Managing Your Imposter Syndrome

Let's face it, we all suffer from imposter syndrome at some point or another.

The key message here is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with your inner critic.

Today we're going to talk about imposter syndrome, a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments, and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud!

Once we realise we all suffer from imposter syndrome and we can do something about it, we can start to take control.

So in today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share some strategies for changing your inner voice from a critic to a more supportive (coaching) voice and 6-steps to overcome that negative voice in your head to have a better relationship with your inner critic and consequently tone down your feelings of being an imposter and being found out!

Here’s a glance at this episode…


What is imposter syndrome?


Keypoint #1: Everyone suffers from imposter syndrome at some point or another, including all the most successful entrepreneurs. 


Keypoint #2: It's not about getting rid of imposter syndrome, it's about having a more healthy relationship with your inner voice.


Keypoint #3: There are certain traits that entrepreneurs have that can lead to imposter syndrome


How being a ‘perfectionist’ can lead to imposter syndrome 


How being an ‘expert’ can lead to imposter syndrome


How being a ‘poor delegator’ can lead to imposter syndrome


How trying to be superman/superwoman can lead to imposter syndrome


Tips to manage that inner voice in your head


The 21-day challenge to change a behaviour


How to overcome your imposter syndrome


Why the idea of journaling can help 


How to find the balance between your successes and failures


6 Steps in managing imposter syndrome


Step #1: Acknowledge that everybody suffers from this and talk about it.


Step #2: Separate feelings from facts.


Step #3: Develop a healthy response to failure and mistakes


Step #4: Write the rules and recognise that you have as much right as the next person to be wrong, to have an off day or to ask for help.


Step #5: Do what professional athletes do and visualise success e.g. spend time beforehand picturing yourself making an amazing presentation or public speech. 


Step #6: ‘fake it till you make it’ or ‘act as if.’ 


“..the key message in today's episode is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with that voice in your head, that inner critic.” - Rob Da Costa

“I find having a realistic to-do list every day really helps because it helps me feel accomplished… I'm focused on the most important things in my business through moving my business forward and with no distractions.” - Rob Da Costa

“We need to be kind to ourselves.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

Let's face it, we all suffer from imposter syndrome.

So, the key message in today's episode is that you are not alone, and your best bet to manage your imposter syndrome is to change the relationship you have with that voice in your head, that inner critic. So, that's what we're gonna be talking about today, the thorny topic of imposter syndrome. 

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Okay, on with today's show. 

Today we're going to talk about imposter syndrome, and I thought it's probably best to start with some kind of definition because we've probably all got a different view of what imposter syndrome is. 

Based on my research, imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which individuals doubt their skills, their talents and their accomplishments. And they have this persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud, which I'm sure we can all relate to. Despite external evidence of their competence, those who experience imposter syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and they don't deserve to have the success and all the things that they've achieved. And what they end up doing is incorrectly attribute the success to just good luck or being in the right place at the right time. So, in the end, imposter syndrome keeps us in our comfort zone and stops us from growing and it stops us from taking risks, and it's worth noting that it impacts men and women in equal measure. 

Whoa! That feels really depressing but we can't just ignore that in a critic. Especially at the moment where we're all becoming much more aware and talking more about our mental health. Allowing the inner critic is not going to help yours or my own mental health. I think it's worth reiterating that everyone has imposter syndrome to some degree or another, including the most successful entrepreneurs who looked like the most confident people in the world. So, it's worth knowing that you are not alone and that is the first key point to take away from today's episode.

Secondly, another key point is that it isn't about getting rid of your imposter syndrome, because if we know we've all got it. It's not about getting rid of it. It's about having a more healthy relationship with your inner voice and finding tactics which I'm going to talk about to improve that relationship.

Now, the third point I want to make is that there are certain traits that entrepreneurs have that can lead to making your imposter syndrome more debilitating. 

So, let's just unpack a few of these. 

First of all, there's the perfectionist, which, of course, many entrepreneurs are. Now, perfectionists set an extremely high expectation for themselves, which by definition means they can never succeed. So, even if they are meeting 99% of those very high expectations and goals, they're still going to feel like failures, and any small mistake will make them question their own competence. And, guess what? This leads to a kind of reinforcing that inner voice. That's saying, ‘Hey, you're a fraud, you're an imposter, you're going to be found out.’ 

The second type is the expert, and the expert feels like they need to know absolutely everything before they start a project or before they can call themselves really competent. So, they're constantly looking for new channels to learn or books to read. In the end, the expert often sticks in their comfort zone for fear of not knowing enough if they expand their horizons and step outside. And, guess what? This leads to imposter syndrome.

