Episode Transcript

How to Continually Overcome Imposter Syndrome



[00:00:08] BS: Hey, I’m Britt Skrabanek and you’re listening to Love Your Enthusiasm, a podcast that brings together creators, teachers and explorers share techniques and inspiration to help you stay focused on your passion.

It’s time for another solo show, where I explore topics that impact your enthusiasm, either positively or negatively or both. Thus far I have covered taking alcohol breaks, which is insanely popular, by the way, and lowering your cost of living, what to take with you from 2020, which is still crazy relevant in 2021. And most recently, tips for working from home. If you missed any of those solo segments, be sure to check those out.


[00:01:01] BS: Okay, today’s topic I am attempting to tackle is a tricky one, how to overcome imposter syndrome. But you will notice that I added continually in the title as in how to continually overcome because it is so important to understand that beating imposter syndrome is a slow and steady process, not a one-and-done. Imposter syndrome goes away and then it comes right back. Imposter syndrome can also happen to anyone, creatives, entrepreneurs, teachers, the list goes on and on and on.

So, today, we will look at common causes of imposter syndrome and recommendations that will hopefully help you beat it. I frequently feel like this con artist in a heist film, like from the old black and white movie days. Imposter syndrome happens with literally everything that I do, including this podcast that I love so much that I’ve been running for almost a year. I’ve also been blogging for nine years, which is crazy. I’ve self-published multiple novels, and I also run my own business, Super Neat Marketing, where I am a marketing consultant. And so, I have the expertise and knowledge that I share with other businesses to help them be successful.

So, I put myself in these positions a lot that make me very susceptible to imposter syndrome. This podcast is actually based off of one of my most popular blog posts that I wrote, which is called learning to live with imposter syndrome. I was shocked with the reactions from people, I got tons of comments, tons of shares, and everybody really responded to that blog. So, it made me realize that this is a conversation that needs to be out in the open a lot more. And the reason why I said learning to live with imposter syndrome as the title for that particular blog, the reason why I went with that is because for those of us that deal with imposter syndrome, I don’t know if it’s something that we will ever truly overcome, because it’s ongoing. I think it’s something that we learn to live with.

What was interesting about that blog were people’s comments where a lot of people didn’t even know about the term imposter syndrome. They didn’t know that there was a term for that feeling that they had felt their entire lives. I personally was relieved when I discovered this term later in life because having that name for something that I had battled growing up and increasingly battled as an adult made it less scary, less like that Boogey Man hiding under the bed or in the closet, and more like a temper tantrum that would come and go.

It was so different from dealing with anxiety and depression which I have dealt with all my life and learned to manage. Imposter syndrome was more like the strange push and pull, feeling the exhilaration of pushing to achieve something, followed by the rug being pulled out from under me. If I were to define imposter syndrome and I know there’s a ton of definitions out there, but imposter syndrome, also called imposter phenomenon, is when you suddenly feel like an imposter or fraud. It’s that simple.

You doubt yourself and even doubt the important things you stand for, it really gets in there. You experience this kind of fear of being found out. I learned the word imposter from classic heist films, as I mentioned. I was talking about the con-artists. The con artist was always being found out, somebody would scream, “He’s an imposter! She’s an imposter!” And after all the time and energy the con artists spent perfecting their craft and putting themselves out there. Suddenly they’re exposed, punished, and they lose everything.

That’s how imposter syndrome feels to me, and when it strikes, I run away and hide. I have perfect examples of this happening where I’ve literally run away and hidden somewhere. When I danced as a child, I used to disappear after I performed. I would finish the performance, and this is, I was a kid too, I would finish the performance and as soon as I got off the stage, I crawled up and cried in a dark corner.

My dad eventually would peel me off of the floor, and get over the constant fear of me becoming a missing child because I did this so often. He was so good at being able to find me and talk me down, tell me I did a good job, and help me rejoin reality. The whole process took some time and this is after every performance I did. It took about a half-hour to an hour to get me to leave the dark corner that I had found. And still, as an adult, I run away and hide. I curl up in the fetal position on my bed, under multiple blankets. I usually want to cry, but I don’t. As I slowly come out, I appear out from under the blankets with one eye. Eventually, I look at what the other eye, then my nose, and my mouth come out of the blanket. It takes me a while and now my husband even comes and gets me out, sometimes, because I need somebody to actually pull me out of that situation.

