How to let the expert shine through and imposter disappear
From doing what I do, one thing I have noticed is that we humans can be very judgemental of ourselves. I think that we can be harder on ourselves than others, and maybe expect perfection in our own performance that we may not expect in others. So, it got me thinking about what I do and how I have changed over the years.
Many times, in my old job, I would doubt myself and my strengths. I didn’t recognise my own accomplishments and ability. I didn’t think I was as good as other people, and if I am honest it held me back, as I didn’t push myself for other jobs. I was suffering from Imposter Syndrome….
The official definition of Imposter Syndrome is that someone cannot internalise their own accomplishments, they think/feel they are a fraud. There may be persistent external evidence of accomplishments, but they belittle or dismiss it saying it was good luck for example. They believe it is others, just saying they are better, more intelligent or more competent than they truly are.
I think what’s interesting is that many people recognise this feeling in their professional life, but it can also materialise in our personal life. we can compare ourselves against other people whether that’s say other people who do the same sport as us, other parents, our friends and even other family members.
So back to my old job, my husband a few years ago made a comment to me that he thought I was good at going into a room of people and talking to anyone. You have so much confidence. Really!!! That was his perception, but little did he know how uncomfortable it made be feel. I know I can talk, (and I love a good chat) but I didn’t feel worthy of these professionals in the room with me. They were better than me. Just because I did it well, doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking “what gives me the right to be here”. Oh, how I just wanted to go and sit in a corner. I would be so much more relaxed not having to talk to anyone. So, what was happening? Why could I talk to some people but in that situation not feel comfortable and want to run away? Well my brain was looking at how I had always behaved. The last time I was in a room of people I worked with, my reaction was there was danger around, so this time that danger must still be present. Maybe it was self-perpetuating. Even before the event I thought ‘oh god I hate these things’, so immediately my brain was put in high alert as it doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality. Everything I think is happening as far as it is concerned.
It was only when I went on Sabbatical that I started to go to networking events. I sat in this room with some brilliant and like-minded people, who had gone out and set up on their own! They were experts in their fields. I walked away from the meetings and realised that I could do what they had done. During those sessions I gave my opinion and advice which helped me realised that I had developed or learnt over the year’s skills, strengths and abilities. Shock Horror my Job in Financial Services had given me something!! I was as good as these people sitting around the table. So how did I go from feeling like an imposter for so many years to believing in the expert inside?
By doing Action the Anxiety disappears. Now I don’t know whether it was having the time to rest and de-stress putting me back in the rational part of my brain, or no longer working permanently in my primitive emotional brain, or if it was the fact that leaving an industry – although very good to me over 20 years – was not where I should or wanted to be. It was not my passion!
Or maybe it was a bit of both. I left that meeting with hope. NOW don’t get me wrong as I retrained and then built my practice up in Bristol. I had moments of Imposter syndrome thinking. SO many lovely Solution Focused Hypnotherapists out there doing a fab job everyday with their clients. Why would anyone choose me?? How did I deal with these passing thoughts…? I learnt to ignore them and get on with the tasks that needed doing to make me a success. I focused on the fact that people were choosing me. They chose me because of who I am, they chose to come to me as I had demonstrated knowledge and ability. I ran workshops and the feedback I received was brilliant. I am good at presenting and delivering training especially when I love the subject and believe in it totally.
Learn to celebrate mistakes – you don’t need to be perfect, but often feel we need to be. So, we need to challenge these deeply ingrained beliefs. How can you do this? Something I do with my children is to teach then to not fear mistakes. As an example of this I look at Sara Blakely the founder of Spanxs. She is worth millions and puts some of her success down to her Dad. “My dad would encourage me any time something didn’t go the way I expected it to, or maybe I got embarrassed by a situation, to write down where the hidden gifts were and what I got out of it. I started realizing that in everything there was some amazing nugget that I wouldn’t have wanted to pass up.”. Her dad used to ask her and her brother to share their failures at the dinner table and instead of being disappointed or upset, he would celebrate their efforts. “What it did was reframe my definition of failure,” Blakely said of the tradition. “Failure for me became not trying, versus the outcome. This is something that we also try to instill in to our boys by saying, “FAIL means First Attempts In Learning.”
Understand there is never a perfect time – so no more procrastination. It’s time to have intent. What is the first action, just take it one step at a time. Complete it and move on to the next. It doesn’t have to be perfect things change and drafts happen. The more you investigate and research, the more your ideas will flow until you get to the finished outcome. Whether that’s a thing, place or situation. Again, it’s how we choose to view what we do at the end of the day there is nothing to fear but fear itself. By being proactive you improve your skills and confidence will naturally follow.
