Christine Laperriere is the executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, president of Leader In Motion, a leadership development organization, and the author of Too Busy to Be Happy — a guide to using Emotional Real Estate to improve both your work and your life. A seasoned expert in helping women professionals advance their careers, she’s had the honour of guiding hundreds of women in various companies and roles to reach their full potential. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and executive coaching, along with years in design engineering and management consulting.
Imposter syndrome refers to the feelings of inadequacy that often arise even when we’ve had proven successes in the past. When we feel like imposters, we are normally suffering from chronic self-doubt. It’s as if we are fraudulently acting as experts versus tapping into the confidence gained through previous accomplishments and known capabilities that make us real experts.
In my experience of coaching hundreds of successful women, I find that imposter syndrome can be a very strong influence on whether or not women raise their hand or decline great career opportunities. So I’m going to give you three useful concepts to embrace the next time you find yourself face to face with your internal imposter before a big presentation.
Most of us are used to hearing someone who is ruled by their ego going on about their accomplishments, bragging about their greatness, and completely lacking humility — so it may be surprising that imposter syndrome is also our ego at play.
When you hear the internal dialogue around imposter syndrome going through your head, notice that it’s really focused on you, what people think of you, and what you think of yourself — which is endorsed by what others say. Most of these thoughts are the words of your ego trying to protect you from taking a risk with something you might not succeed at. When we have imposter syndrome we are trying to protect our ego.
In my experience, those who battle “imposter syndrome” find that it never really goes away, but many of us learn how to thrive regardless of it. Picture this: you walk into a dinner party with a regular group of friends and you spot that person… the one who is always rambling on about their fears, anxieties and self-doubts. You hate to exclude them so you sit next to that person and attempt to befriend them. You might decide that they are worth listening to. But after your five-course meal, you wonder why on earth you missed out on the great conversation at the other end of the table, to spend your time listening to this person and all of their “what if’s”.
Next time around, you get wise; you spot that person, and although you can hear them going on about their fears and anxieties at the other end of the table, this time you sit next to the new friend who is calm and confident and has so much to share with the world. You realize that the whole experience is better when you are not engaged in the fear-ridden dialogue and you make more space for the confident conversation in your head. And as you walk through this visualization, try to imagine, who would I sit next to at that dinner party if I wanted to feel more excited and confident about this upcoming presentation?
The best way to combat the ego is to move the focus off of ourselves. And so, focusing on who you will serve in the audience can be the most powerful way to prepare for this big event.
I have found this trick works well: 15 minutes before I have a high-stress presentation, I take a few minutes, get quiet (often in my car or over a coffee away from my desk), and do a little meditation. In that moment, I ask for the opportunity to serve just ONE person with my message. Just one. You could say I am setting the bar low, but I am aiming to really impact the life of that one person. I think about what that person might be feeling and thinking as they walk in to hear me speak. I think about what I could share with them that would be helpful.
Getting really focused on serving one person with your life experience or expertise can be a powerful way to align to your most authentic self. It can also take the focus off of protecting your ego and put your focus smack dab in the middle of your audience. And it also gives us permission to not try to please everyone, as we just need to serve one. Imposter syndrome often occurs when we want everyone to approve of what we do but authentic alignment is what happens when we tap into our inner voice to reach out and passionately help another person.
Try it. You’ll be surprised how many people come up to you afterwards to tell you how much your presentation deeply impacted them. Although you only need one.
To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at [email protected].