Ashley Reed: How To Thrive Despite Experiencing Impostor Syndrome
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Write down your accomplishments as a Truth anchor to come back to. When you see your Imposter Syndrome showing up, read that list and re-center yourself around what’s really True, vs. the false story it’s trying to tell you.
As a part of our series about how very accomplished leaders were able to succeed despite experiencing Imposter Syndrome, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Reed.
For 18 years, Ashley Reed helped shape marketing initiatives for leading global brands, including Amazon, iHeartMedia, Audi, and the NBA. Although she built a successful career, she always felt like something was missing or off. She left corporate and pursued her own inner work, leading to a powerful awakening experience. Now, as an Inner Work Teacher and Coach, Ashley supports other high-performers on their awakening journeys, helping them re-find internal balance and true freedom.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?
Thank you for having me, I’d love to.
I worked in corporate marketing for 18 years, mostly in sports and entertainment with organizations like the NBA and iHeartMedia, and then I finished my marketing career in tech with Amazon as their Head of Global Events for Amazon Advertising.
I built a lot of success, but I wasn’t happy. I always felt like something was missing or off, and I had this ongoing craving for freedom.
So, in 2016, I started looking at ways I could create financial stability so I could step away from my corporate career (at the time I directly correlated freedom to no longer working in corporate).
I learned about real estate and built a real estate investment and management business, I started learning about cryptocurrency and became an investor in the space, and then I was always intrigued by awareness and human potential work, so I also got my Coaching Certification and ended up organically working with clients as a High-Performance Coach.
And in November 2019, I hit my goals and gave Amazon my notice.
My last day was scheduled for January 2020, and I planned to turn my high-performance coaching into a full-time business. But, on December 31st, 2019, one week before my last day at Amazon, everything I had taken on for all of those years caught up to me.
I was hospitalized with a severe case of burnout called Rhabdomyolysis, and I almost died.
I was in the hospital for a week followed by a pretty intense recovery, and finally sitting still for the first time since I could remember, I could feel the overall extreme burnout. Not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
I paused on formally launching my high-performance coaching business, and a couple of months later I felt called to deeper inner work. Something I knew nothing about at the time.
And during what was arguably one of the most difficult years in history, the infamous 2020, I had the most powerful experience of my life.
I created space and turned all of my focus inward, and I moved very quickly and deeply through what I now know was an internal rebalancing and spiritual awakening. All while quarantining by myself in my New York City apartment.
It was like a factory reset for life. It brought me back to my true self and allowed me to see myself and everything around me for what it is, instead of through the lenses and limitations my ego had convinced me to adopt. And I finally experienced true freedom.
After moving through my awakening, I didn’t connect to high-performance coaching anymore. It felt too head-heavy.
I knew my new mission was to help other high-achievers wake up and re-find themselves, and in turn, find that true freedom they’ve also been searching for.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
I feel lucky to say there are so many, especially from my sports and entertainment days. I’ll leave the inner work aside for this one because that’s a different type of interesting :)
The first one that comes to mind is when I was leading the partnership between Michael Jackson’s Estate and Cirque du Soleil, as they were creating a temporary museum at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to celebrate the new Michael/Cirque residency show.
I and the Creative Director on the project were in charge of working with Michael’s Estate to select pieces from his personal life and career that really showcased and celebrated who he was as a person and performer. We went through his personal storage for days selecting everything from living room furniture to iconic costumes. It was a bit surreal.
Others include being on the floor for Game 7 of the NBA Finals, going to the Grammys and Emmys, activating at the Dubai Polo Gold Cup, and being backstage at iHeartRadio Music events.
What I learned from all of these was to stay present. We move so quickly, especially in the world of high-performance. Our ego is always trying to get us to focus on the past or future, but it’s so important to remember to pause and celebrate and be thankful for the wins and cool moments and experiences while they’re happening.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re a little counterintuitive in the high-performance space, which I absolutely love.
I support high-achievers and high-performers on their inner work and awakening journeys. And I love that balance and dance between the two.
In the world of high-performance, we often feel like we have to choose between achieving and inner work or spirituality, but that’s not the case. We’re spiritual beings, but we’re living in a human body and a human world, and it’s OK to celebrate and embrace both.
It’s something I’m really passionate about because I’ve experienced, and still experience it, myself. That feeling of not fully belonging in either world.
I love how my work helps to bridge that divide.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I had so many amazing mentors throughout my career, it’s challenging to call out one. But those that I found the most impactful all had one thing in common: They stayed human in their approach to business and managing their teams.
They challenged, pushed, and taught me how to be a high-achieving Marketer and Executive, but they also reminded me I’m human, and so is everyone I work with.
We all feel, have stress, have lives outside of work, and so much more. The mentors that I admired the most treated everyone around them with respect, compassion, and empathy, while still having high expectations and excelling in their roles.
I found that balance so impactful. It organically mirrored who I am and how I wanted to show up as a professional, so when I found mentors that were anchored in that side of themselves, it felt very refreshing and I naturally gravitated towards them.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the experience of Impostor Syndrome. How would you define Impostor Syndrome? What do people with Imposter Syndrome feel?
Imposter Syndrome is when you feel like a fraud and you’re irrationally doubting your abilities.
A common version of it is when you feel like you don’t deserve or aren’t qualified for your job or role (or the one above it, etc.). It’s very normal and common.
And it’s so easy for us to see it when it’s happening to other people. I’d see these uber-talented and qualified people suffering from Imposter Syndrome and would think to myself, “Why can’t they see how amazing they are?”
