Cultivate self-awareness: The first and arguably most crucial step is self-awareness. Every transformative journey begins with introspection. By identifying and acknowledging the mistakes we’ve made, or the limiting beliefs we harbor (without being overly self-critical), we set the foundation for change. For instance, my realization that certain behaviors and patterns weren’t serving my growth, and were in fact leading to repeated pitfalls, was both tough and liberating.
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 Coline Monsarrat.
Coline Monsarrat is a passionate author driven by a mission to help others thrive. She weaves captivating stories that transcend boundaries. Whether through her insightful nonfiction work or the adventure MG book series, Aria & Liam, she imparts valuable wisdom that inspires readers to overcome challenges and embrace their potential. Her new book, You Are Not an Imposter: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Unlock Your True Potential So You Can Thrive, offers a powerful and personal exploration of this all-too-common condition. Learn more at youarenotanimposter.com.
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’?
I’m happy to share my story with you. I was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, but moved to France when I was three. This early move kickstarted my love for living abroad. At 18, I moved to San Diego to study and soon after started my first business venture. Along with a friend, we launched an event promotion company specifically for the city’s international students. This experience in San Diego taught me not just about the joys of entrepreneurship but also about the intense competition that comes with it.
After San Diego, I found an exciting opportunity in Dubai. I joined two French niche fragrance brands that were quite small back then. Working there was like being an entrepreneur all over again, as everything was being built from the ground up. During my time, I played a part in growing these brands and taking them to a global audience.
But life took a turn and following a significant health event, I shifted gears. I started a publishing business to inspire children to dream. I’ve always believed in adapting successful strategies from one industry to another, and I believe there’s big potential in the entertainment industry.
Living in different countries has been a highlight of my life. It’s taught me to appreciate cultures, adapt to new environments, and understand the value of global connections. Dubai was especially unique, where almost everyone comes from a different corner of the world.
A big part of who I am today also comes from living with a degenerative genetic disease. Despite some suggesting I lead a more “quiet life” because of it, I’ve been determined not to let it hold me back. It’s been a source of strength and determination for me. Through my entrepreneurial efforts, I want to show others with chronic conditions that they, too, can chase and achieve their dreams.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One of the most defining moments in my career was centered on my understanding of self-worth. For years, I operated under the belief that the quality of my work would naturally advocate for my value, negating any need for me to negotiate or voice my worth. Even as I climbed the corporate ladder, I clung to the idea that my contributions would be automatically recognized and rewarded. This mindset was a glaring misstep, particularly when considering the gender disparities prevalent in many workplaces. Studies reveal that women, more often than not, hold back from requesting what they genuinely believe they deserve, opting instead to await acknowledgment. Such an approach might bear fruit when interacting with female management, but it often proves ineffective when dealing with male counterparts.
A personal health crisis served as my wake-up call. After undergoing major surgery, I prioritized my company’s well-being over my own by forgoing the recommended recovery period. Two months later, I mustered the courage to renegotiate my salary. It was during a candid conversation with the CEO that the reality truly struck me. As he detailed reasons, unrelated to my performance, for not granting the raise, it became clear that I could no longer allow anyone to undervalue me — especially after the sacrifices I’d made. Regrettably, years of harboring unspoken expectations and subsequent resentment can often render situations irreparable. I tendered my resignation less than one month after that meeting. And although the company countered with a more enticing offer, I knew my time there had come to an end.
The most significant lesson from this chapter of my life is clear: if you genuinely believe you’re deserving of something or yearn for specific recognition, you must be proactive in seeking it out. Each individual holds the power to determine and advocate for their worth. Holding onto mere hope for change was a costly oversight on my part.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our company stands out because, at its core, it’s dedicated to teaching valuable life lessons to children via engaging entertainment. The Aria & Liam book series, which fosters the spirit of friendship and individual strengths, is a prime example of our mission.
The decision to retain the company’s independence was fundamental. This choice ensures that we continue to operate on the principles that we were founded on, without external influences that could compromise our values.
An emphasis on history is woven into our content, reflecting the belief that understanding the past is key to making wise decisions for the future. We entertainingly present historical narratives, hoping to spark a lifelong interest in learning from history’s profound lessons.
