How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Episode 41

What if no one cares about what you have to say? What if people will find out you’re not really the expert on your topic? What people think you’re a fraud?

In this solo episode, I dive into the dreaded Impostor Syndrome. It’s something almost every single coach, consultant, entrepreneur, and freelancer has experienced. We all have our doubts and fears; especially when we put ourselves out into the world in such a public way. Yes, even I have had experiences with Impostor Syndrome and that’s why I’m giving you my best tips and tactics for how to overcome those doubts and fears so you can feel confident in what you have to say.

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Hey, hey! It’s Andrea and welcome to the Voice of Influence podcast! So, have you ever felt like an imposter, or maybe you’ve heard of imposter syndrome? It’s that feeling that some high achieving people, experts, get when they don’t just really don’t think that they have what it takes. They think that they are going to be found out that they don’t really know what they’re talking about or that they don’t really have the ability to do what they are setting out to do.

I think that this problem is definitely an issue that we need to talk about, because if somebody who is a message-driven leader; you have expertise, you have skills, you have things that you really care about, it’s so important to get a sense of what you are actually able to do, so you’re not questioning yourself a lot and so that you’re not super concerned about this imposter syndrome kind of feeling that people can get.

Today, we’re going to talk about what to do when you feel like you are an imposter, like somebody is going to find you out and expose you for who you really are. I tried to use a lot of personal examples in my podcast, writing, and things like this. It’s just kind of my style and it’s part of what I do. I disclose things about myself. I let people in to see things that I struggle with and how I’ve overcome them or that sort of thing in order to develop a bond with my audience, with you; in order to kind of be relatable, I guess. But at the same time, I also want to share with you what I learned from these experiences.

I don’t like to use other people as examples very often unless it’s my family and it’s a situation that we’ve agreed to share just because it’s hard, it’s hard to share other people’s experiences. I feel like what I want is I want to relate to you directly, personally, rather than give you outside examples and talk about a problem as though it’s not something that I deal with because it definitely is.

I want you to know too that part of what it means for me, what I believe in being a message-driven leader and what voice of influence means, is that you figure out your own voice. You may not want to share or even mean to or it may not be your thing to personally disclose your issues, your problems, and things you struggle with; but it maybe something that you can sprinkle in to what you do.

So, today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about my own experience of feeling like an imposter or feeling concern that I don’t have what it takes to be able to go out there and share my voice with the world.

A few years ago, I was struggling just internally, struggling relationally, just not feeling like I had a voice. I felt like I had expertise to share with the world, which seemed crazy that I would think that. Who says, “I have things that I need to share with the world.” Well, probably you. You’re probably somebody who feels that way, as well.

I didn’t want people to feel like I was being conceited in thinking that I knew more than they did, because there were plenty of times in my life, especially as a young child, where I had that attitude. And it was very clear that having that attitude does not actually help make change in other people.

When you think that you know everything and you just tell people what to do, it very rarely actually gets people to change. They might do what you want them to for a minute, but in the end, they don’t appreciate that. So I struggled. I was pulling back and forth with this “Should I share what I think that I know?”

I feel like I have this thing, it’s like this outward desire to move this outwardly and express it, but at the same time I was pulling back on admitting that maybe I had expertise. I know a number of reasons why and sometimes it had to do with feeling like an imposter but sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes it had to do with really not having that expertise or it might have had to do with fearing what other people think and things like that as well.

So when you are looking at your own experience with feeling like an imposter, with trying to decide whether not you’re going to actually say and admit or share your voice with the world in a way that says “I am an expert in this.” When you’re looking at that and you’re feeling like an imposter or you’re feeling afraid to let it actually happen, to actually put it out there, there are few things that I want you to think about. So, I’m going to take you to those things right now and continue to share my voice with my experience with you along the way.

Number one, make sure that you are focused on serving others not on what others think of you. If you think that you have imposter syndrome or you think that you’re struggling with putting your voice out there because “What’s going on? What would people think?” It could be that you are more focused on what you’re going to get out of the equation than your audiences. That’s hard to admit because what you do when you say you have something to share with other people, you’re saying, “I’m going to share this with you whether or not it actually hurts me, whether or not you reject me, or whether or not you ignore me,” that sort of thing.

If you’re focused on making sure that you’re heard, you’re focused on making sure that you’re understood, or you’re focused on making sure that you get the reaction out of people that you want then you’re more focused on you and what other people think of you than you are on serving them.

I don’t want you to spend a lot of time dwelling on this idea that maybe you’re little too focused on yourself, but it’s something that you need to actually look at. You need to get really honest with yourself, with God, with others, and what is it that you’re really worried about right now. Because one of the definitions that I have for passion, my definition of passion that it’s not something that fulfills you, it’s something you’re willing to pour yourself out for, for others.

