It is April. The British weather brought April showers early. I wonder if any of you were soaked to the skin as I was? Hair dripping down my neck and a complete change of clothes when I reached home. Let’s hope that Easter will be bright and sunny for all those Easter egg hunts.
I wonder if you have started on the Easter chocolate already?
So, what am I thinking about?
It has been a really strange month with imposter syndrome coming at me from every direction.
It started with Tim Peake. I went to hear him speak about his journey into space. You could have heard a pin drop in the theatre. which was full of boys of all ages desperate to be him and a sprinkling of woman who wanted to be Helen Sharman. It was a riveting evening: full of photographs, film and authentic noise. In the middle of it was this man who seems to think he is ordinary, was in the right place at the right time and puts his selection as a test pilot and then an astronaut down to being a good team player. Nothing special, anyone could do it, my fellow team members were all better than me. I could write a whole thought about that.
A few days later I was watching Dala Masilo and her dance company performing The Sacrifice and then doing a Q&A. If you have never heard of this amazing South African dancer and choreographer have look at her work on YouTube. Again, the theatre was stunned into silence by an extraordinary performance not just by her but the whole company and musicians. Again, the responses from the people involved were modest and a bit overwhelmed by the adoration. Again, their story was that it is a team effort and could go wrong at any time.
We know how they felt. Most of us receive praise in the same way. We are a bit overwhelmed and then there are a range of feelings like “anyone could do it..” “If only you really knew..” “I was just lucky…” “I will get found out soon..” We do not believe we are anything special. We forget we each have unique talents. We forget all the hard work that went into developing the talent and building the skill. We forget the 10,000 hours or practice needed for us to look lucky. We forget that not everyone has our aptitude or the inclination to do all that studying after work, or the courage to take the risk of stepping outside our comfort zone and making ourselves really vulnerable; or the motivation to do something new and stretch ourselves.
This week I have been at both ends of the spectrum.
In one case I have been trying to help a person who was made redundant and is looking for a new job They are understandably upset and anxious. They approached me to help but keep telling me “I am too meagre for you to bother with”. No one is meagre in my world and this person certainly isn’t but they read my LinkedIn profile and heard me speak at an event that involved the tale of my career. They think I am better than them and will look down on them. The truth is that they had stuff happen to them in the past which made them vulnerable to that voice inside that says “you are rubbish”. At the moment they believe it. We have all experienced that. The trouble is I am making them feel like this. So, I have to help them understand the truth.
At the moment I am doing a load of stuff in the charity world. One thing is a programme of events through the next six months and I have an amazing steering group to help me. I volunteered for that. The other is a major initiative that just fell into my lap.
In both cases this week has been particularly awful; things have not been going as I would want. At 3am, awake yet again worrying, I am convinced I have bitten off more than I can chew. When I feel like this: inadequate and uncertain I can make things happen, I ignore everything I tell my clients. Instead, I brood. I listen to and believe the gremlin. I punish myself for taking the tasks on. I live on sugar. I lose my sense of humour. I am scratchy and easily angered. I ignore all those encouraging voices that remind me I can do all this.
I advise all my clients to keep a physical or virtual folder that details all their skills, achievements and all the emails, notes and cards telling them they are amazing. Have I looked at my folder? Of course not. It is so much easier to ignore the evidence and think it is all fluke.
So don’t do as I do, do as I say! If you are going though a patch like this get out the folder, or start one. Talk to your friends and let them remind you when you did stuff very successfully. Stop listening to that gremlin comes to visit uninvited at 3am and make your life a misery. Who you are and what you are is evidenced in so many ways. Look at those. And reach out for the help you need to work through this immediate attack of imposter syndrome. You can get past it, and you will.
If this is you. If you want help to get your self-esteem back into balance and get through a tricky situation; someone who understands how hard it can be; then let’s talk about mentoring; having a supporter to help you look at the evidence, unpick the challenges and craft a plan to come through them effectively; why not give me a call. We can talk about your business and what you want from it and your life. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. I hope you will be one of them.