Why it affects us all and how it is part of the journey
Last week I updated my LinkedIn profile. I haven’t been as active on this platform lately due to the various projects I have been immersed in. My business has evolved over the last few years and I’ve moved from being largely consumer-focused (serving coaches, consultants and entrepreneurs) to shifting back into the wonderful world of corporate leadership development which is what my career has been based on.
Whilst this evolution has been exciting and I have been lit up by the work I’m doing, even I, who is entrenched in the world of personal development, am still able to fall victim to the imposter.
What is it?
Before I go on I’d just like to add a caveat that my opinion is based on the leaders I have coached over the years (I became a coach at Virgin Atlantic at the tender age of 19.) I have coached first line managers to C-suite execs and the imposter is a constant at all levels. So although I am not an imposter niche specialist (Clare Josa is your girl for that!) this is my view:
Your imposter is your protector, a subconscious ancestral mechanism that kicks in to keep you away from perceived harm.
Perceived being the operative word.
Your protector can’t tell the difference between real or imagined threats. Which is why when your mind starts conjuring scenarios that are worrisome and fearful, your protector speaks up.
The motive? To keep you safe from the perceived threat and keep you firmly in your comfort zone.
- Filling your thoughts with fears of being ‘found out.’
- Whispering in your ear that you don’t actually know anything
- That it’s all a farce
- That the police will come marching in to take you down for misinformation any minute!
And so you do nothing, stay silent, and creep back into your comfort zone.
This may feel ok for a while, as there is a certain comfort in safety. But when we stay in comfort too long, another voice starts calling for attention. That’s the voice inside that nudges you to do more.
Can you relate?
I would be surprised if you haven’t felt this at some point. It’s part of our human make up.
No one is immune to imposter syndrome. Working on this is certainly a journey and not a destination. Even after all the years of coaching people and working on my own challenges in this area.
The imposter raised its head last week.
As mentioned, my focus for the next 12 months and beyond is in spending the vast majority of my time supporting leaders across senior teams, functions, cultures and countries to increase the impact of their communication to achieve ambitious goals.
But when it came to updating my profile to explain this?
I fell silent.
It took a few cups of tea and some self-reflection and coaching to quell that unhelpful voice and complete the task. As it’s fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some strategies that I use with the leaders I coach when they are falling victim to these ever so unhelpful thoughts.
How to quell the imposter:
Be alert to your ANTS
ANTS are Automatic Negative Thoughts that are part of our out-of-date systems. They scan the environment for threats and make deletions, distortions and generalisations based on a complete lack of logic. The first step to quelling your imposter is becoming aware when any of these thoughts pop up. They are usually accompanied by a not-so-nice feeling. Being curious about them is the first step to silencing the blighters.
Use interrupting questions
One great way of interrupting unhelpful imposter thoughts is to ask yourself questions. This puts space between the automatic reaction and reality.
I read a fantastic book to my kids called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions by Daniel Amen based on cognitive behavioural therapy. It’s a wonderful way of introducing this subject to your kids and works well for adults too.
The next time you are aware of your ANTS kicking in, ask yourself:
Is this thought really true?
Am I 100% sure it’s true?
Asking yourself these questions not only jolts you back into awareness but helps to cultivate a trusting and powerful relationship with yourself.
Seek out evidence
One of the best ways to silence the imposter is to seek out evidence that proves that these unhelpful thoughts and feelings just aren’t true.
One thing that helped me last week was reading over my profile and revisiting the experience I have gained in the last few years. My skills may seem diverse at first glance. However they all fall under the umbrella of verbal communication. From my role as curator and speaker coach for TEDx, to presenting on Radio Reverb every month, to coaching and training senior leaders on how to increase the impact of their communication. I then reminded myself of where this all came from, a strong background in leadership and talent development. Going back through all these did absolute wonders in silencing the imposter and they can help you too!
Stay in your lane
It’s so easy to scroll through LinkedIn and see people bossing it left, right and centre. And whilst that’s wonderful of course, it can sometimes play havoc with your imposter feelings. It’s a natural human instinct to compare yourself to others, when in reality it’s like comparing apples and oranges.
It takes a lot of time and wasted energy focusing on what other people are doing which could be precious time focusing on your goals and dreams. Staying in your lane and becoming laser focused on what you DO want rather than what you don’t is a great way of canceling out the noise and keeping your lane as smooth and obstacle-free as possible.
Need help with this?
I deliver keynote talks (virtually and in person) within corporate environments on the topics that hold us back from speaking up and moving forward, with simple-to-apply strategies on what we can do about it. I use storytelling, analogies, and personal and professional examples to inspire leaders that these blocks can be removed and their goals CAN be achieved.
If you’d like to talk about how I can help your people speak up with confidence, book a call using the link below and let’s chat. Or shoot me a DM, they are always open.
And in the meantime? Give some love to your imposter. They are just trying to protect you after all!