If you’re connected to a passion, you have this expertise and you have this passion to share your expertise, it’s not just about making yourself feel good for sharing it, it’s about being willing to put yourself on the line to share it. You may be somebody who had all A’s in high school and maybe you graduate top of your class in college or maybe you’re this entrepreneur who has been out there and making tons of money, I don’t know, you’ve done something amazing but you keep kind of pulling back and saying “Oh, but it’s not good enough,” or “Oh, but I’m not really that good.”

Number one, you ask yourself, is this something that you’re needing to fulfill you, or is it something that you’re willing to pour yourself out for? That’s number one.

The second thing to do when you’re feeling this way is to consider, “What do I need to learn? Is there an actual problem here? Is there an actual deficit in me?” If there is, if you feel like you actually do need to learn more about the subject, then go learn more.

You don’t have to feel like an imposter for saying that you really care about this subject or you do have expertise of some kind within the subject or a way to approach the subject. What you can do is you can go out and learn more. As Amy Porterfield says, “You can get down into this entrepreneurial rabbit holes,” and start just going so far and digging so far into it that you get lost.

You can do that with learning more, but I think that if you really do need to learn more about a subject, before you ever start moving in that direction, give yourself a chance to think about “What is my goal here? How much more do I need to learn about this?” Maybe you could talk to somebody else and ask them, “What do you think I need to learn about this?” Is this something that you need to learn information about, or do you need to grow in your skills? Because those are two different things but they’re both very important.

So if you are feeling this way and you know that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to pour yourself out for this thing, you’re willing to put yourself on the line to help others and serve others. But you’re not totally sure you have enough information or that your skills might need to be tweaked then you go do it. You don’t have to sit there and say “Oh, I’m experiencing imposter syndrome.” You don’t sit there and say, “I can never get there,” instead you say, “OK, well what is it gonna take to get there? What do I need to learn more about or what skills do I need to acquire?”

So you figure that out. Go to somebody else who’s doing what you’re doing; go to somebody else who has expertise in this area of some kind, somebody that you trust to give you really good advice and whether you just ask for the advice or pay for the advice, whichever way it goes. You can gain the skills that you need to get better. You can gain information that you need to move forward. If you care about this that much then you’re going to be willing to do it and you’re going to be able to put yourself in a position to grow in this area. So go ahead and go do that.

The third thing that you could do is to integrate your expertise. In episode 25 with Dorie Clark, it’s called How to Monetize your Expertise, episode 25 of this podcast, Dorie and I talked a little bit about concept that she talked about in a book called Stand Out. I really, really benefited from this little bit of knowledge. So I want to put you back to that episode if you want to go and listen to it. You can also buy her book Stand Out, which would be fabulous.

One of the things that she talks about in the book is if you want to stand out, one thing that you could do is to integrate your expertise. So you take two different concepts or two different ideas or two different genres or two different industries and you bring them together in a unique way. This is something that I did with Voice of Influence. I put together the concepts in my expertise in the area of voice (singing), singing and conducting and voice coaching (helping people to find their literal singing voice), and tweaking that and making it better and things like this.

I put that together with the idea of self expression and having a voice in the world and together that all became Voice of Influence. So this is something that you can do as well. Maybe like me, you’re not the best singer in the world. You have some experience and you’ve done some really cool things with this expertise that you have, but you’re not so stand out with this particular thing and at the same time, you really care about this other issue.

For me, it was self expression and authenticity and things like this, something else that I thought about a lot over the course of life. It’s something I really care about and I’ve studied, have a counseling ministries degree. So putting these two things together allowed me to be able to stand out in a different way than I would have if I was trying to do just one or the other.

I’m not an expert at counseling for example. I’m an expert or I’m not a standout star with singing, but when I put those two things together and come up with a way to talk about these subjects, all of a sudden it all make more sense. It’s about self expression and it’s about what you do and what you say. After a while, I realized that it was a personal brand strategy was this thing that I was talking about, “How do you figure out what you’re up to, what you want to do, how you express who you are in the world?” And that is personal brand strategy.

So when I put together those things then it becomes a unique offering that is mine. What you can do is you can do is you can do something similar to that. You can put things together to come with something that is uniquely yours and becomes your unique voice or your unique offering or way of talking about something or whatever. But it’s a way for you to stand out; it’s a way for you to combat this idea that you’re not good enough in one area, alright?

The next thing is to get real experience doing this thing that you’re doing, get really experience with real results. When you get experience, it makes more sense to your brain; it makes more sense to you that you actually do have something that backs you up. You know, you do have some expertise. You are helping people with this thing.