But it’s so hard to see how our own ego and limiting beliefs are showing up. If that script was flipped, I’m guessing they would’ve been thinking the same thing about me.
People with Imposter Syndrome feel small, like they’re not good enough, and like someone’s going to find out at any minute they don’t deserve to be where they are. It’s very draining to live with, because you always feel like you’re having to work extra hard to prove your worth, and to prove the success story about you that other people bought into (because your ego has you believing it’s not true).
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
Imposter Syndrome is one of the ego’s favorite tools. It uses everything I described above to keep us small. To keep us from taking risks and making changes, and to keep us from growing and achieving.
Our ego’s main goal is to gain and maintain control as a means of “protecting” us, and the smaller it keeps us, the easier we are to control.
When we buy into our Imposter Syndrome, we might stay in the same role for a long time because we don’t feel we deserve a promotion, or not speak up in a meeting because we’re nervous our ideas aren’t good enough, or not go after a new job because we feel we aren’t qualified.
When in reality, we’re more than qualified and ready for all of the above. Our ego has just gotten us to buy into limiting beliefs and stories that make us see ourselves through a false lens.
All of this can dramatically impact and slow down your career.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
I’ve seen the impact show up in a couple of different ways.
When you have Imposter Syndrome, because of the false view of yourself we touched on, you often idolize the people above you and/or feel not good enough when you’re in the room or communicating with them. This can create a more passive or submissive approach to how you work and to how you show up as a professional overall.
Another way it shows up is through talking down to people around or below you. The ego steps in and might belittle subordinates or junior people to help make the person with Imposter Syndrome feel bigger and better (all as a way of compensating for the insecurities they’re really feeling inside).
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
Definitely, it was such an interesting journey.
Imposter Syndrome showed up for me in a big way throughout my career. That’s much easier to see now with the level of awareness I have, but I also had awareness around it at the time, my ego was just so strong, it wasn’t enough to release it.
My Imposter Syndrome had me worrying I was going to get “found out” in terms of not being as smart or qualified as everyone thought, it had me not speaking up as often as I should’ve, not trusting my ideas, not seeing the full value in my voice and work, and not asking for raises and promotions when I should’ve.
And it also had me doing a version of all of these things anyway because I still wanted to progress, but in such a draining and challenging way, because I was fighting my head and ego the entire time.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
I was able to navigate it during my corporate career using head tools that would quiet it enough to allow me to continue to achieve and succeed, which is what most people tell you to do.
But Imposter Syndrome is just a symptom of a deeper source, and mine was no different. To resolve or release it, you have to go to that source or limiting belief that’s driving it. So it wasn’t until I did my deeper inner work that I fully released it.
For me, it was creating awareness around and solving for the deep-seated limiting belief that I wasn’t good enough. It was a powerful one my ego had gotten me to adopt a long time ago as a way to keep me small, and one of the major symptoms it was creating was my Imposter Syndrome.
In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome can take to move forward despite feeling like an “Impostor”? Please share a story or an example for each.
The only way to truly release Imposter Syndrome is by doing the deeper inner work as I mentioned above. Once you create awareness around and solve for its source, the symptom, the Imposter Syndrome, will release on its own, because the source programming fueling it no longer exists. Anything else will, unfortunately, put you in a place of symptom chasing and managing.
That said, here are four other tips and tools you can use to help navigate those symptoms until you’re able to dive deeper:
- Write down your accomplishments as a Truth anchor to come back to. When you see your Imposter Syndrome showing up, read that list and re-center yourself around what’s really True, vs. the false story it’s trying to tell you.
- Close your eyes and center into a moment where you were experiencing success and let that energy and confidence fuel you. Really feel and embody the emotions that came with that experience. This does what we call an energy shift from catabolic to anabolic (from draining to energizing energy), which makes it harder for Imposter Syndrome to function.
- Use visioning to envision how you want to (and are going to) show up in a situation that your Imposter Syndrome is creating doubt around. This can really powerful. That’s why so many professional athletes use visioning as a preparation mechanism. Envision yourself showing up confidently and successfully to the situation your Imposter Syndrome is making you feel nervous or intimidated by (and feel what it’s like to be in that moment). This not only shifts your energy, but it also makes it feel like you’ve already had the experience and it went exactly as you wanted, making it less intimidating to face in real life.
- Watch, learn from, and mirror someone you admire that’s owning their confidence and power. How do they act, talk, speak up, etc. Learn from those actions and mirror them yourself when Imposter Syndrome shows up to help you navigate the false beliefs you’re experiencing.
I want to be clear that these are all band-aids. Imposter Syndrome will keep showing up in different ways until you release or change that source belief driving it, but these can at least help you navigate the symptoms you’re experiencing in the meantime.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Thank you. I’d have to say awareness. Everyone taking the time to pause and create the space to do their own inner work. To create awareness around their ego, to re-find themselves, and to live a more conscious life. That action has a ripple effect in the world. I’ve seen firsthand how the journey I’ve taken and the change I’ve perused have impacted other people. It’s like Gandhi’s famous quote, “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.”
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
This is a fun one to think about. There are so many, but the first that comes to mind is Jay Shetty.
I love his work and story. He’s a former Monk that is now a Purpose Coach, Author, and Podcast Host. I admire his courage to turn his focus inward, and how he’s handled and navigated reintegration.
I think our paths will cross at some point with how similar our work is, but I’m sure he has so many interesting stories from his inner work journey. I’d love to get a chance to hear some of them over any meal :)
How can our readers follow you on social media?
They can find me at @ashleyreedofficial on Instagram, and /in/ashleyreedofficial on LinkedIn as well.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Thank you for having me!