So, this is what happens to me when imposter syndrome strikes, and I imagine it looks different for everyone. Because imposter syndrome is such a tricky topic, I will not pretend to know all the answers either. So, in addition to sharing my experiences and recommendations, I am calling on a little help from my friends by including wisdom from three previous guests on the show who covered a wide range of enthusiasms, but who are also writers and writers tend to deal with imposter syndrome a lot.

And those three women are Alison Armstrong, who you may remember from Episode 23. She’s a travel writer and photographer. She actually shared her triggers and her recommendations on social. Case Lane who was in recent episode 38. She’s the founder of Ready Entrepreneur, and she’s an author, and she talked about her recommendations for imposter syndrome and her episode. And then, Kate Johnston from Episode 22, who is a writing coach and author also talked about imposter syndrome and her episode.

I will share these wonderful women’s thoughts throughout this episode. While it’s easy to think that others see us as an imposter, this feeling really comes from within, although external factors absolutely play a role. So, first, we’ll take a look at the causes of imposter syndrome to understand the triggers we need to learn to manage.

As I learned to live with imposter syndrome, I’ve learned to identify what triggers it. These triggers tend to build up over time before developing and to full-on imposter syndrome. And often, a combination of triggers is what sets me off. I don’t know about you. But it’s not one thing. It’s multiple things. So, before we get into the ways to manage imposter syndrome, let’s start by looking at the triggers or causes of imposter syndrome.

Number one, stepping out of your comfort zone. This really says it all. I think I feel like you can just go with this cause or trigger and nothing else. And I’m going to bring in something that Kate Johnston said in her episode. She said the first thing I would say if you’re feeling like being an imposter is that it means you’ve stepped out of your comfort zone. You’re taking a chance on yourself, you’ve taken a risk, so that’s a high five from me. Because way too often, we keep ourselves safe. We don’t try something new, because we’re afraid that we’re going to mess up or we’re going to look like fools. We’re going to be made fun of or laughed at. So, then we don’t. We don’t grow in that space and we just don’t get after it.

So, stepping out of your comfort zone, the way that Kate describes it is so amazing because it’s like, don’t be scared, get after things. And if you’re doing that, you get a high five. You get a high five from Kate and you get a high five from me, as well. It means that you’re doing something amazing. But stepping out of your comfort zone can absolutely cause imposter syndrome to happen. It makes perfect sense.

The second cause of imposter syndrome is promoting yourself. Alison Armstrong mentioned this on social media when I was getting some feedback from people about imposter syndrome. She said, stepping out of her comfort zone not in terms of travel or activities, but in terms of promoting herself.

Promoting yourself, doesn’t it suck? I mean, people are always surprised when I tell them I hate marketing myself because I’m a professional content marketer. Well, let me tell you, marketing someone else’s business is way easier than marketing your own business. Whether that’s your personal brand, or your actual business, and maybe your personal brand is your business, even trickier. I get why people outsource marketing because you need the outside expertise, but you also need someone who isn’t as close to the business or the brand as you are. So, your personal brand or your product, it’s just this whole different situation. So, promoting yourself can absolutely be a cause of imposter syndrome.

Number three is connecting with accomplished people. This trigger also came from Alison Armstrong, and I thought this was interesting. She said, reaching out to you or hoping to befriend people, who I consider more accomplished than me causes imposter syndrome to strike. So true, right? I do this all the time for this podcast, getting guests on the show, and I’ve also worked with C-level and a lot of high-level people from my business, Super Neat Marketing, many, many times over the years. And as many of you know, I’m also an introvert. And so, connecting with accomplished people or people that you think are better than you in some sort of way can definitely trigger that sense of fear and the lack of confidence, which segues perfectly into my next one.

Number four is fear and lack of confidence, being a cause of imposter syndrome. This actually comes from Case Lane’s Episode 38, which was a recent episode, and here’s what Case said, she said, “A lot of people have trouble with imposter syndrome because they just think that they’re not that person”, that somehow entrepreneurs get some sort of special Harry Potter letter one day, and now you could become an entrepreneur and you get to be successful. All these excuses start to come into play like, “Oh, I don’t have the time to do it. I don’t have the money. I can’t do this. Or it’s taking too much time away from other activities.” Just a series of excuses come from there. What Case said, as she says, “People just don’t get started.” They don’t even get started with running a business that they want to run because they start making up excuses. And Case said very poignantly, “I believe those excuses are coming from fear and a lack of confidence.”

