I spoke a fair amount about Impostor Syndrome in the last few weeks, so I thought I would just address it upfront and bring it here. I will share it as an experience and a few learnings along the way. The truth is, with impostor syndrome, I fear I will be learning throughout life.
The most recent attack
I was last attacked by impostor syndrome 2 weeks ago when I launched my Make Space for Growth podcast. The day before recording I could not focus, and whilst I was not constantly thinking about it, I felt edgy and uncertain. I kept on practising my accent and considered getting classes. Yes, that bad. I kept on doing stuff and not doing very much! At some point I could put a name to it. I am afraid.
After all, I started this blog out of my passion for writing and growth all in one. That did not include public speaking or podcasting. There was a lot to be afraid of. Afraid of making a fool of myself as an interviewer. And afraid of letting my interviewee down. Afraid of finding out no-one wanted to hear this podcast. There was a lot to be afraid of, even though truth be said, there was not a lot that could be done for this sort of non-constructive criticism. It was pointless.
There were 3 things that worked for me as I prepared to take a leap in something completely unknown. I try these as well in more contained situations where I face uncertainty about my self-worth.
As I have learnt in my therapy, you have to acknowledge what you are feeling. Rather than finding or pretending like something is just “fine”, I now seek to put a name to what is happening. So what did happen?
When I launch new things, I tend to do them individually and without (too) much thought. For someone that does not always like decision making, some of my movements in the writing space have been bolder than expected. This is a mix of i) being to embarrassed to ask people and finding out they think it is stupid and ii) knowing in my gut that a certain way is the best course of action for me. It is not right or wrong, but instinct has often proved well in the past.
With the podcast, I asked different people for opinion, explaining to them in advance why this idea made no sense. My key argument was time constraints, which as we know is very valid for someone like me. But it turned out no-one believed me. So when I got to the end of those discussions, I was in the same place (launching) but perhaps a little bit more re-assured by people’s vote of confidence. I figured at least they would listen, if no-one else!
This was completely uncharted territory for me. I had no background evidence in anything that I have done before that would show me I could do a podcast. I had no experience, no training, no equipment. So my brain had a hard time assimilating. Which is why it was important to admit to myself I was afraid. If you welcome these feelings, they will do less harm to you elsewhere. You don’t need to like it. Just to embrace what you feel.
So as I went to bed on Sunday night, the day before recording, with a knot in my stomach and my brain running at full speed, I finally turned to Hubby B and said it out loud.
“I am having a massive impostor syndrome crisis”.
As he could not quite grasp what I was talking about, I started reading out to him all the things that could go wrong. Like how I knew nothing about interviewing Or how I was afraid no-one wanted to hear it. Or even how I did not like my accent anymore.
Hubby B could barely believe the sort of things I was saying about myself. Each time I gave him an argument he argued back. Had I not recently done an interview live to more than 400 people? How different would this be from just another nice chat with someone? What was I so afraid of.
The conversation did not address any practical solutions, but it certainly eased my mind. It allowed me to move on to the next step.
Doing stuff is what is more effective for me in getting my focus back. Firstly, it allows me to avoid the distractions of a wondering mind. By making my way through my to-do list, I can just have my mind busy and make very little space for its constructive destructive side. Furthermore, the main benefit I draw out of getting stuff done is that it makes me feel confident. By bringing myself back to my comfort zone of efficacy, I can believe again that I can do stuff. I don’t need to be repeating any mantras to self (though I am sure that would help if I knew how to do it). I also don’t need to be manually connecting it on the brain. The boost in self-achievement is usually sufficient to quickly get me out of procrastination mode and just get on with it in an automated fashion.
Get on with it
These 3 strategies take me to the last bit I wanted to share today. All these strategies work in a non-exclusive but also non-dependant area. The final step is to actually get on with it, get on with whatever you are afraid of. Whether you have gotten rid of the fear or not, the most important thing will be that you commit to jumping. Don’t look down from the edge. If you are like me, you have tried to minimize every possible thing that can go wrong, and you have also calculated every possibility. So just jump and enjoy while you watch impostor syndrome breaking into pieces below your somewhat trembling knees.