Back in my corporate career, I would fly out to our headquarters in the US every other month and face the risk committee made by C-level executives, the CFO, Chief Treasurer, CRO and others, to present the consolidated risk exposure of the entire multi-billion-dollar company.
This was right after the huge 2011 market crash, our company just started mapping our overall risk exposure and the numbers were new and high. You can imagine temperature in the room...
I was the youngest in the room, as a matter of fact, even in the team. But high exposure positions and being the youngest were the case with most of my jobs and subsequently my feeling of inadequacy. Feeling like an impostor is a story of my life.
How did I know I 'had' impostor syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments (*)
In my case, success was rarely satisfying because I always felt like I could’ve done even better.
Feeling like an impostor amongst my colleagues and now peers and competitors I'd push myself to work harder and harder to measure up (hello history of burnouts!).
I'd set my internal bar impossibly high and then judge myself based on how quickly and easily did I get it right.
And of course, the undying belief that I will never know enough, and I will be eventually 'exposed' as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.
When I started consulting it all got even worse.
Consulting and impostor syndrome
See, when you are in a job, there is a hiring process first, there is someone who decides that you are right for the job, then you get a scope of work and a mandate. Whether you see it or not, you are empowered.
When you are a consultant, you are a self-proclaimed specialist. You create your own job, you convince the client you are his person and then, you do the best to deliver. Your client doesn't owe you anything, there is no mandate that implies that he needs to work with you. It's all about you being the best match for his needs.
But are you?
How do you know?
You are still learning.
There are probably even better options out there. Cheaper ones? Faster? Smarter? More experienced..?
It's all blurry, there is a ton of competition and they all are impressive. Deep down you just feel like a fraud.
I am conscious of the impostor issue I have, which by itself helps me already to address it better.
I came to realize that I combine 4 out of 5 impostor types as defined by Dr. Valerie Young, the expert on the subject.
So how to feel less like an impostor?
ok Alena, so cut to the chase... What do you do to feel less like an impostor?
I need a proof. A tangible proof. I measure.
During his speech, Chris Do once said something that really stuck with me (he generally has great stuff, you should check him out):
One successful mission means nothing.
Two successful missions can be a coincidence.
Three successful missions is a trend.
This helped me tremendously with my confidence in consulting. I do have a great track record. I do have stories to show that trend. In consulting the results are imminent, it's easy to see.
But what about coaching ?
When I created and launched my coaching program I was extremely self-concious and self-doubtful.
I knew the amount of work, dedication and intent I put into my work with clients. But how well is it translating into value for my clients? Am I really good at what I do or is it just my wishful thinking?
It's hard to be confident when you start and don't have a line of happy clients yet.
Hoping and guessing gets me nowhere so I created a process to measure.
A process that helps me measure my competency and build my confidence:
You can't improve what you don't measure.
Every client entering my coaching program goes through an on-boarding self-assessment where they rate their ability/ease or application of topics and concepts that are then covered in the coaching program.
Things like vision, mission, target audience, ideal client, offer, pricing, mindset, selling skills, etc...
At the end of the program, they go through the very same self-assessment questions and the progress, or the lack of it, is there. Measurable and obvious. It's a clear indicator of how well I have coached them, taught them, guided them.
This is my way of overcoming impostor syndrome. I eliminate self-doubt by keeping a hard evidence that I am in the right place and on the right track.
I can remind myself, bring myself up when times get tough.
I don't think that the impostor syndrom can go completely away but having a coping mechanism helps me dramatically.
Hope you had some take-aways from this post, that can help you with your confidence and self-doubt,
Don't forget to hit like, to kick my little impostor persona to her butt. Obviously, she didn't want me to write this article and found it boring and useless anywayyy.