Imposter Syndrome is an insidious wee beast.
It’s a close personal friend of the Comparison Queen. These two tend to travel together, wreaking havoc on confidence and focus, on growth and development.
Both bring with them a whole range of emotions that can stir up self-doubt and prevent you from stretching. From deepening and expanding in Your Next Chapter.
So, how do you deal with feeling like an Imposter?
I had my own dance with doubt last week when I slammed right up against Imposter Syndrome.
I’d been invited to be a member of a panel discussing “Setting Up for Success: How to Grow a Successful Digital Creative Business”, an event being staged by Chatswood Digital & Creative Hub.
I was delighted to receive the invitation. It was beautifully aligned with my intention to come out of my self-imposed public speaking hiatus, coming hot on the heels of my recent speaking gig at the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
So I came to the zoom preparation meeting with my fellow panellists feeling full of anticipation and enthusiasm.
But those positive and expansive emotions quickly transformed into doubt and self-consciousness.
Imposter Syndrome makes you feel inadequate
As I sat there, listening to the experience and points of view of the others, I could feel myself sinking into my seat. I had that dragging sensation in my stomach that always accompanies self-doubt for me. My throat even closed over a little.
Why? Because they spoke of their experience of “growing startups from zero to millions of dollars and selling them to overseas companies, of venture capitalists and angel investors, of tech and data and crowdfunding” and the like.
And as those were all completely out of my field of experience, I quickly created thoughts like:
- Oh my god, I have no idea about ANY of that!
- Why am I even here?
- I don’t belong.
- I am out of my league
- This is the “real” stuff of business, of real entrepreneurs
I even briefly ventured into the “I should just leave, right now, pretend my line dropped out and then tell them something unavoidable has come up and I can’t participate now” territory!
But, even in the midst of my imposter crisis, I knew what needed to happen.
You need to refocus on the unique value you can add
When the Imposter Syndrome hijacks your thinking, you need to insert some space around your Spontaneous Thoughts that are causing the racing heart, constricted throat, sinking stomach, however it plays out for you.
The watcher in you needs to reassert itself.
You need to remind yourself that you are not your thoughts and feelings, you are the one having the thoughts and feelings.
And as such, you have the power to change them.
So, you simply need to take a few deep breaths. Centre yourself. And then remind yourself that your message, your perspective, your experience, your insights have value.
Remind yourself of all the good work you have done to date. That you are accomplished. Knowledgeable. Wise. Perceptive. Helpful. And ever open to learning and contributing.
That everyone has his or her unique mosaic of experience to share and contribute and that none is more intrinsically valuable than another. Different, Not better or worse (take THAT Comparison Queen!)
You will notice when you change your thoughts, when you choose Conscious Thoughts, rather than fall prey to their spontaneous or automatic cousins, you change the way you feel.
And when you feel less flat and dejected, you can take positive action again.
After mentally regrouping on the call, I put my ideas forward with quiet confidence. The points I wanted to raise, the experience I sought to share about my own journey from freelance consultant to starting and running a successful Marketing Agency from 2003 to 2012, to pivoting into a Next Chapter Business combining Mentoring and Consulting held valuable insights.
Different? Yes. Inferior? Hell no!
The Imposter Syndrome succumbs to Belief Buddies
No one who cares about their work, who cares about being helpful and adding value to the world is able to completely avoid the Imposter Syndrome. It’s a sure sign that you are committed to being of high service. So take heart!
And talk about it.
Don’t allow it to fester in a dark corner of your head and heart. Imposter Syndrome thrives on secrecy and shame.
As soon as I got off the call I spoke to my husband and daughter, sharing the fears I’d just experienced. They are two of my “Belief Buddies” – people whose opinions matter to me, and who know what I am committed to contributing to the world. Their reassurances echoed my own – that I need to share my story, not anyone’s else’s, and that there would be people on the night who needed to hear what I had to say, just like there would be others who needed to hear what the guys had to say.
This is so very true, and I need you to anchor yourself in this knowledge.
I call it “The Rule of Thirds”.
Imagine you are sharing your message with the world – big and bold and out there for the world to see. Imagine it on a billboard in Times Square. Or perhaps coming out of your mouth at a panel event!?
The reality is a third of the audience who see will actively dislike it. They will disagree. They’ll dismiss it and you.
That’s fine, release them with love, there’s another billboard message around the corner, built especially for them.
The next third will look at or hear, your message and it just won’t connect. They don’t take offence, but it simply doesn’t appeal to them.
That’s fine, release them with love, there’s another billboard developed specifically for them, waiting around the corner.
But the next third, your third will devour your message, excited and delighted to hear it. It will resonate deeply with them. They’ll wonder where you have been hiding, as you seem to be the perfect fit!
THEY are your people, your Most Aligned Clients. They are the ones you are here to serve and work with.
I see many businesswomen spending way too much time trying to convince and convert the first two thirds of the world to their message and cause, at the cost of their time, energy, confidence and certainty. I see them taken off track by looking at the work and opinions of others in the market and feeling they need to change their own vision and voice, services and style because they feel someone else “does it better” or has it more together.
Don’t fall into that Trap.
You do you. Wholeheartedly.
What happens when you navigate around Imposter Syndrome?
Wonderful things happen!
Not only do you anchor yourself, piece by piece, more firmly into self-assuredness, an essential quality for sustainability, but you also begin to attract the right people into your business.
Because you’re no longer a Business Chameleon, the people who contact you after hearing your message are more often then not beautifully aligned with who you are and the way you like to work.
And that’s when you can weave your most decidedly magical solutions.
A happy ending
When I showed up and participated in the panel last week it was 100% my perspective that I shared. I owned my story and all of the insights I’d learned from my years of coalface experience. No Angel Investors. No Venture Capital. No Crowdfunding and certainly no US buyers.
And it was perfect.
The Rule of Audience Thirds was proven again, with a big chunk of the attendees enjoying and valuing what I had to share. The panel finished at 7.30 but I didn’t get to leave until close to 9pm because there were loads of wonderful, wholehearted business owners who wanted to chat with me about their goals and plans and needs. I’ve continued a number of those conversations offline since and am looking forward to welcoming some fabulous new, fully aligned clients into my mentoring program.
It was a delight!
So, the next time the Imposter Syndrome tries to take you down, tries to discourage you from stretching, from reaching and passing a new growth edge, you know what to do.
Your future self and your future clients will both thank you for it.