For me, when I was helping people before, not in the paid setting, I was doing it in ministry or I was doing it in my life as a friend, as a mom, as a wife helping people think strategically about their problems or think strategically about how they’re going to communicate with other people. I knew that I was pretty good at it but I didn’t know exactly what the results were.

I had to go back and when I got to this point, I had to really start trying to figure out, “OK, how does this work in the world when you’re putting yourself out there in this more public way when you’re wanting to be a coach or consultant or being known for a topic of some kind?” What I realized is that I really had to have conversations by kind of exploring my abilities around personal brand strategy.

So, I would talk to people or people would bring up problems that they’re experiencing and I’d like “That’s a problem I think can help with.” So I would just offer to help in some way, whether it’d be a conversation or over a course of time in helping somebody with a project or something like this. In doing that, that helped me to be able to see that there was something that I really did have to work with here like, OK, so I didn’t know a personal brand strategy was but now that I kind of knew what it was, I just needed to start exploring what that really look like for me to help people with it.”

That’s what I did. I did that for free. I would have these conversations and give people a chance to explore their personal brand strategy with me, or explore how are they’re going to write or talk or communicate concepts that sort of thing. This is something that I didn’t do right away and that I really wished I would have done more at the beginning when I was doing this.

When you are exploring options, when you are having conversations with people for free or to get testimonials and that sort of thing, you really need to try to make sure that you get a ‘before and after’ that you have a sense of the transformation that actually takes place in that person that they can articulate it and that you can articulate it in an authoritative way. If you’re going to do this, you could also do workshops, seminars, or teach a class or that sort of thing to explore this in person.

But what you do is you either do a survey and so you do a survey before and after asking people you know, “How comfortable are you with this topic,” or “What transformation are you really trying to get at,” because that’s how you’re going to structure your survey. But you find out their comfort level, their skill level ahead of time beforehand and then you do it again afterwards and you say “How much did this help? How much did you change because of us working together?”

When you do that then you have actual matrix and even if it’s subjective, it’s at least something that somebody outside of yourself has said “You know, you have made this much difference for me.” That makes a real difference when you’re trying to figure out whether or not you have what it takes and whether or not you’re feeling like an imposter today to go back and look at this matrix, to look at these testimonials that people give, and I will definitely ask for those if you can get them. Ask people “How did this help you? How did this change you?” That sort of thing.

Don’t ask them to say “Oh you’re such a good teacher,” you know that doesn’t help. You have to ask how this actually changed them and what was the transformation that took place inside of them. “I’m so much more confident about my ability to whatever, or I wasn’t able to work with this program and now I can do it masterfully.” Whatever the transformation is that you’re trying to accomplish that’s what you want to survey, that’s what you want to get matrix for.

So when you have that and you have this experience where you’ve worked with people, you’ve gotten the real results, you’ve tested out your content, and you’ve tested out your ability to help people with this area then you keep those. You don’t just throw a couple up on your website and then tuck them all away, instead if you need help remembering how much difference you make for people then maybe you need a board.

Maybe you’ve heard the idea of having a vision board where you put on there of things that you want to do or what you’re shooting for and that sort of thing. Well, this is a different kind of board; in fact I would call it a passion board poster.

At the beginning of this episode, we were talking about the very first thing that you want to do is to make sure that you are doing this in service to others instead of worrying about what others think of you.

Well, we’re talking about that same concept of passion, of being willing to put yourself on the line because of the results that you’re getting for people; you know that you’re helping people. How do you know that? Because you got pictures and testimonies from people up on your passion poster, your passion board or whatever you want to call it. It can serve for you as a reminder of those people in your life you have said to you “This matters to me. Your expertise has helped me.”

Then when you start to feel like it’s not worth it or that you’re afraid of standing out for this area of expertise, that you’re feeling like an imposter, you go back to that passion board and you say “You know what though, even if I do feel like a failure, even if I do feel like I’m going to get ignored or worry about being rejected or feel like I’m going to get found out, the truth is that I have seen results in the past and I’m going to keep going for them because there are more people out there like these people here on my passion poster. That changes things.

When you start to get really sure that you are helping people; that you have helped people then you need to be reminded of that. So when you get to this point where you’re feeling like an imposter, when you’re feeling like “I’m not sure that it’s worth standing out for this,” or that “I’m not sure if I really have what it takes, that people would respect me enough to listen to me,” that sort of thing. Then there are practical things that you can do to get rid of that.

Number one: Again, you want to make sure you’re doing this for the right reasons that you’re not here to get validated from other people but that you’re here to put yourself on the line for other people, you’re here to serve. When you do that, you have a real sense of your passion in that sacrificial kind of way, “I care about this so much, I’m willing to put myself on the line for it.”