My own path to this point has been deeply personal. After facing significant health challenges, I was inspired to make a meaningful impact through my work. It’s a belief of mine that our formative years shape many of our core values and beliefs, which is why I’m passionate about positively influencing children during this critical time in their lives.
As we look to the future, we are excited about the possibility of expanding into various forms of entertainment, such as video content and interactive games, to enrich and extend our educational reach.
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?
Undoubtedly, the journey to success is rarely a solitary one, and I’ve been fortunate to have had mentors who’ve guided me along the way. Among them, one individual stands out exceptionally — a former boss, Aurore. The lessons she imparted, both directly and indirectly, have been instrumental in shaping my professional and personal trajectory.
Aurore had an innate ability to identify not just my strengths but also the areas where I needed improvement. It’s one thing to be skilled in a job, but it’s another to continuously evolve both in mindset and as an individual. We invest so much of our lives at work, and Aurore emphasized the importance of personal growth alongside professional development. Her unwavering support extended beyond just work-related matters, touching various facets of my life. I will forever be indebted and grateful for all the wisdom she shared and the belief she had in me.
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?
Interestingly, about 70 percent of people report experiencing Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. Impostor Syndrome can be best described as a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a “fraud,” even in the face of clear successes. Its symptoms, like self-doubt, low self-confidence, and perfectionism, can lead individuals to short-change themselves. While these symptoms can be detrimental to personal and professional growth, I also believe that a slight touch of this syndrome can be beneficial. It acts as a counterbalance to overconfidence, which in itself can be equally disastrous if unchecked.
What are the downsides of Impostor Syndrome? How can it limit people?
Impostor Syndrome can profoundly impact individuals in a myriad of ways. One of its most pronounced effects is the aversion to taking risks, causing people to remain in situations where they feel undervalued or stagnant in their growth. Considering that we spend a significant portion of our lives in our workplaces, dissatisfaction can seriously affect our mental and physical health. It’s disheartening to think that many might miss out on the life they truly desire, held back predominantly by fear. Indeed, one of the most profound regrets expressed by individuals later in life is an undue concern about others’ opinions.
Additionally, the health implications of Impostor Syndrome can’t be understated. Living with constant people-pleasing tendencies, self-doubt, perfectionism, and a lack of confidence often leads to rumination and silent suffering. Over time, these suppressed emotions and stress can manifest physically, potentially leading the body to react adversely — even to the extent of developing diseases.
How can the experience of Impostor Syndrome impact how one treats others?
Impostor Syndrome doesn’t just shape an individual’s self-perception at work; its effects permeate various aspects of one’s life. The “mask” of Impostor Syndrome seldom comes off once you step out of the workplace. This often results in individuals doubting their roles in personal relationships and questioning their worthiness as partners, parents, or friends. Such pervasive self-doubt can lead to strained interpersonal relationships. Moreover, differentiating between constructive feedback and personal criticism becomes difficult for those experiencing it. In an environment where sensitivities are heightened, the ability to receive feedback without feeling personally attacked is crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and facilitating constructive growth.
We would love to hear your story about your experience with Impostor Syndrome. Would you be able to share that with us?
My personal journey with Impostor Syndrome was both profound and, in many ways, life-altering. After years of living with persistent self-doubt, continually striving to please others, and incessantly ruminating on perceived inadequacies, I faced a severe health crisis in 2020. I was diagnosed with sepsis and later discovered I had lost an organ. This traumatic experience served as a stark reminder of the deep connection between mental strains and their physical manifestations. It led to a period of introspection and became the inflection point for me to address and challenge my long-held beliefs. Through this ordeal, I’ve come to truly understand how one’s mental well-being is intrinsically tied to their physical health and the essential need for a holistic approach to self-care.
Did you ever shake the feeling off? If yes, what have you done to mitigate it or eliminate it?
While I’ve made significant strides in managing Impostor Syndrome, it hasn’t been completely eradicated from my psyche. In fact, I believe retaining a touch of it is beneficial, as it instills a drive for continuous improvement and excellence. Just recently, while working on a new book, I was engulfed in self-doubt — not only about the current project but about all my previous works. I revisited past reviews to navigate these feelings, drawing from them the confidence to persevere. If I surrendered to the fear, I risked letting it stifle my creativity.
