One of the many acquired methods I learnt during my executive coaching training was how to spot and work with the inner critic of a client (as well as my own).
Many of us have a self-sabotaging inner voice - or voices that hold us back. So it is no wonder that when clients contemplate moving forward in a big way, the voice gets louder. The bigger the dream, the more pronounced this voice is and I often find that when my clients finally make a step closer to their big dream, the "impostor syndrome" takes hold.
The definition of Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud" and an inability to internalise their accomplishments.
- In her book "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women", Valerie Young offers an empowering plan to overcome the needless self-doubt that keeps them from feeling as intelligent and competent as everyone else knows they are.
- In her decades of in-the-trenches research on women’s self-limiting feelings and beliefs about themselves and their success, Valerie Young has uncovered the often surprising reasons why so many accomplished women feel as though they are “faking it” – impostors in their own lives and careers.
While the"impostor syndrome" is not unique to women, they are more likely to agonise over tiny mistakes and blame themselves for failure; see even constructive criticism as evidence of their shortcomings; and chalk up their accomplishments to luck rather than skill. When they do succeed, they think “Phew, I fooled them again”. Perpetually waiting to be “unmasked” doesn’t just drain a woman’s energy and confidence, it can make her more risk-averse and less self-promoting than her male peers, which can hurt her future success.
5 Steps to coaching your impostor
- As a coach I believe it is my role to be alert to warning signs that my client's saboteur may have taken control of their voice box - I tend to do this when I have a sense of circling the issue round and round and round. You can spot this for yourself - what are the constant self-limiting conversations that you have about yourself that just aren't true?
- I ask my clients to personify it. Give it a name - who is speaking here? What is this voice saying? How would you describe the voice? Who's voice is it? Name your impostor - what would you call it?
- Challenge yourself - what is the real truth, not the impostor's version? Accept that getting a promotion or moving towards your dream will be an exciting adventure that will bring up many emotions. Don't let the negative emotions stop you fulfilling your potential or enjoying it when you get there.
- Develop your Self Regard - accept and value yourself. Once a day take few minutes to notice your 'inner critic' and challenge it with the question "is that really true?" and then affirm yourself - you are worth it.
- Have fun and play with it - life it too short. I love Marianne Williamson quote "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world."
As a woman in leadership I am only too familiar with the impostor syndrome. I play with it most days and challenge myself to work with my self-limiting feelings and beliefs. During times of change the inner voice gets louder. When I set up my own business it was screaming and there were times at the beginning of that journey that I wanted to move back into the corporate sector and let go of my BIG DREAM.
I now run a coaching programme to help women, and men overcome their 'Impostor Syndrome'. I asked one of my clients to write a testimonial for me - we had fun working with our impostors on many occasions during this coaching relationship.
"Amanda’s talent lies in her unerring ability to ask the right question, listen to the answer - and hear what you’re not saying. She will - with kind, insightful persistence – bring to the surface deep, simple truths. And if you’re open to listening, you’ll come to understand the simplest truth: that the only person with the power to hold you back – or drive your success - is yourself. With Amanda’s encouragement, you can focus on what really matters, and take responsibility for the small steps which make a lasting change. Good coaches don’t always make it easy or comfortable. But they do provide a safe place where you can discover in yourself and others the small number of things that make the biggest difference. And Amanda is a brilliant coach."
Contact Amanda Wildman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her on 07815 743045 to find out more.