Do you suffer from IMPOSTER SYNDROME? Most of us do! Learn exactly what imposter syndrome is, how to avoid or alleviate imposter syndrome, and some good news: how the discourse (talk) about imposter syndrome has evolved.

Link to printable shownotes:https://www.talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes

CONTENTS

  • Summary
  • Resources
  • Transcript

SUMMARY

imposter syndrome quote tina fey - talk about talk

DEFINITION of IMPOSTER SYNDROME

  • Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes did some research on HIGH ACHIEVING WOMEN and found that many felt like frauds or posers. The term “imposter phenomenon” was born.
  • Imposter syndrome is lacking confidence, doubting your abilities, feeling like a fraud or a poser. Many people who suffer from imposter syndrome are worried that they might get identified as a fraud.

imposter syndrome quote natalie portman - talk about talk

3 ways the “imposter syndrome” discourse has shifted

  1. It turns out that EVERYONE suffers from imposter syndrome! From Natalie Portman to Bill Gates and everyone in between.
  2. The second way that the discourse has shifted is in terms of focusing LESS on improving people confidence, and MORE on changing toxic work environments. Thank goodness!
  3. The 3rd way that the imposter syndrome has shifted is the simple acknowledgement that “Confidence doesn’t equal competence.” 

imposter syndrome quote john steinbeck - talk about talk

3 things you can do to alleviate Imposter Syndrome 

Remind yourself of context

  • Also known as “get over yourself.” Everyone has imposter syndrome!
  • People might not notice that you’re nervous!
  • And as Dave Jackson reminds us, You don’t need to be world’s greatest expert.

Shift the focus to your UNIQUE strength.

  • Lean in to your superpower and your personal brand.

Try some confidence hacks

  • Start with The 4 P’s of Preparing to communicate with confidence: practice proverb, pep talk and pirate. Practice, as in rehearsing? Proverb as in adopting a mantra, pep talk, as in getting a friend or a trusted colleague to give you a pep talk and boost your confidence. And pirate, as in copying or emulating someone else’s confidence

imposter syndrome quote maya angelou - talk about talk


RESOURCES

IMPOSTER SYNDROME

Dr. Andrea Wojnicki & Talk About Talk


TRANSCRIPT

Do you ever have one if those moments when you think: Oh dear.  I don’t belong here.  I’m not smart enough. I’m underqualified.  I’m going to screw this up. I better keep my mouth shut or they’re gonna find out I’m a fraud. 

It could be when you’re in an important meeting.  Or maybe when you’re walking out on stage. Or maybe it’s when you’re deciding whether to apply for a new job. 

It’s called IMPOSTER SYNDROME. And today we’re going to help you overcome that feeling.

For starters, we’re ALL imposters.  Every single one of us.

Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).

 

Whether you’re an ambitious executive, looking to catapult your career by improving your communication skills, or you have a strong growth mindset – you’re always looking to learn and improve your communication skills.  Or perhaps both?  Well, you’re in the right place. 

 

At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication-skills-topics like personal branding, confidence, and networking. This is the critically important stuff they don’t teach you in school. It’s what takes you from a B+ to an A+ in whatever it is you do.  And if you check out the TalkAboutTalk.com website, you’ll find online corporate training, 1-on-1 coaching with me, online courses, the free weekly communication-skills newsletter, and, of course, the archive of this bi-weekly podcast. I really hope you’ll go to the website and sign up for the free weekly communication skills training newsletter. But you can choose what works for you !

 

Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 83!  In this episode, we talk all about imposter syndrome.  You know, when you walk into a meeting, or you start a new job.  Or maybe you’re starting your first day at university.  Whatever the context, you feel like an imposter.  A fraud.  Uncomfortable.  And your confidence, well, it’s lacking.  That’s what we’re talking about today. I’m going to define it for you, then we’ll talk about 3 ways that the discourse, the TALK around imposter syndrome has evolved, and then I’m going to take you through 3 ways to combat imposter syndrome.  You certainly CAN avoid this feeling.  We’re going to go through some strategies to help you with that.  Sound good?

 

OK – let’s get into this. As always, you don’t need to take notes, because I do that for you. I summarize everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So just keep doing whatever you’re doing – driving or walking or housework, or whatever. By the way, if you’re lying on the couch just listening, that’s cool too!

 

 Let’s start with the definition of imposter syndrome.

