Chris believes that changing the language we use can help reframe our imposter feelings.
People talk about imposter syndrome like it’s common language, but it’s a very personal feeling. For me, it’s when I suddenly feel like the least qualified person in the room, or it starts to sink in that I don’t feel fully qualified to make the decision.
I don’t like using the word syndrome. A syndrome assumes that I’ve got an illness. It’s chronic. It’s going to be with me forever. Whereas in reality, as soon as I move away from the situation, chances are that those imposter feelings are going to subside or at least reduce. So, it can’t be a syndrome. With clients, I call it an imposter moment because it starts to take the sting out of the tail. It’s not got us, we’ve got it. And when we’ve got it, we can do something about it because we come first.
When we start chatting with people, imposter moments are immensely common. More people than not, at moments in time, feel like an imposter.
When we don’t have those imposter moments and we make mistakes, we can just laugh it off.
In our confident mindset, we expect failure and mistakes to happen, but we shrug them off and learn from them. However, when an imposter moment kicks in, we can feel like a failure.
When this happens, I ask myself three key questions:
1. Is what I’m thinking completely truthful?
2. Is it kind?
3. Is it helpful?
I’ve never had an imposter moment that was helpful. Once I pass it through those three check-in questions, I arrive at a place where I settle myself down and consider that if it’s not truthful, not kind and not helpful, why am I thinking it?
I often pause, sit down, and think about, ‘Why am I having this thought?’ There’s a chance that there’s something missing, or a part of my preparation’s making me worry. I find this hugely helpful.
Often, most of us don’t pause and think. We believe that we’re the only one in the room thinking this and we need to do something about it, so we cover it up in some shape or form. Having that self-awareness is one of the critical key skills to progress in our career, rather than believing we must keep up an appearance that can be ego-driven. It’s vital that in those imposter moments, we step away from that ego and ask ourselves those three check-in questions.
Where does our support come from when we have these imposter moments? I think mentally and physically, we need to care for ourselves a bit more and accept that developing our self-care can be a huge part of eradicating imposter moments.
In my coaching experience, I’ve often found the higher-up in a company a person is, the more isolated the role tends to make them, and they spend more time making decisions by themselves and feeling like an imposter. I always chat with them about the three check-in questions, building their self-awareness, and having a mechanism in place so they regularly communicate with their teams on decisions.
There are numerous TED Talks on imposter moments and Elizabeth Cox’s summary on the psychology behind the imposter syndrome is a great watch.
Even now when I’m on stage with a microphone in my hand, I have those moments of, ‘Where’s the fire exit? Where can I run to?’ My background is sports and people often have shinier medals, better performances and have achieved much more than I have. But, in that moment, I’m being employed to stand up and speak because I can convey my message as well as anybody else. That’s what gives me that confidence to grab the microphone and go for it.
As my granddad used to say to me, “Just step forward. Just keep stepping forward.”