Now, the third trait that can often lead to further enforcing imposter syndrome is the fact that agency owners are often poor delegators, and so they sort of becoming soloists because they feel like they have to accomplish all these tasks themselves, and they have to be experts before they could possibly ask anyone else to do it. This means that they don't delegate, they don't ask for help, they think that if they do need to ask for help or they can't do it themselves, they think they are a failure and a fraud. This leads to imposter syndrome. 

I just want to say that as a good delegator, you don't have to be able to do the task but you have to understand what the task is, what the outcome is, and how to communicate effectively to your team member. 

And the fourth trait is trying to be superman or superwoman. Those people push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they're not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life, not just running their agency, but as parents, partners, friends and so on. They may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something. This leads to imposter syndrome. 

I'm sure that you can relate to some of these categories just as I can. I think it's worth acknowledging that we or even I have been all of those four things at different times in my career.

So, now, we acknowledge that we all suffer from imposter syndrome at one time or another, let's just talk about some strategies to actually manage that relationship with your inner voice. 

So I think that there are two sides to our inner voice, the critic, and the coach. And, your challenge overall is to turn down the volume of the critic and to turn up the volume of the coach. Given that it takes 21 days to change your behaviour, you have to consistently do this in order to make that behavioural change.

Think about behaviour as I might be going to get this wrong, I apologise to any neuroscientists out there. But think of a behaviour as a neural pathway and think of that neural pathway like a well-trodden path in the forest. It's really easy to walk down that pathway, but if you want to change your behaviour you need to create a new neural pathway or a new pathway in the forest. At first, it's really difficult to walk that path where you have to push through the undergrowth, you gotta tread it down. You might have to chop some of it down, then it's really easy to give up walking that path and go back down the old regular path that you're used to. But if you keep working at it for those 21 days and that new pathway becomes trodden and easier to walk, and meanwhile, the old forest pathway has grown and disappeared. Then, that's how you can change behaviour. 

Therefore, it takes 21 days to change your behaviour. We want to start focusing on our coach, which is more supportive than our critic, which is just creating imposter syndrome and keeping us in our safe comfort zone.

One of the first steps to overcoming those feelings of being an imposter is to simply acknowledge that they exist and to put them into perspective. So, what you really need to do is just observe that they're happening as opposed to engaging with them. And then, you want to be saying to yourself, ‘How does this thought help me?’ and the answer is often, ‘It doesn't.’ Therefore you can start to reframe your thoughts and create this new pathway. This voice in our head as there's an emotional side and rational side to it.

The rational voice needs to be asking this question: ‘How does this help me?’ Because when you're in that rational moment, that's when you can start to say, ‘Well, it doesn't.’ So, ‘Why am I really engaging with this?’ If you're just observing that you're having these thoughts but not engaging with them, then, that's going to be very different to having a thought really engaging with it and then letting that thought dictate your actions. 

I think also if you have a mentor or a trusted partner, you can talk with and share these thoughts with them. Because sometimes just saying this stuff out loud and having someone act as a mirror to you is just a really good way of getting the right kind of perspective. 

Now, another strategy that works really well for me that I've used many times myself, is this which lets me step back here and say that ‘We, as human beings, can only consciously think of one thing at once.’ We can subconsciously think of seven, do seven things that are like that time when you're driving home when you're thinking, ‘How on earth did I get here?’ That's because that journey is so well practiced you're doing in your subconscious. But consciously, we can only think of one thing at once. So, if you're consciously engaging with your imposter syndrome voice, then that's the thing you're engaging with. 

However, if you use some distraction techniques to change the subject and consciously think about something else, then that imposter syndrome voice will die down because you're not engaging with it. Think of it like a fire, so the fire is burning. If you engage with it, you're putting more fuel on the fire and it becomes more real. Whereas if you distract from it and think about something else, then the fire's getting no oxygen and then before eventually, it goes out. 

It’s advisable to use a distraction technique. Think of something, sing a song in your head or whatever it is to distract you at that moment to stop you from engaging with that imposter syndrome voice. 

I think another really good strategy in dealing with your imposter syndrome is to get into journaling.  All I mean by that is just right down when you're having those thoughts and write those thoughts in black and white. If you implement the morning and evening rituals that I've spoken about many times and written about before then part of that should be journaling. And still, when you're having these negative thoughts, these imposter syndrome thoughts just write them down because it can get out of your head for a start and you can start to see it through a more rational pair of eyes when it's written down in black and white. 

I think another thing that's worth saying, this isn't so much a strategy, but it's more of a reminder that we need to be kind to ourselves. So, when you're having these imposter syndrome thoughts that can often lead you to beat yourself up, you just need to be kind to yourself and just take a moment. Stop, take a breath, get some perspective and remind yourself that you are not superman, you are not superwoman. It isn't great to be a perfectionist. You have people you can delegate to, even if it's a VA, and you need to be kind to yourself. 