  • You can think of imposter syndrome as feeling like a fraud. Feeling like a poser. Doubting your abilities. Lacking confidence.
  • So where did this term come from? Well, in 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes did some research on HIGH ACHIEVING WOMEN. And guess what?!?   the term “imposter phenomenon” was born.
  • It’s important to note that research context. They were studying executives who were considered HIGH ACHIEVING. And they were focusing on WOMEN. 
  • Ever since then, people have been diagnosing “imposter syndrome”  in themselves and particularly in women.
  • Let’s break it down. There’s the IMPOSTER part.  That basically means that you feel like a poser.  Like you’re worried that you might get busted and identified as a fraud.
  • Second there’s SYNDROME. In the original research they labeled it as a phenomenon.  But it morphed to SYNDROME.  Like an illness. Something we suffer from.  Something we want to avoid.  Regardless of whether it affects our performance, it’s definitely UNPLEASANT, right?

 

So imposter syndrome is definitely a bad thing.  We want to avoid it, and if we feel it, we want to get rid of it.  But HOW?

 

Of course there’s Practice.  We CAN work on our confidence. We can think of confidence as a SKILL we can learn.  Because IT IS!!!!.  Not convinced? Well stay tuned. I’m going to  take you through:

  • 3 ways that the imposter syndrome discourse has shifted. You just might be thinking OLD SCHOOL about imposter syndrome and there might be an insight into the new way of thinking about this phenomenon that helps you. 
  • Then I’m going to share 3 things you can do to help elevate that imposter feeling. I’m really hopeful that at least one of these insights or suggestions will resonate with you and help you avoid that icky imposter feeling.

 

OK first – 3 ways that the “imposter syndrome” discourse has shifted

It turns out that EVERYONE suffers from imposter syndrome!

  1. I read recently that Natalie Portman admitted publicly that she has suffered from imposter syndrome. You probably know this, but Natalie Portman is an award winning actress who’s been in Star Wars movies, and she won that academy award for her leading role in The Black Swann.  Imposter Syndrome?  Apparently yes.  I remember years ago when I was a student at Harvard, I saw Natalie a few times in William James Hall.  That was the building where I took a lot of psychology classes.  She was there from 1999-2003.  I was there 2000-2005. We weren’t in any of the same classes, but we often ended up in the same elevator.  I remember er noting how tiny she was, and noticing how people whispered and pointed at her a lot. I kind of felt sorry for her. Fast forward to 2015, when she came back to Harvard to give a commencement speech. I watched it recently, and Natalie is humble and witty.  That speech made me admire her even more. (I’ll leave a link to the YouTube video in the shownotes). Anyway, in that speech, she admitted that when she was at Harvard, she worried she was the admission mistake (honestly, Natalie, we all worried about that!).  She said she worried that she wasn’t smart enough, and that (quote) , “every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress.”  Yes, she felt like an imposter.
  2. Back to my point. Everyone feels like an imposter.  Frankly, if you never feel like an imposter, that’s probably more of a concern!! So there’s Natalie Portman, Warren Buffet.  Michelle Obama. Bill Gates, Howard Schultz (the CEO of Starbucks),  Tina Fey. 
  3. Oh – Apparently Tina said “I’ve realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it. “ That’s funny. 
  4. There’s also Viola Davis (I LOVE her. Can’t imagine her not feeling confident.  But apparently she too feels like an imposter. 
  5. Do you get the idea here? I could go on and on and on.  Yep, including moi.  I DEFINITELY have felt imposter syndrome.  Like every single time I try something new.  Be it podcasting. Or parenting. or painting or ANYTHING. 
  6. You may notice there were men in this list. OF COURSE men also lack confidence sometimes.  That said, there’s no Q this term is more often affiliated with women.  Why?  Well, I can think of at least two good reasons: (1). The original research from which the term was coined came from a study of female executives.  And (2.) It seems that women more often suffer from a lack of confidence.  I read recently that men will typically apply for jobs when they possess a smaller fraction of the required skills to successfully perform the job. No imposter syndrome there, right?  Whereas women won’t even apply unless they get all the checkmarks.  Single. one.  Wow. Let’s think about this for a minute.  If you get every single checkmark, you’re OVERQUALIFIED.  AMIRIGHT?
  7. But back to the point here. The fact that the discourse has shifted in terms of imposter syndrome.  We now know that virtually everyone suffers from it, even men and even incredibly successful people.  So we need to get over ourselves.  We’re not that special.  At least when it comes to imposter syndrome.

The second way that the discourse has shifted is in terms of focusing LESS on improving people confidence, and MORE on changing toxic work environments.

