something. “I am _______ but they just don’t realize it yet” is totally different from “I’m not _______ because they didn’t tell me I was.”
Pick yourself first, so you don’t rely on external approval to justify your self-worth. There’s nothing wrong with seeking validation, but this should be a bonus, not your permission device to feel worthy.
Acknowledge your wins.
One of my coaching clients had just signed an incredible deal for her company, but I was surprised that I was more excited about it than she was. I asked her if she had celebrated the victory, and she said ‘No, not really’. Then she explained why she could justify putting this win down to luck, which wasn’t a big deal’.
That is why imposter syndrome exists; you refuse to acknowledge your progress.
When you internalise your wins, no matter how seemingly small, you incorporate the growth as part of you. When you can acknowledge your achievement, it builds your confidence because you are accumulating evidence of who you are becoming.
Don’t just think, ‘ok, I achieved this, next’. Do something — treat yourself to a special meal, call someone and share it, buy yourself a little treat, book a massage, or anything that feels indulgent.
In Benjamin Hardy’s book, The Gap and The Gain, he says ‘always measure backwards’. Maybe the win doesn’t feel like much in the moment, but when you can look back to your past self, you realise how much you have evolved. Here are some questions to think about:
• What are my wins from the last 90 days?
• What are my desired wins for the next 90 days?
• What would my 20-year-old self say about my achievements?
• What did I believe three months ago that I no longer believe today?
• What do I say no to that I used to say yes to?
- Which things felt essential to me ten years ago that no longer matter to me now?
Vitamin C is your go-to preventative measure against colds and flu. So is preparation when it comes to imposter syndrome.
Whether presenting something for the first or the fiftieth time, I prepare accordingly. When you have certainty in your knowledge, it’s an automatic confidence booster.
One of my clients asked me this week how I made my TEDx talk look so effortless with no stumbles or ‘ums’. I smiled at her question and told her that fourteen minutes of pure polish took eight weeks and 33 drafts to get there.
You can’t control the outcome of a situation, but you can always control how you prepare for it and show up to it. Maybe you don’t have to do a presentation, but you can prepare mentally, physically and emotionally for any situation.
Before a pitch or a courageous conversation, get your posture upright with your shoulders back. Prepare the emotions you want to bring to the situation — how do you want to feel? What traits do you want to demonstrate? You can decide to bring enthusiasm, compassion, empathy, confidence and joy to the situation despite not knowing how it will go.
If you value control, and I know you do — then decide you will feel in your power and ditch the imposter syndrome before it rears its ugly head.
Embrace the wounded teacher.
It’s amazing how much clarity you have for other people’s problems, but not your own. This is why coaching is a billion-dollar industry; you always need someone else to hold up the mirror to help you discover your blind spots.
Imposter syndrome shows up because you feel you need to be proficient in every area of your life to give advice or lead others.
Embrace being a wounded teacher — you can share your knowledge because of your experiences, not despite them. Without your experience, you wouldn’t be able to serve and contribute. How can you reframe your thinking from:
How can I advise or lead a team when I make mistakes or experience self-doubt? How can I tell others what to do when I have failed in this previously?
I have been through this before and can now guide others better; I know what to expect, and my ‘failure’ is a fast track to their success.
Thank your past.
Imposter syndrome is a feeling of not belonging or not deserving to be where you are. Your past experiences or upbringing often trigger this.
Can you have compassion for the previous version of yourself and remember you are no longer that person? Sure, you made mistakes, but you worked with the knowledge and experience available at the time.
Don’t keep yourself hostage to a small present by living in the past and basing your future decisions on a previous version of yourself. You would never still use an old Operating System on your phone; it automatically updates itself.
You also are constantly updating your software through new experiences; the difference is that you need to do a manual sync.
Imagine pushing an internal auto-sync button and updating yourself with all the lessons, wisdom and knowledge from previous versions of you. Now when you have to step up into challenging situations, you are armed with everything you need and no longer need to feel like an imposter. Ask yourself:
· Who would I be without that experience?
· What have I learned because of what happened?
· How did life happen for me and not to me?
When you discover the lessons, you can be grateful for your past because it has prepared you for this chapter of your life.
Don’t underestimate your knowledge.
Do not underestimate your skills and knowledge. Just because something feels effortless for you is not necessarily the same for others. The fact that it comes naturally is a gift; it’s not to be taken for granted.
How long have you been in your current role or industry; think about what you have accumulated over that time? If you are someone who has been with a company for many years, you are a goldmine of insights into culture, how the business works and how to navigate internal and external relationships.
When you are asked to present or share your knowledge, focus on being a contribution and how people will value what you bring to the table as a subject matter expert. If the message is perfect, then you don’t have to be. And if you fumble, laugh at yourself and move on. This is not an Oscar performance; it is about a mindset shift from perfection to contribution.
How can you be an imposter when you are the person they are coming to for advice?
Create a future self.
“Connection to your Future Self creates purpose and meaning in the present” — Benjamin Hardy.
What would you tell me if I asked you to describe your perfect day three years from now? Apart from New Year’s eve, when did you last spend time consciously thinking about who you want to become?
It is a conscious choice to design your future self and not to live by default.
Let’s say your dream job is marketing director of a big multinational, or you would like to start your own business, then it’s assumed your public speaking skills will need to be outstanding.
Now, if your current version of yourself has a story that you’re introverted and terrible at public speaking, you have a disconnect to arrive at this dream job. What does this have to do with imposter syndrome? Everything!
You must start acting authentically to your future self, not playing small because your current self fears judgement. It will feel uncomfortable putting yourself forward for new challenges, but this is the only way to grow into the person you want to become.
In other words, you must be willing to feel like an imposter for a short time until you become comfortable with the new skills. Repeat this process, and you will be amazed at how quickly you reach your future self goals and objectives.
When you arrive at the position in question, you no longer feel like you don’t deserve to be there because you have practised being this person so many times; it’s now who you are.
As with the flu, even if you’ve had the vaccine, you still get sick but will bounce back quicker.
Imposter syndrome will still creep in, but it won’t feel as threatening; it is not a permanent fixture.
The ultimate cure is not trying to eliminate it but recognising it for what it is when it shows up rather than buying into the story that you don’t deserve to be there.
Here’s to prevention being better than a cure,
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