Number two: You learn what you need to learn. Find out more if you need to find out more, the knowledge piece of it or learn the skills that you need. Get those skills, go ahead and get them. If you’re not sure how much of those things you need, go and ask somebody but make sure that it’s clear, “I’m going to get this. I’m going to learn this. I’m going to understand that. I’m going to be able to do this skill and then I’m going to move on and I’m going to keep moving toward putting myself out there.”

Then you say “Well, do I need to integrate my expertise? Is there a way to bring different things together, different areas of expertise or different industries, different things together to create a unique spin on what I have to say?” And then you got experience actually doing it. You get real results testing before and after, getting a testimonial, getting the matrix, like I said even if they are subjective. Maybe they’re not, maybe they’re objective. Either way, you’re getting people’s testimony. You’re getting people to say “This is the help that you’ve given me. This is how I have changed because of your help.”

You’re not asking for this just to be validated, you’re asking for this to be reminded that you’re voice matters. This is important. You’ve put those two things together, the idea of passion and the idea of validation, this passion board. We’re talking about getting this information so that you can say and tell your brain, “You know what, I am willing to put myself on the line for these people because I know it matters. I’ve seen the results. These people have seen the results of their lives and so I’m going to keep putting myself out there even if I feel nervous, even if I feel like an imposter. I’m going to keep going,” and when you get to that point that’s incredibly empowering for you.

I’ve had different people on the podcast over the past few months who have said things like “You know, I still feel fear but now I just kind of look at the fear and say ‘hi, I see you there but I’m gonna keep going.’” And that’s what I think we all need to get to that point where we can say, “You know what, maybe this fear is truly excitement and maybe I can just let this fear be with me even though I’m going to go for it and I’m going to go for it because I’m doing it for other people.

That makes it so much more clear. It makes this idea of the imposter syndrome or the idea of not wanting to share your expertise that just sort of diminishes when you think about the people that you could help. So the next time you feel like an imposter, go back and do these things. Look at your passion board if you’ve made one and remind yourself why you’re here because that’s going to change everything.

Now, I’m going to share with you just a little bit how this has worked for me, because it has to do with the podcast. I started a podcast a few months ago, it would be April 2017 and now we’re into February 2018, almost a year. Part of what I did when I started the Voice of Influence podcast was I did integrate those areas of expertise to find a unique spin but at the same time, I wasn’t totally confident of my own expertise and what exactly I was trying to share and had the sense of it and I did have some initial thoughts that really haven’t changed.

But since starting, I have learned a lot more. I’ve become more confident of what I’m doing and more confident about where we’re trying to head with this whole concept of the voice of influence and message-driven leadership. So what I did when I started it was I had an interview with somebody who I felt like did have a voice of influence and wanted to learn from people.

So there’s that conversation and learning from people and kind of testing out my ideas with them and then I also had the Voice Studio episodes where there will be short, maybe 5-minute episodes that would give me a chance to expand upon something that that person talked about in their interview. Those episodes came out out on Mondays and Thursdays.

Well, as things have gone and continued to move in this direction of me getting more clear and more confident, I’m realizing that I do have a lot more that I want to share for my own expertise around this area of message-driven leadership and voice of influence communication strategy and personal brand strategy. So what I’m going to do is, instead of having those long form interview and then a short episode with just me, I’m going to alternate probably half and half, maybe every other time or something like this where I’ll do an interview.

And then I’ll do a solo episode like this one today because I want to keep having this interview, I love them. I love doing them. I love sharing them with you. I love sharing these people and their voice, but at the same I also realized that there needs to be some additional equipping. I really want to help people who are wanting to be coaches consultants, other kinds of message-driven leaders, be able to do the things that I’m trying to promote around these areas of communication strategy, personal brand strategy, etc., etc.

That’s my plan. Instead of doing that shorter episode where I was just kind of exploring some different things and trying to share a little bit here and there, now I’m going to do some longer ones with me by myself that are really specific to equipping you in some kind of way and we still have the interviews as well.

So I just wanted to let you know that that is what I’m going to be doing but also because I really did start out by just going for it. But at the same time, I wasn’t totally confident of my own expertise. As time has gone on and I’ve gotten more clear, I’m feeling more confident in being able to do that. So that’s the kind of thing that I believe you can do as well.

If you are thinking about starting something or you have started something, but you’re not totally going for it or you know that you’re still holding back a little bit because you’re afraid of how people will perceive you or that sort of thing, I do encourage you to do these steps that I laid out today and take those bold steps where it’s actually getting your voice out there in a way that says “You know what, I’m an expert in this area.”

And for me, I’m not saying I’m an expert in leadership, I’m saying “I’m an expert” and gosh it’s even hard to say still. But I’m saying “I have something to share with you in regards to message-driven leadership.” And as I’ve gotten more clear on that, I can share it with you with more confidence. So dig yourself out of imposter syndrome with these steps and make your voice matter more!



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