  1. I have absolutely witnessed this. Have you? It reminds me of a social psych theory that I seem to be referencing a lot lately – ATTRIBUTION THEORY.  Basically this theory is exactly what it sounds like.    There are various contexts where we humans might attribute or blame a person versus a situation. When it comes to imposter syndrome, we used to always “blame” the person.  The person who was quote unquote suffering.  But nowadays, we might be more likely to also consider why that person feels that way, and consider how their work environment, for example, might help alleviate their feeling of being an imposter.  I hope this trend continues!  So that’s the 2nd way that the imposter syndrome has evolved.

The 3rd way that the imposter syndrome has shifted is the simple acknowledgement that “Confidence doesn’t equal competence.” 

  1. Let’s just take a step back. A few minutes ago I shared with you how the term “imposter syndrome” was coined.  Remember?  It was when two psychology academics who were researching HIGH ACHIEVING women.  High achieving.  Imposter syndrome was a common theme amongst these women.   
  2. I’m NOT saying feeling like an imposter will make you successful. But I AM saying that many successful people, MOST in fact, DO experience imposter syndrome at times.
  3. A lack of confidence doesn’t mean you won’t be successful. Simply put, confidence does not equal competence.
  4. In fact, research indicates that Overconfidence (arrogance) is inversely correlated with leadership success.  Of course it is! So be humble people. Humility can be a strength.

There you go.  3 ways that the discourse has shifted in terms of imposter syndrome.  We now acknowledge that:

  • Most of us suffer from it.
  • We should be focusing on toxic work environments, not just how individuals should overcome it
  • People with imposter syndrome can be successful. Confidence doesn’t equal competence.

 

Now, moving on to 3 things you can do: to avoid or alleviate Imposter Syndrome:

Remind yourself of context:. 

  • I like to call this one “get over yourself.” In fact, that’s what I sometimes say to myself when I’m feeling like an imposter.  “Get over yourself, Andrea!”    But how do you do that?  Well, consider your context.
  • First of all, everyone has imposter syndrome.
    • remember that list of people I shared?
    • by the way, can you guess which TAT episode is #1 in terms of all time downloads? It’s the one on CONFIDENCE.  I’ll leave a link to that episode in the shownotes.  Lots of related tips and strategies there.  But my point is that downloads don’t lie.  LOTS of people are interested in improving their confidence.  In avoiding or alleviating imposter syndrome. Furthermore, confidence is EASILY also the #1 most common Q I get from my listeners and clients/  they want to know how to appear and how to feel confident.
    • And as I shared a few minutes ago, many impressive people talk about suffering from imposter syndrome.  I would add that the MOST important, impactful, innovative people in history were ALL imposters.  They had to be, right?  No one else was doing what they were doing.  So if you’re feeling like an imposter, remind yourself of context  Starting with the fact that everyone feels imposter syndrome. 
  • Also in terms of context is the fact that how you FEEL can be different from how you APPEAR. Especially if you practice a lot, like I do, in from of a microphone or in from of an audience, you can start to appear more confident. Even if you don’t necessarily feel it.
  • In other words, people might not even notice that you’re feeling nervous. So like I said, get over yourself.
  • One last thing in terms of context. Recently I interviewed hall-of-fame award winning podcaster Dave Jackson,  Yes, he admitted that he also sometimes suffers from imposter syndrome.  And he had some wise words for us in terms of our confidence.  Dave reminded us that You don’t need to be world’s greatest expert.  You just need to know more that the audience.  Great point.  And it takes the pressure off, right?
  • OK – so that’s the first tip in terms of alleviating your imposter syndrome: REMIND YOURSELF OF CONTEXT. Context as in everyone feels this way, context in terms of how we appear can be different than how we feel, and context in terms of taking the pressure off. You don’t need to be the world’s #1 expert. Get over yourself.
  • Now the second tip.

Shift the focus to your strength.

