When you’re in a meeting with leaders, at a Town Hall, or even in a new project kick-off, do you struggle with speaking up and sharing your ideas?
If so, you’re not alone.
Do you question if you really belong at the leadership table or if you’re even a leader at all?
You’re not alone.
Do you doubt yourself and wonder if someone will suddenly realize you’re not that great?
You’re not alone.
These are normal thoughts that most people have (more than 70% of the population) at least once.
The problem is, is that these thoughts are connected to the things you do or don’t do at work.
And it can derail your career and stop you from achieving what you are capable of.
In this week’s episode of Navigating Your Career, I am talking imposter syndrome.
What it looks like when you have it.
How it holds you back.
How to overcome it.
What You’ll Learn
How to know if imposter syndrome is holding you back in your career
My controversial perspective on imposter syndrome
How to cure imposter syndrome in 3 steps
Featured in This Episode
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills, and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence. Let’s get started.
Hello, and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. At the time that I’m recording this, I just got back from visiting my inlaws in upstate New York. They have a dairy farm. And I just have to say it was a lot of fun. Between the barn cats and the cows, the baby kittens that were just born, the four wheelers, it was just a totally different experience than my children have on the day to day living in a suburb of Washington, DC. And for those that know a little bit more about me, you might know that I’m from Wisconsin, and this dairy farm that my inlaws have is really, I think how a lot of people that met me after I moved out to the Washington, DC, area imagined my childhood was growing up on a dairy farm. They don’t necessarily picture that in upstate New York, where my in laws are. So that’s really fun that my children have this experience now. And it just really got me thinking about how different we all think based on our experiences, the place you grow up, the experiences you have, the caregivers influencers around you, it all shapes how you think about the world and how you think about yourself.
So one of my children’s cousins is twelve, which is the same age as my daughter. And she works in a barn. She drives a four Wheeler by herself. And really her six year old little brother has a mini little four Wheeler thing. He was driving my 15 year old son in, which was pretty funny to see. So the autonomy that they have and the risk that they manage is totally different. And my inlaws were reassuring me that my children would be okay as I looked on, as they drove these vehicles by themselves beyond where I could see over the farmland to a Creek. And they had the best time. So if you took our family that is growing up on a farm and you plopped them into the DC area where we live, they would have to adjust. Just like my kids. My kids know how to handle themselves in crowds. For example, we’re out in the country. You don’t have to deal with 1000 people all trying to do the same thing or go to the same place as you. There’s no Beltway or Metro. They have friends and family that look different, that speak different languages or even from different native countries.
But out on the farm, there isn’t a whole lot of diversity. And I always joke that when my family goes to visit our inlaws, we bring all of the diversity with us. So what does this have to do with today’s topic? Well, Imposter Syndrome is a feeling that you don’t belong, where you doubt your achievements and you question your value. And these beliefs about yourself are universal and can impact you. Whether you grew up on a farm or you grew up in a big city, our life experiences are so different. None of us have had the exact same experience. Even siblings have different memories and experiences than each other who even grew up in the same home with the same influences and environment. The way we each experience our life is different. I have a sister that I grew up with, and there’s certain things in our lives that we remember very differently. And some of that is the different age. Some of that is just the way that we uniquely viewed a certain situation, the way that our brains work. It’s really quite fascinating. So regardless of where and how you grew up, research suggests that 70% or more of professionals experience Imposter Syndrome, at least at one point in their career.
And I want you to know that this isn’t a bad thing. Over the last few years, even though Imposter Syndrome is experienced by all genders and identities, it’s been labeled more so as an issue for women. And the trend that I’m seeing is that many women are labeling themselves as having Imposter Syndrome and using it as almost a way to stay small. Like, I have Impostor Syndrome, and I’m working on it. So that is why I’m not at the level that I want to be at, or I’m seeing leaders or HR professionals give feedback that the person has Impostor Syndrome as a reason for not moving a person into a role that they really are ready and qualified for. So I want to really talk about this because my perspective on Imposter Syndrome is different than what you might have heard before. I actually wrote an article for Forbes about a year ago on this topic and some steps that will cure Imposter Syndrome. So we’re going to build on those steps a little bit today. And I’ll also link the article in the show notes for those of you that want to check that out.
So my thoughts on Impostor Syndrome is that it really is a good thing. The reason that you may identify as having Imposter Syndrome, and we’ll talk about what that looks like is that your brain just hasn’t caught up to the growth that you’ve achieved. You are successful, you’ve worked hard to get where you are today. When you find yourself struggling to speak up in meetings or moving into a new leadership role and comparing yourself to others, wondering if you’ll measure up questioning your belongings. This is typical brain behavior your brain is offering you doubt in an effort to protect you. Your brain wants you to be comfortable, to make things easy for you, and to avoid pain. So any perceived threat, real or not, your brain is going to be like, hey, wait a minute. This isn’t where you belong. Are you sure you want to speak up? Maybe think twice about it? Let’s think on that one a little bit longer before raising our hand. But remember, you didn’t fool anyone to get where you are. You didn’t pull one over. A lot of my clients have this fear of being found out that someone will suddenly realize they aren’t as good as they thought they were.
