Manage the Voice before it manages YOU!

As you know I love my job and can’t imagine ever doing anything else.  It can be a little overwhelming at times with peaks and troughs of work, ever growing ‘to do’ lists and jobs that slot in the diary at the last minute but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.  I love researching latest thinking and creating materials to help my clients achieve amazing outcomes.  And of course, I love the actual time I spend with each and every client as there’s always some two way learning.

Funnily enough though, there are some days when I get niggling doubts about whether I’m the right person to do what I do.  One of my values is about being competent and this can allow my self-talk to raise its head and have a conversation with me.  Someone posted recently on Facebook that they call it having a meeting with themselves, which I suppose it is.  The conversations are great when they’re positive.  You know the ones, when Tigger pops into your life and you feel invincible and able to achieve anything you put your mind to.  But then there are those where you are more prone to hear the self-defeating voice – good old Eeyore, who tells you someone is bound to find out soon that you’re not the amazing talent everyone thinks you are.  When we allow this voice to take a hold on us, it’s called the Imposter Syndrome.  Studies suggest that 70% of us suffer from it at some point in our careers.  It makes us feel inferior to those around us, questions our abilities and often makes us procrastinate and put things off.  Lou Tice said that ‘we must control our self-talk or it will control us’ and it is true.  If we don’t control it, it limits our potential.

The reason I wanted to use this subject in my newsletter is because Imposter Syndrome isn’t a stranger to me.  In the past, I may have let it live in my head rent free for a while allowing me to procrastinate and perhaps not speak up for what I believe in.  However, when I started to be aware of it quite recently I decided to deal with it differently and have come up with some helpful tips.  I decided to be an observer in the process and instead of being emotional about it, to coach myself to be more logical and rational.  By detaching from the feelings and understanding the vulnerability I was able to put some realistic steps in place to combat it.

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been doing much more coaching recently or whether it comes down to some of the wonderful books I’ve been reading such as Dare to Lead by Brene Brown and Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni, but it’s really helped me to be more aware of my triggers and focus on what I can do in situations like this.  Here’s what I found:

How does Imposter Syndrome manifest itself in me?


I tell myself I have to be Superwoman ie someone who can achieve anything I set myself out to do.  This can range from making my own bread, birthday and Christmas cards, keeping a nice home and garden as well as being a caring partner, friend, auntie, daughter and of course being the ‘go to’ business woman for all people development skills in the area.  And on top of this, it’s all got to be perfect!  No pressure then 😉
When is Imposter Syndrome triggered

in me?

Often when I’m surrounded by highly intelligent people or high achievers who have accreditation as a badge of their success

Where I feel out of my depth ie that I may be unable to contribute at the same level and any question I ask is perceived as a ‘daft’ one.

Being challenged on things I do competently when I do them without having to think about it … that unconsciously competent zone.

These are some of the self-limiting beliefs I’ve heard myself say … A lot of my learning has been self-taught so I don’t have the accreditation (badge) for all my work.  (I selectively forget that 25 years plus experience stands for anything!)

Beating myself up eg if I was more organised, I could do it all.

This doesn’t feel right, but I’ll ride with it for a while and see how things pan out.  (Not linking into either my intuition or values because I’m trying to please all of the people).

I can’t even start to describe how to do this activity as it’s just integral to who I am

I’ve noticed that I set myself up for disappointment by …


Too many things on my ‘to do’ list and not being realistic about the time it takes to do some activities.

Allowing one piece of negative feedback to register with me rather than listening to the positivity of the majority.

Being a people pleaser.

Seeing work as a chore rather than something that excites me and makes me happy.

Expecting work to be 100% perfect all of the time which allows for continual tweaking

What helps me to be the best version of myself? Give myself permission to have self-doubt and then understand the reasons for my vulnerabilities.  Set about creating an action plan for each element to make sure I focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

Work backwards from a timescale, adding specific time to work on a task in my diary rather than expecting to miraculously fit it in.  This also helps me to have a better understanding of how much time I do actually spend on preparation of work for clients.

Linked to the last point.  Approximate how long something will take and then give myself an additional 20%.  It stops me beating myself up, if something takes longer than I initially thought!

Use all feedback including mistakes as a constant source of areas for improvement, if I choose to listen.  Recognise that some people don’t give feedback to be helpful, so don’t take it personally, see it as a way of improving the process.

Live my values rather than talking about them and prioritise what’s important to me.  There’s been time in the past when I’ve not spoken up for something that is precious to me.  If I’m doing something that doesn’t link to my values, I’m not going to be giving it 100% of my time and attention, so it’s better that I’m upfront and have the chat about it before it becomes a problem.

Which probably leads into the next point of saying ‘no!’ more often.  Although I recognise I’m a people pleaser, there are times when it’s just not possible to add more into the day or evening without me feeling exhausted which means I’m no good to anyone.  Prioritise the activities that are helping you to achieve your goals for work and leisure and make sure you have a healthy smattering of ‘nice to do’ included on your list!

Speak to others about your vulnerabilities … they say a problem shared is a problem halved?  You may find out they have a better way of dealing with it.  I’ll never forget sharing how destructive my self-talk was being with a colleague.  They asked me if I’d speak to a friend in the same way?  It was a light bulb moment for me and stopped me being so tough on myself.

Recognising that accreditation is a small element of being able to do what you set out to do.  It’s the way you bring that learning to life and use it to help others be the best versions of themselves that is the really important part and that’s the part I love.

And finally, at the end of each day, I look at my list and write down what I’m most proud of achieving as sometimes, it’s not about the length of time spent on something but the quality of the output that makes me feel happiest!

So my learning?  Through being an observer, I’ve realised that the imposter doesn’t have the strength it thinks it has.  It’s a voice that needs silencing so that I can get the best out of every situation.  I need to acknowledge it and by carrying out some of the activities above I will continually help myself to achieve more.  I do like challenge in my life as long as I have the support mechanisms too.  And if I’m feeling a little nervous about the company I’m keeping, I’ve a great quote from James Watson that makes me smile.  He says that “if you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room!” and this quote really helps me to recognise that without challenge there’s no learning and if we stayed in our comfort zone there’d be no challenge.  After all didn’t someone else say that 10% is what happens to us and the other 90% is how we respond?!

There’s also another side of the story that perhaps I’ll delve into another time.  When we’re being emotionally intelligent, we’re both self-aware and aware of others.  If we see some of the Imposter Syndrome traits rising in others, we need to find ways to bring these people into the fold and make them feel a valued part of the team.  When we have a sense of belonging, we are much more likely to ask for help.  I’ve been rereading Winnie the Pooh recently and loved this quote which I think fits really nicely.  “When you are a bear of very little brain, and you think of things, you find sometimes that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”  Sharing can make all the difference!!

I hope you’ve found this interesting and if you’d like to see a little more, I’ve embedded a short video here from Elizabeth Cox TEDx talk about Imposter Syndrome.

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