  • My friend Jill Nykoliation. Reminded me of this one recently when I interviewed her about leadership skills for leaders. I asked her whether she ever experiences impostor syndrome and she surprised me with a wholehearted yes! I asked her what she’s done to overcome it, and she told me that she leans into her strength. She’s heard from others, and she now believes herself that she has a real strength in identifying strategic consumer insights. So whenever she feels that lack of confidence, that surge of adrenaline, she reminds herself of this superpower.
  • Here’s the question, what’s your superpower? What is your unique strength?
  • Here’s the thing. Your superpower, your unique strength. That’s your personal brand. So the other way to think about this is whenever you feel impostor syndrome. Think. Focus. On your personal brand, on your unique strengths, I promise you it will make you feel more confident.
  • Whether you’re in a board meeting or you’re getting ready to walk up onstage, remind yourself of that thing that you know you can do better than most, if not all, people.
  • If you’re in a meeting and feeling like you don’t belong, raise your hand and make a comment that’s rooted in your strength. If you’re like Jill, whose strength is identifying insights, you could say, “I have an idea, and insight that might help us here…” If your strength is numbers, talk about the numbers. If you’re a subject matter expert, speak up about that “based on my expertise in ___,…” whatever it is. Lean in t your superpower and your personal brand.
  • So that’s the 2nd of 3 main tips to avoid or alleviate imposter syndrome. The 3rd and last one is to…

Try some confidence hacks

  • I’ve got two frameworks for you that I PROMISE will help you out. The 1st framework is the 4Ps.  As in the 4 P’s pf Preparing to communicate with confidence.  What are the 4 Ps? There’s practice proverb, pep talk and pirate. Did you get that practice, as in rehearsing? Proverb as in adopting a mantra, pep talk, as in getting a friend or a trusted colleague to give you a pep talk and boost your confidence. And pirate, as in copying or emulating someone else’s confidence. Got that practice, proverb, pep talk and pirate.
     My challenge to you. Is to choose one just one of these four Ps and to see how it goes. There’s lots more detail on these tips in TAT episode #58.
  • What do I do? Of course I practice.  As much as I possibly can.  In fact, that’s how I got over my horrible case of imposter syndrome.  I’d call it stage fright.  The 2nd P? Proverb.  As in mantra. I always have a mantra.  Sometimes its customized for a specific context, like an important speech.  But otherwise, I just whisper to myself “I got this.” The 3rd P is Pep talk.  I lean on my friends Angie and Kimberley for pep talks sometimes.  Thank you ladies!  And the last is Pirate.  I copy or emulate Madonna’s incredible confidence when she’s onstage,  Yep, it’s true.
  • SO that’s the 3rd of 3 tips for avoiding or alleviating imposter syndrome. Try some confidence hacks, starting with the 4Ps. I’ll leave a link to that TAT episode #58 in case you want to dig deeper

 

And that’s it!  I hope you learned a few things that will help you overcome imposter syndrome.

 

Let me briefly – and I mean briefly – summarize. We first defined imposter syndrome, and I shared where the term came from.  Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes did some research on HIGH ACHIEVING WOMEN and found that many – maybe most felt like frauds, like posers.  And thus the term IMPOSTER PHENOMENON was born.

 

Then I shared the 3 ways that the “imposter syndrome” discourse has shifted

  1. It turns out that EVERYONE suffers from imposter syndrome! From Natalie Portman to Bill Gates and everyone in between.
  2. The second way that the discourse has shifted is in terms of focusing LESS on improving people confidence, and MORE on changing toxic work environments. Thanks goodness!
  3. The 3rd way that the imposter syndrome has shifted is the simple acknowledgement that “Confidence doesn’t equal competence.” 

 

Last, I shared 3 things you can do starting right now: to avoid or alleviate Imposter Syndrome:

Remind yourself of context,

  • Also known as “get over yourself.”
  • You’re not so special. everyone has imposter syndrome!
  • And they might not even notice that you’re nervous!
  • And as Dave Jackson reminds us, You don’t need to be world’s greatest expert.
  • The 2nd thing you can do is

Shift the focus to your UNIQUE strength.

  • Lean in t your superpower and your personal brand.
  • The 3rd and last one is to…

Try some confidence hacks

  • I suggest you start with The 4 P’s pf Preparing to communicate with confidence. What are the 4 Ps? There’s practice proverb, pep talk and pirate. Practice, as in rehearsing? Proverb as in adopting a mantra, pep talk, as in getting a friend or a trusted colleague to give you a pep talk and boost your confidence. And pirate, as in copying or emulating someone else’s confidence

 

OK that’s it.  We covered lots here. Again, you can find a printable version of this episode including a summary, the transcript, plus a list of imposter syndrome references – all in the shownotes. Just go to the talkabouttalk.com website. While you’re there, I really hope you’ll sign up for the Talk About Talk newsletter, if you’re not already! This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email. I promise no spam and no more than one per week. Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at [email protected].

 

Don’t forget, we’re ALL imposters.  GOT that?  

 

THANKS for READING – and Talk soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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