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Don't let imposter syndrome hold you back from your best life

3 weeks ago I got back from my around the world trip, spent a week in my beautiful bed and then packed my bag again to go and stay for 5 days in Sydney while I did my Australian Company Directors Course to become a board member.

After finishing , I can tell you, I feel like I’ve learnt more in those 5 days than I have in years. It’s totally awesome and I’m so excited by it all and can’t wait to have a seat at some really interesting tables. The workload and the exam process has been way harder than I anticipated and it’s incredibly consuming and mentally challenging, but so it should be for the responsibility we want to ultimately take on.

 

But here’s the interesting thing. I am doing my AICD course through Commonwealth Banks Women in Focus group - I’ve mentioned them before, but if you’re an Australian Woman in business, look it up, it’s one of the most valuable networks in my life.

So, the benefit of doing it with them is that it’s all women, so it totally changes the learning environment. On the first day, everyone was so open about how vulnerable they were feeling and how they weren't quite sure if they were smart enough to be in the room. Come on, these were some of the smartest women I've ever met. It gets everyone... 

The weird part is, these women are awesome. There’s people walking around all day every day that you’re thinking are incredible and they’re thinking they’re not good enough. You may have times when you think you’re not good enough while simultaneously, someone else is thinking about how brilliant you are. Now I’m not advocating for mass egomania, I do think one of the greatest parts about growing is being aware of all of the things that we don’t know and how much we have to learn, but what I am advocating, is to not let an unrealistic psychological sense to derail you from stepping into your light.

 

What’s interesting is that ironically, high achieving people are more prone to feeling imposter syndrome and it can be completely derailing when it happens. Speaking is a big one that I can use to illustrate. I bet if I asked you a question about something you’re passionate about, you could enthusiastically talk to me about for the next 5 minutes while barely taking a breathe. But say the same thing on a stage in front of 1000 people, may be the undoing.

Have a tendency towards perfectionism? Then you probably know the exact feeling I’m talking about. Hello unrealistic expectations.

 

I've had a lot of practice with pushing through because I never want to let unhelpful thoughts and feelings to stop me from doing something that I truly want to do. 

There are still times it hits me. Like every time I publish something whether it be a podcast episode or a video or a blog post, I have that split second moment of “crap, I’m not good enough and everyone is going to find out”. But I ask myself “Tina, is that helpful”, and of course, it’s not, so on I go.

 

Imposter syndrome is a term coined by psychologists that refers to the behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud.

 

It’s most often experienced by women, by I know a fair few men that also experience the feeling and to everyone, it’s severely limiting and can play havoc on your mind and stop you from stepping into who you want to be.

 

Let’s talk about the fear of being exposed as a fraud. I think there’s a huge difference in feeling imposter syndrome and “fake it til you make it”. Should you ever fake it? No, I don’t think so. But I guess it depends on your definition of fake it. It’s shown that when going for a job or contract, women most often, will make sure that they reach and exceed every one of the criteria before applying and moving forward. Men, in general, will feel like they need to satisfy around 50% of the criteria before they feel eligible to go forward. Is that man faking it if he gets the job? No, he’s taken the skills he already has and has given himself room to grow further into what he’s trying to become. As women, we need to accept that in order to grow, we have to get comfortable in doing things we’ve never done before so that we can learn to actually do them.

 

And you know what? Sometimes it will work out and sometimes it won’t. Nobody really truly knows what they’re doing, we’re all just trying to do our best with the information that we’ve got at the time. There’s so often that I see a “fight to the death” or “burn the boats” sort of encouragement but I think that can be really harmful to our happiness. Sometimes you’ll push past the imposter syndrome and try something new and discover that it’s not what you’d hoped for and it doesn’t bring you joy and so often then, doesn’t bring those around you joy. And you have the option to quit it. Always better to try and learn than to never try. And always worse to stick with something that makes you miserable than to quit. I should caveat that. There are things we inevitably have to do as part of life that don’t bring us joy, especially when you’re a small business owner and you have to do all of the areas of your business, or your a mum at home with sick kiddies. But long term, if you start something because it excited you and then you find that it’s not bringing anything good to your life and the end game isn’t going to be worth it, alter course and sail on. 

 

Being wrong doesn’t make you a fraud. Most people at the top of their field, fail a lot. Sports statistics are a great place to look at this. If you see the stats on basketball players, soccer players, golfers, tennis players - about how much they miss, it’s huge! But for some reason people think they need to be this unattainable perfection. Occasional losing is part of playing the game. I don’t like to glorify failure, it’s never a nice thing to experience, but never make the fear of it stop you from feeling like a contender in the game.

Whenever you feel yourself doubting what you can do and how far you can go, I want you to remember one thing. Remember everything that’s happened in your life that you’ve overcome, all the battles you have won and all of the fears you have faced head on and pushed through.

There are days in life where inevitably we think, “oh my gosh, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. I don’t know how I’m going to solve this. And the worst, I don’t know if I’m smart enough to solve this”. But you’re here, with me right now. You did get through it, you did solve it, you did get through every hard day and every time you thought you may not be able to do it.

 

A great exercise for you to do today is after you switch this off, take out a piece of paper and write down a list of all of your greatest achievements. And do not undermine yourself! One of my greatest achievements was when I first saw a student in one of my tutoring centres walk down the street with my branded library bag on their shoulder while I was out with my Grandma. In today’s world where I intentionally try to constantly level up, I know that wasn’t such a great achievement. I had branded bags printed and gave them away for free to hundreds of students, of course I was going to see one. But at the time it was moments and relevant and so on the list it goes. Try not to look at it through the lease of as you are now, try to look of it through the lease of as you were 10 or 20 years ago. Often I find that because you’re striving and growing so continuously, it can be easy to minimise our achievements but when I do this exercise and I think, what if 10 years ago me could see me now, what’s she most proud of, I know 10 years ago me would be stoked.

 

Pushing past imposter syndrome is like a muscle. The more you work it and prove that you can overcome, the more confidence you develop to be able to overcome even bigger obstacles in the future.

So think of your wildest dream, and get out there and do it.

 

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