On that note, we really need to make sure that we get a balanced view of our successes and failures. Entrepreneurs often beat themselves up about what they haven't done, and they focus on it which again leads to imposter syndrome. Whereas if we can get a more balanced view of our successes and failures, then that will really help with imposter syndrome. Also, it really ties into the journaling point. I may just now because you should write it down at the end of your day like the things you've done really well, the things that have gone great, and the things that you would like to improve.

Now, I find having a realistic to-do list every day really helps with this because it helps me feel accomplished. It also helps me also make sure that I'm focused on the most important things in my business through moving my business forward and with no distractions. 

Whilst this episode isn't about the to-do list, here are just a few quick reminders for you. First of all, scheduling your morning and evening rituals. Make sure that your morning ritual starts off by planning your day. Overestimate how long things will take to win back time rather than have lots of other things that happened during the day. This means that your to-do list is actually longer at the end of the day than was the beginning of the day. 

I'll tell you what my to-do list every single day gets ticked off every single item. If you want to feel good about yourself and your day, then you want to do that. So I simply say, like recording this podcast, for example, I scheduled about an hour and a half to record this podcast, but I'll probably get it done in about an hour and a quarter in terms of writing and figuring out the structure then recording it. It wins me back 15 minutes. With that 15 minutes, I can check my emails, make a cup of tea, and move on to the next task earlier. Then, make sure by the end of my day every task is tipped off and then I feel in control of my day, which I don't have to hear this nagging voice telling me that there's something else I should have done because I took the time in my morning ritual to work out what the priorities are and what I need to get done today to move me forward.

Let's just end this episode with a bit of a quickfire section. I saw this quote when I was researching this that I really like which is “The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter,” which is so true. 

So, here are six steps and I've already talked about some of this already. 

#1 You should really quickly break the silence, acknowledge that everybody has this and talk about it. That's what I'm doing today. I have imposter syndrome, and I'm sharing that with you.

#2 You should separate feelings from facts. Sometimes we take an emotion, think it's a fact but it isn't because it's just an emotion. It's a story that we tell ourselves. So, when you can realise that it's just a feeling and you can change that feeling or it's just a story I'm telling myself, and I can change that. Then, you can begin to take more control. 

#3 You should develop a healthy response to failure and mistakes. Let's face it, we all are going to fail at some time or another, and we are all going to make mistakes. Henry Ford once said, ‘“Failure is the only opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” So, instead of beating yourself up for falling short, do what players on the losing sports team do and get some learnings from your loss and move on. Then, remind yourself, ‘I'll get it right next time.’ 

#4 You should write the rules. If you've been operating under misguided rules as I should always know the answer or I must never ask for help, then you need to change those thoughts. Also, you must recognise that you have as much right as the next person to be wrong to have an off day or to ask for help. 

#5 You should visualise success and do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making an amazing presentation or public speech. That’s much better than standing in the wings, thinking about everything that you're going to do wrong and how you're going to be found out by your audience. 

And #6, you should fake it till you make it, or I prefer to use the term ‘act as if’ because now and then we've all got to fly by the seat of our pants, such as part of running an agency and being an entrepreneur. But rather than considering winging as proof of your ineptness and everything you don't know, learn to do what many high achievers do and actually view it as a really great skill. 

Now, the point of that worn-out phrase, ‘Fake it till you make it’ still stands. Don't wait until you know everything. You're the perfection until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks, and when we take risks, we expand our comfort zone. So, I'm a really big believer in ‘Act as if’ and it means you're supremely confident because people will sense that energy from you. Whereas if you're going out there feeling super nervous, people are also going to sense that from you.

Remember that by and large, human beings don't want you to fail but rather they want you to succeed. So, ‘act as if’ and all that ‘fake it till you make it’ are a really good way of helping overcome imposter syndrome. 

So, I hope this episode has helped you. I hope that clarifies that we all suffer from imposter syndrome kind of gives you a bit of comfort. I also hope that some of the tips and advice I've shared will help you start to make a change.

If you feel like imposter syndrome gets in your way sometimes and stops you from moving forward, remember that most people experience moments of self-doubt in their life, and that's completely normal. The important part is not to let that self-doubt, voice in your head or the imposter syndrome, dictate and control your actions. 

Therefore, the goal is not to never feel like an impostor. The goal is to have the tools and the insights and knowledge to be able to talk yourself away from engaging with imposter syndrome and acting upon it. We all can still have those imposter moments, but not that impostor life. 

Again, I hope that one helped. I'm not claiming to be an expert on any of this stuff, but I've certainly done training on my NLP and mental toughness which digs into all that we've talked about today. 

Then, I really hope that helps you. If it does, please consider leaving a review, subscribe and please share this with your colleagues because obviously, I want to reach as many people as I can, especially as we head towards episode 100.

But other than that, I hope you have a great rest of your week and I will see you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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