Don’t let negative thinking about yourself and your own self beliefs stop you from doing something. We are very good at taking our own inner voices and portraying them as someone else’s possible judgement or thinking. Recognise when you have those kinds of thoughts. Are they rational or logical? If not just do what you want to do. Once you have done it once then we get used to doing something. The next time those intrusive thoughts do not last so long and so on and so on until we don’t think about it anymore. It’s just that when it is a new thought, the primitive brain does not recognise it, so it goes into Fight, Flight and Freeze mode.
Take time for Rest and Relaxation. Imposter syndrome can mean we push ourselves to work harder and harder as we think we must prove ourselves. Downtime is not possible!! We must work to succeed. Hobbies and Passions can be forgotten. However, we need to take time out for ourselves. By looking after ourselves and doing what makes us happy, is not selfish but needed as the more we do this the more we will have to give to others. The more efficient we will be at getting things done. By taking time to do the things we love we will keep our stress levels and down and cope with our imposter thoughts!
Make sure we judge ourselves in the right way. It easy to fall into the trap of looking for external validation. BUT who is the most important person to give you validation….? ITS YOURSELF!! Learn to thrive on personal validation. Learn to take feedback as constructive and not personally. You have a choice to only take on the feedback you feel is relevant to your improvement. Think about using Affirmations to help grow your ability to think positively about yourself or list off your accomplishments.
We are not always good at something straight away. To Judge yourself on how easy you have found something and how quickly you have done it is futile. How many times do we hear that someone “is a natural” but how much time do they spend practicing? There is a book I have read with my children called “I am Awesome” by Matthew Syed. It is fab, as it talks about having a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. It mentions loads of famous or inspirational people and how they practiced and worked hard to achieve their goal. They made mistakes but dealt with them and found solutions and moved on. Its all in how they saw themselves.
See yourself as a work in progress. After all, doesn’t accomplishment involve lifelong learning. How often do you say? “well I have learnt something new” as a joke. in truth, we are always learning, improving and doing things differently. With the skills I teach my clients we also discuss the understanding that in 2 years they will better at something than they are now, and they are currently better at it than they were 2 years ago. Therefore, remember it is baby steps, and rationalise the thoughts. Do I like the way I feel? How do I want to feel and what do I need to achieve it?
Don’t waste time beating yourself up, take time out of your day and use it more effectively. Identify specific actions. What could you do differently next time? What would you need to change? What tasks or behaviours? BUT also recognise when things were out of your control, maybe on reflection there were things you couldn’t have changed as you didn’t have control over them. You need to accept that and move on.
It is much more productive to look at the thing you want to achieve differently. And use your time to practice rather than shy away from it as you think you are not that good at it. You will not get good at something or get confidence and then do something. You must do something to become good or gain confidence.
Ask for help – It takes more strength and may feel like you are a phony and not capable but actually great things come out of collaborations. Getting someone else’s views on things can make things clearer for ourselves. We may decide to go in another direction to the one they suggest, but we will be more confident that it is the right direction for us. The one thing I can miss from working in a big company is the team and everything that came with it, the support, advice and feedback on how to make something better. If you think about when you have worked as team in the past, I expect you will find that you probably didn’t have as many doubts and actions got done. Whether this is due to have accountability to someone one or if we are just felt more confident with our choices as we have collaborated it doesn’t matter. I also guarantee that if anyone asked you for helped, you would not judge them, but you would help them if you could!
So, take note on how often you ask for help, advice or feedback from a trusted person. If you don’t, what’s stopping you? I suppose I view it as not meaning I am rubbish, but I am using people I consider to be an expert in something to run ideas by. I work closely with my supervisor to get advice and guidance when needed. I learn from peers around me so I can always provide the best for my clients.
Sharing your knowledge to help other is another great way to help you realise that the imposter feeling is the fraudulent feeling. The more people you help or impart your knowledge the more you can begin to accept and celebrate your capabilities.
Take time to look at yourself – Finally what do you need to improve your own confidence? Work to become an expert in yourself. Perfectionism plays a big role so we need to confront deeply ingrained beliefs, share your feelings otherwise they may fester.
So, is my expert shining through and has my imposter disappeared? I think so! When we moved from Bristol, my stress levels were up, something that is to be expected but, I jumped in with both feet. I didn’t always feel confident or like I belonged, but I chose to ignore those thoughts. I focused on the here and now and what I could do, rather than getting lost in the thoughts. I mentioned it to a few people around me, by bringing it out in the open people reassured me and the thoughts went away. Basically, I wrote my own story rather than letting the imposter write the story.
If anything I have mentioned rings bells, get in touch via my Facebook page or give me a call on 07801 481724. We can have a chat and book in a free initial consultation. xx