The next one for causes of imposter syndrome is being a high achiever. So, I will link to this article in the show notes from Psychology Today. It had some interesting stats, around 25% to 30% of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. Also, imposter syndrome was first documented in high-achieving women in the 1970s. I thought this was interesting. The thing about that the 1970s compared to now and think about how we as high achieving women are today, compared to back then, and this idea of perfectionism and pressure. So, that’s a big one. If you’re a high achiever, I think a lot of you are. I know that I am considered a high achiever, then we are more susceptible to imposter syndrome.

The last cause that I will talk about, although I’m sure there are many others, is rejection. Rejection, it’s so awful. I know. Everyone gets rejected, is the first thing I want to say, everyone. I’ve had multiple people on the show who have talked about rejection and I certainly have gone through it myself. I’ve even gone through it with his podcasts, which you either think it’s something you love, and it’s something you’re really enjoying. But guess what, rejection still happens.

I believe I’ve told this story on the show before but I’ve self-published fiction and this one time, I went to one of those writing conferences, which is a lot like speed dating, and this was a few years ago. I finally worked up the courage to go, I paid for my writing conference ticket and did that whole like speed dating thing where you pitch your novel to literary agents. The very first agent told me he didn’t like my novel. He was just like, “I don’t like it. I don’t like it.” No further explanation. I’m sitting across from this guy. He was like right there in front of me. I paid hundreds of dollars to get slapped in the face in 30 seconds. What was really bad about that is I had other agents that I had to talk to after that. It was all like boom, boom, boom, one after the other. So, I ran outside and that was about to just ball, again, go hide in the corner and cry but I’ve somehow breathed through it, which, obviously breathing always works tremendously well, and went back in, and pitched to other agents. Even though I sent my manuscript to a couple of them, that novel still has not been published, traditionally. So, that was years ago and it’s just being kind of sitting there.

So, again, rejection happens and it’s very, very difficult to overcome. I did learn one thing through that experience and many other times of rejection, that rejection is two things. It’s putting yourself out there, so stepping out of your comfort zone, which was the first cause that we talked about, and also not getting what you expected. So, it kind of comes down to defining your definition of success. I’ll get into both of these things, expectations, success, along with some other ways to overcome imposter syndrome in the next section.

Okay, how to overcome imposter syndrome. Scratch that, how to continually overcome imposter syndrome, because it will go away, and it will definitely come back, as I’m sure you’ve experienced. So, the first one is, manage expectations, which I just talked about with the rejection cause. So, I recommend revisiting what kind of expectations you have set for yourself, and expectations start when we’re really young, it goes back to the classroom, we need to get good grades, we need to excel, we need to pass, we need to compete with others, and win.

Performance expectations continue as we become adults in the workplace as well and it’s just something we can’t really get away from. And then we end up too hard on ourselves and we’re living in a goal-driven society. So, managing expectations is a big one and it’s also about those performance expectations. If you’re not competing with others, it’s like you’re competing with yourself. So, when I ease up on myself, it really takes the pressure off. You might have a different way to manage your expectations. But for me, it’s usually, “Hey, take it easy, be kind to yourself, and it does take the pressure off.”

The next one, number two, for how to overcome imposter syndrome is defining your definition of success. So, piggybacking off of expectations, what is your definition of success, because that all comes together. I know success is really hard to define and we often turn to numbers, views, downloads, likes, traffics, clicks, sales, subscribers, book sales, but if we only use numbers as the markers of success, we will feel like we failed. And it’s so much easier for imposter syndrome to creep in whenever we have these expectations about success and what that – we haven’t really defined it and so we don’t know what success means to us, because we think it has to just deal with these numbers, almost like numbers are a more straightforward way to define success. I think success really has to be something deeper and more meaningful. I can’t just focus on downloads for this podcast. If I did, I would have quit already. Just so you know. That’s not why I’m doing this.

So, I hope that makes sense to you, define your definition of success. I think that’s a big one, something we don’t do, and we don’t take the time to do, and we also just focus so much on numbers. If I look at success for this podcast, almost a year later, I’ve made so many incredible connections and had so many incredible conversations with guests, and I know that I’m doing something with my time that really matters to me. So, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about all of these other benefits.