It’s essential to challenge ourselves and to constantly confront our doubts head-on. Staying entrenched in our comfort zones only stifles growth. For me, becoming an author was both a daring and challenging journey. Being dyslexic and my resulting challenges with writing, I’ve often been met with skepticism about my choice. Many wondered how someone so passionate about reading could struggle so much with writing. But once I dismantled the internalized beliefs that tied me, I tackled writing head-on, wanting to prove — to myself above all — that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. Writing, especially, is an endeavor where judgment from strangers is par for the course. Thus, developing resilience and an unwavering self-belief is essential.
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.
- Cultivate self-awareness: The first and arguably most crucial step is self-awareness. Every transformative journey begins with introspection. By identifying and acknowledging the mistakes we’ve made, or the limiting beliefs we harbor (without being overly self-critical), we set the foundation for change. For instance, my realization that certain behaviors and patterns weren’t serving my growth, and were in fact leading to repeated pitfalls, was both tough and liberating.
- Identify the roots: Many of the insecurities tied to Impostor Syndrome can be traced back to our formative years. As children, our minds construct schemata — mental frameworks — to make sense of our surroundings and ensure our survival. A disparaging remark about our capabilities, childhood struggles with caregivers, or bullying from peers can plant seeds of doubt. These might not sprout immediately but can lurk in our subconscious, influencing our behaviors and reactions. My own experience with Impostor Syndrome was triggered by a seemingly innocuous statement made to me in my youth.
- Enumerate the symptoms: After recognizing the origins, it’s essential to understand how the syndrome manifests in your daily life. Symptoms can range from people-pleasing tendencies and low self-confidence to perfectionism and chronic self-doubt. Reflect on these behaviors, list them, and delve into the associated beliefs that propel them.
- Challenge and reframe your beliefs: With a clear list in hand, the next step is confronting these erroneous beliefs. Actively seek evidence that contradicts them. While it’s a laborious and sometimes emotionally draining process, it’s essential for growth. For each limiting belief, I’d actively recall moments that disproved it, thus reconditioning my mind over time.
- Maintain continued awareness: Growth is seldom linear. Even as we make progress, there’s always the danger of reverting to old patterns. We can intercept negative patterns and course-correct by staying vigilant and conscious of our thought processes and behaviors. It’s a continuous journey of self-awareness and recalibration.
Remember, while the steps might seem demanding, the transformation and liberation they offer are truly invaluable.
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. :-)
If I had the privilege to inspire a transformative movement, it would center on empowering individuals to reclaim agency in their lives. In today’s world, there’s a pervasive sense of entitlement and learned helplessness; a belief that external circumstances solely dictate our fate. While we can’t control every event that transpires in our lives, we unquestionably hold the power over how we react to them.
Furthermore, I’d champion a paradigm shift in how people perceive life’s events. It’s all too common for individuals to focus on what they lack, overlooking the abundance that already exists in their lives. At the heart of this movement would be cultivating a profound sense of gratitude. By recognizing and appreciating the blessings we have, we can foster a more positive and proactive approach to life.
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 :-)
If I were to choose someone with whom I’d cherish a meal together from both a business and personal lens, it would unquestionably be Sara Blakely, the mastermind behind Spanx. Her entrepreneurial journey is a true inspiration. Starting with a unique idea, she sculpted it into a reality, and did so largely on her own. Concurrently, she navigated the complexities of marriage and motherhood — an admirable achievement for any woman entrepreneur. Sara embodies a harmony of values that resonate with me, striking a balance between compassionate humanity and unwavering leadership.
From a scientific standpoint, as I firmly believe the entrepreneurial journey is significantly about mindset, my pick would be Dr. Andrew Huberman. Upholding a growth mindset and preserving health are paramount to me. Dr. Huberman is among the rare scientists who make an intensive effort to democratize knowledge, offering valuable information at no cost to the masses. The world of scientific research is ever-evolving and demands an agile approach. I have deep respect for the way Dr. Huberman gracefully acknowledges when newer research supersedes previous findings — a level of humility and transparency that’s unfortunately infrequent in the scientific realm.
Both of these remarkable individuals exemplify traits and values I hold dear, and a conversation with either would be immensely enriching. If they happen to see this, I hope they’d be open to such an interaction!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can stay connected and follow my journey on various social media platforms by searching for my handle @colinemonsarrat.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!