That in comparison to others, they just don’t have what it takes that they aren’t as impressive. So if this is you, you’re not alone. Most people experience this from time to time, and you might even experience it multiple times. As you reach new levels of growth and visibility in your career, your brain just needs to catch up to the success that you’ve created. So let’s talk about how to speed this process up so that you can feel better and get even better results in your career over time. So I want to share some examples with you so you can identify if this is something that you might be struggling with. So Imposter Syndrome can look like not speaking up at meetings, doubting your opinion and expertise, dismissing your accomplishments, looking to others to validate your opinions, not wanting to be too seen, maybe sitting in the middle or back of meetings at a town hall, assuming others in the room know more than you, questioning if you have the skills to be effective and having a fear of being found out. So those are just some of the ways that Imposter Syndrome can show up.
And if you resonate with one or more of these experiences, this is likely just because your brain hasn’t caught up to what you’ve achieved. When I work with my clients one on one, we really get into what life experiences contribute to this so that they know the why. And then we look at how this is feeding into your current behaviors, the way that you feel about yourself and your work and the results that you have right now. We then look at the results you want to have, and I show you how to rewire your thought pattern so that your default thinking isn’t just to sit in the back or wait until the perfect time to offer your thoughts or influence effectively with that new senior leader or person that you’re working with. Then you go out and you practice. We evaluate and I coach you on what happened and why, and you keep taking action to get the result you really want. It’s really training your brain not to be scared and to catch up to where you are and to be okay with the big things that you’re going to achieve. And when you hear retrain your brain or rewire your thought patterns, you might think, well, what is that?
And it actually is very simple. There’s a tool that I use that teaches you very clearly how to build awareness and your own thought patterns and how to shift them to whatever result you want to create. It’s actually very simple. But right now I can share a strategy that you can use to overcome imposter syndrome. And so we’re going to talk about three different steps that you can take and why. The first is to be aware of how you feel the next time you feel like you don’t belong and you might be struggling with imposter syndrome. Write it down. Write down the situation that triggered the feeling, the thoughts you have about yourself and others in that situation and what you did as a result. Or maybe what you didn’t do. If, for example, you want to speak up in a meeting and you had an idea, but you didn’t speak up because you thought your colleagues didn’t want to hear what you had to say and you felt frustrated and maybe not valued your action or inaction is that you didn’t speak up. And instead, maybe you checked your email on your phone to pass time.
So be aware of what is in your control and the behavior that you are taking and if it’s really aligned with the results you want to have. Because in that type of an example, you had an idea, but your thoughts and feelings about it prevented you from speaking up. And so what people see is you on your phone, maybe not engaged and maybe not having an idea or not wanting to participate, right? Which isn’t the outcome you want to have. Number two is to separate the facts from the story. I’m sure you’ve heard of the telephone game where someone says something to someone and then they tell another and another, and by the time you get to the end, the message is totally different from how it started. This is similar to what your brain does. Something happens and you filter it through all of those beliefs and experiences you’ve had. And as a result, your brain distorts and deletes relevant information to align with what you think to be true most often. So if, for example, you think that your boss doesn’t support you when something happens with your boss and you don’t get the outcome you want, you will see all of the ways that they don’t support you and dismiss some of the ways that they do.
Number three is to identify any patterns. So are there specific people, meetings or projects that trigger you feeling like an imposter or that you don’t belong? If so, take note and then problem solve to what outcome you want to have. And look at your contribution to the situation. Look at how you might be holding yourself back, the thoughts and feelings you’re having about the situation, and what you can do to get a different result. And remember, imposter syndrome isn’t a bad thing. This is just normal brain behavior. I really want this to be normalized because when we are able to normalize the things that we are critical about with ourselves or put ourselves down for, you feel so much better knowing it’s not just you. And then you can get to problem solving it. So there are the three steps that you can take to diagnose, to problem solve, and to take different action so that you can overcome Imposter Syndrome or some of these feelings and thoughts of doubt. So keep in mind that this is going to take practice. You are literally changing your brain’s default way of operating. It is doable 100% that’s.
One of the things I help my clients with is knowing how to spot when they’re holding themselves back and how to overcome the doubt so it doesn’t stop them from standing out as a leader and having the impact that they desire. And when you’re able to change this for yourself to overcome the doubt, the Imposter syndrome, it changes the entire trajectory of your career. Imagine what you will do differently when you don’t doubt yourself, when you share your brilliant ideas, when you are even more visible in making a bigger impact than you are right now. Imagine not only what you will achieve, but how you will feel about yourself, what you will role model for other women, for your own family and friends. One of my clients is just wrapping up six months of working with me one on one. And the way she thinks about herself, her work, her family is totally different. She actually had physical symptoms of stress that are no longer present. She no longer questions if she belongs or fears the past repeating itself or making the wrong choice. And as a result of this change and the work she has done, she has been rewarded in her career, with her position and with her salary, even though she was just promoted.
So she says she feels like a new and improved version of herself, that her marriage is even better. Even though we haven’t ever coached on her marriage. It’s all in how she’s viewing herself and the other people. So this work that you will do to overcome this just has a ripple effect. And it’s just going to change the way that you see yourself in your career. And as a result, you are going to take different action and you are going to get different results. So I hope you walk away from today’s episode knowing that there isn’t anything wrong with you, that Imposter Syndrome isn’t a bad label. It’s actually a positive sign of your growth and you can 100% overcome it. Use the three steps I provided here today and if you want to really expedite your results, I invite you to explore one on one coaching with me. It is the fastest and most effective way to skyrocket your growth in your career. So I will share a link in the show notes so you can learn more and take your next step. Have an incredible week.
Coaching with me is the best way to guarantee you get happy at work and achieve your career and life goals. Getting started is easy. Head over to www.melissamlawrence.com to learn more and apply it is the first step to get you from feeling stuck to knowing exactly what you want and have the tools to make it a reality. I will be by yourself side the entire way.