The next one, number three, is just get started. This tip comes from Case Lane when she was talking about how a lot of entrepreneurs who are getting started experience fear and a lack of confidence and that leads to imposter syndrome. Case’s podcast is awesome. It is all about getting started and finding that one place, I believe it’s called pick one place to start. So, Case had a lot of great tips in her episode.

But what she talked about as well is besides taking a deep breath, that being step one is thinking about what you want to do and why you want to do it, and then start with practical things. As silly as it sounds, it turns out that when you start, it’s a momentum thing. By practical thing, she even talked about setting up your space and making sure you have all of your tools together. She even talked about how the first day of work, if you’re in the workplace, HR is there to give you the tour and show you where the coffee is, and all that kind of stuff. A lot of us are working from home, running our own businesses, or our creative businesses that happened in our spare time. Her tip is great. Take the time to get organized and make sure you have the supplies that you need to kick ass, everything in its place, take the time to do all of that. So, you don’t have any distractions, so you can really just get started. I think that’s a great way to overcome imposter syndrome, because that all ties together, and that you start to make these excuses up based on what’s happening around you with distractions or just not feeling like you’re ready to kick ass.

The next one, number four, is remind yourself of your accomplishments. Let that one sink. This actually comes from Alison Armstrong and she talked about this when connecting with accomplished people. We are all really bad about not remembering to celebrate those accomplishments, right? I know I am. A lot of times, I’ll be like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing.” I say that all the time. My husband loves it. When I do this, he calls this the self-loading phase. And he always says, “Yes, you do.” He doesn’t need to shower me with sweet nothings. That’s all it takes. So, I’ll say the same thing to you. You do know what you’re doing because you’re doing it. I’ll bet you have the accomplishments to prove it. So, as Alison said, it’s time to remind yourself of your accomplishments.

The next one, number four, for overcoming imposter syndrome is listen to and follow your intuition. This one also comes from Alison Armstrong and she talked about it when promoting yourself, listening to and following your intuition is a great way to overcome imposter syndrome, as you’re promoting yourself for your business, or your art, whatever. I think a good move when promoting yourself is to promote yourself authentically. In Allison’s episode, live your best life authentically, we talked about this a lot. We talked about just Instagram and that whole kind of fake image a lot of people put out there. So, that’s only going to make you feel worse if that’s not who you are, and what you stand for, and you’re promoting yourself that way. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how you could do it. I think that’s just going to make you feel worse with imposter syndrome because you are being fake. You aren’t being yourself.

So, it’s really important to be authentic, as you’re promoting yourself. and also, with listening to and following your intuition. It’s remembering your why. And as cheesy as that is, and it’s overplayed, if you forget why you’re doing something, you will struggle. Imposter syndrome will absolutely creep in and it may stay. And if you forget your purpose, and you don’t listen to your intuition, and you’re not being authentic, you are much more likely to quit.

Number five is embrace your evolution and this is the last tip that I will share. This is actually from Kate Johnston, from her episode, and she was talking about stepping out of your comfort zone. I love this. Again, it’s that whole high-five situation. You stepped out of your comfort zone. Great job. And what Kate was talking about was that you need to accept where you are because you are where you are for a reason, and how you got to this moment is an evolution. It’s not just an evolution of growth, it’s also an evolution of mistakes, and everything you brought to that moment is a result of showing up. So, I love this, embrace your evolution, embrace the evolution of growth and your mistakes, and whether you’re a business owner or a creative person, this is so important.

Imposter syndrome happens to the best of us and I do mean the best of us because we are stepping out of our comfort zone and getting after shit. Imposter syndrome doesn’t go away when we’re going after things. If we learn to manage imposter syndrome, we will overcome the discomfort, the anxiety, the darkness. We will want to give up, but we will keep going. So, keep doing what you’re doing, and remember to be kind to yourself along the way.


[00:24:37] BS: Hope you enjoyed today’s solo segment about the dreaded imposter syndrome. Hopefully, you will dread it a little less by trying out some of these recommendations.

For related content about overcoming imposter syndrome, be sure to check out the amazing episodes from the three amazing women I mentioned and today’s show. Episode 22 with Kate Johnston called Tap into Your Creative Forces, Episode 23 with Alison Armstrong called Live Your Best Life Authentically, and Episode 38 with Case Lane called Pick One Place to Start. But honestly, since imposter syndrome is so common, pretty much every guest on the show has talked about battling with and feeding this internal dialogue. So, any episode is a good move if you need a boost. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for loving your enthusiasm with me today. Until next time.


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