I don’t know about you but the pandemic is making me doubt my abilities in my work more than ever. Trying to be mum, wife, teacher, housekeeper, cook, business owner, author, radio presenter, dog mum, do all the runs, lift all the weights, perform all the meditations and in trying to keep my shit together at once feels like I rarely have any of it together at all.
Before my nervous breakdown in 2016 I was uber confident. I’m still confident now, outwardly to those I am in company with, but the inner confidence took a sharp knock and it’s taking a lot longer than anticipated to return.
I think social media has a massive part to play in this. I have spoken about it a lot but ‘comparison is the thief of all joy’ is one of my favourite phrases and comparing ourselves to an online persona of someone else is never fruitful or healthy.
So while I work on my upcoming 90 day programme and diligently write and plan all the modules and content to help someone change their life in 90 days, I can’t help but feign ‘market research’ and check out what everyone else is up to. In my online world working alongside coaches and mindset specialists, it is normal in the cyber circles in which I hang out to see “How I had a five figure month” or “I help entrepreneurs create 6 and 7 figure businesses in 20 hours a week or less” or “I just earned £25,000 from my latest launch” and it makes me shrink like a dick on a freezing day back into my shell, scared to venture out.
At times like these I have a plan and a strategy but I often don’t default to it and end up in knots, agonising over how shit I am in comparison and wondering why I’m still slogging out 60 hour weeks and doing all the things.
Yet you see, these people posting about their success are just a few steps ahead. That’s all I need to remember. I also need to remember my own advice and these five amazing tips to soothe imposter syndrome.
Grab a brew and take a read.
1) Verbalise Your Imposter Syndrome
He’s a massive knob head and probably the best (and cheapest) coach I’ve ever worked with but if there’s one person I can talk it out with, it’s my husband. If I am feeling like my inner imposter is causing procrastination, self doubt and self sabotage I try and chat it out with him. It doesn’t come easy and I think we are taught not to ‘show off’ from a young age or ‘fish for compliments’.
I usually start the conversation something like this “I know I’m being a massive dick but this is what I’m telling myself at the moment…” and then I verbalise how I am feeling. It usually involves what I’ve seen others say online, how I feel frustrated at myself and what I can do about it to move past it.
Shaun strikes a brilliant balance between positive reassurance and tough love and often gets me out of a funk that has been caused by imposter syndrome. He calls me out on my bullshit, reminds me when I’ve haemorrhaged my precious time on useless crap and tells me what I already know in a positive and encouraging way.
Who do you have in your life that isn’t scared to dish out the compliments but will also criticise you in a loving and positive way that will help you get into the mode of taking action?
2) Create a Compliments Cache
I’ve started doing this recently and it helps a lot. Collect compliments. Whether that be text messages, emails, Facebook posts, Instagram comments or email replies. Stick them in one central place where you can quickly refer to them if you feel imposter syndrome taking hold.
You might want to use an actual journal or if you were looking for a digital option, I’m a big fan of a Trello board to keep all my screen shots.
If someone says something to you verbally, make sure you add those in too. Any cards or notes you get, make sure you save those or at least take a pic of them and add them to your digital compliments cache. Whenever you need a reminder of all you have achieved, or how you have helped others or made people feel good, refer back to the compliments cache.
3) Write Down All You Know
I did this one this week. I am currently in Lisa Johnson’s One to Many course and we have an offshoot accountability group with the most amazing women. Last night three of us had a working Zoom session together to catch up on some of our outstanding course actions. I said I was suffering with imposter syndrome and so used our time together to outline a very quick mind map of everything I actually know when it comes to business. It only took me 20 minutes but it was a pleasant shock to put it all on paper and realise my vast knowledge. As soon as I had finished it, I was spurred into action and worked away with ease on my tasks.
I also do this when I am writing my books or working with clients on my 1:1 communications coaching calls. I outline the topics I want to write about in my books and then arrange them into some rough idea of chapters. With clients I outline everything they sell, teach, believe and stand for and that forms the basis of their content marketing. It is a really positive and surprising exercise.
I highly recommend mind mapping to complete this step and Simple Mind Lite, Mind Node or XMind are mind map apps that work really well if you prefer to do a digital mind map.
4) Write Down Why Your Imposter is Wrong
In addition to writing down all that you know, how about a mind map of everything you have already achieved? These should be things that directly challenge whatever your inner imposter syndrome is trying to tell you. For example, my BBC colleague and work wife, Nicola, is currently in the process of trying to get a book deal. It’s a really tough task and those who do this have to be prepared for rejection.
This could get the better of Nicola but she could do this task and remind herself that she’s been writing every day for over 20 years in her role as a newspaper editor. She could write down about her experience and nose for a great story or remind herself of how many books she reads in a year (it’s a LOT!) She is someone who knows how to create a really compelling story thanks to her extensive experience of being so well-read.
These are just a couple of examples but writing down reasons why your imposter syndrome is wrong will help shift your mindset from victim self sabotage mode to empowered action taker.
5) Improve Your Self Talk
Recognise that your imposter syndrome is your inner critic.
In the book, Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford, she suggests giving a name to the parts of your personality. For me, Imposter Imelda is my imposter syndrome. I imagine her as a stony faced bitch, judgemental, stiff and spiky and not at all likeable. I will sometimes imagine myself having conversations with her and challenging her beliefs. I use another part of my personality, Positive Pauline, who likes to challenge the negative and come up with the flip side of these untruths presented by ‘Imelda’.
Having a moment to allow your feelings to come to the surface and play them out in your mind is important. That’s why verbalising them to someone you love and trust can be so helpful. Often, what we think is not the actual reality and our friends, colleagues and family would not agree with our inner critic. However, owning these feelings and having the conscious self awareness to try and soothe them is important. Believing in ourselves and reminding ourselves of our positive attributes, personal knowledge, experience and all we are capable of will help us build new neural pathways in our brains. The more we repeat these positive steps of overcoming imposter syndrome, the stronger our neural pathways will become.
You are smarter than what you think.
You are stronger than what you believe.
You are capable of so much more.
Don’t let the screams of imposter syndrome drown out the whispers of confidence.
As always, this week’s blog has inspired today’s #WankyQuoteWednesday
Gemma Ray is a BBC Radio presenter, best selling author, communications coach and always the most filthy person in a WhatsApp group chat. Gemma tells it like it is and opens up about the stuff most people would never even dare admit to themselves, let alone put out in public.
Join Gemma on a refreshingly honest, powerful and inspirational journey of self love, self belief and self trust through her books, blog, free Facebook accountability group and courses where she helps members take action on their goals.
Listen live every Sunday from 2-6pm GMT on BBC Radio Lancashire or catch up via the BBC Sounds app.