My wife, Joanne told me recently as she was getting ready to attend a class to update her qualification as a trainer and assessor that she was struck with disturbing feelings of self-doubt.
I know how easily for anyone, if unchecked, that this can grow into fear, anxiety or even panic, possibly leading to an unreflective poor performance.
Jo described the gnawing beast of concern in her gut that stimulated that part of her brain that irrationally began to question her own competencies.
“What exactly did you think?” I asked.
“I began to wonder if this lady will start to ask me questions where I’ll stuff up the answers and then she’ll realise that I have no idea what I’m doing!”
I’d be surprised if irrational self-doubt hasn’t struck YOU at some point in YOUR life:
- the school assembly
- the ‘show and tell’ to your primary school class
- singing a song that you’ve sung a thousand times
- handing in an assignment
- chatting up a potential date
- first day at a new job
- thousandth day at your job
- making a speech
- the list is endless.
‘Imposter Syndrome’ strikes us when we know we CAN do something, yet we begin to doubt ourselves in an unreasonable manner. We start to imagine that we’ve been acting this whole time and that we are about to be exposed as a fraud.
I pointed out that this notion of being an imposter was a perfectly normal reaction to being put in the spotlight and asked her about the rave reviews she’d had from her students and from parents of teenagers whom she’d taught and influenced. All logical evidence reinforced the certain conclusion that not only does she love what she does, but that she is extremely good at doing it.
I’d like to think that my coaching ramblings have embedded themselves in Jo’s brain because she later regaled me with how she’d dealt with these feelings. Whilst driving to the appointment, she’d imagined the examiner to be an extremely friendly and helpful person who would quickly realise her passion for her calling and see past any nerves and know that she is great at what she does. Surprise, surprise – the creative visualisation worked a treat and that’s exactly how it went.
When we’re put in the spotlight and our abilities are questioned, our lizard brain can smash us by reminding us that we’re outside of the cave – the sanctuary known as the ‘comfort zone’. The lizard means well – she’s doing it to protect us from danger. She’s preparing us for the fight or the flight and she’s going to give us some adrenalin, so that we’re ready.
We calm the lizard by acknowledging her and thanking her for trying to keep us safe. That’s her job. Then we remind ourselves that out in the light is where we can really shine. We sense her concerns but still we put on our mask, we take centre stage and we act. The acting leads to confidence which leads to a performance. If you need some coping techniques, just give me a call via this site.
Life is a series of performances. Go forth and win your personal Oscar!