Is Imposter Syndrome holding you back?

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Notes

We all suffer from Imposter Syndrome at certain periods of our life.

Imposter Syndrome is one of those major challenges that are common amongst entrepreneurs, business owners and marketers.

You feel like a fraud; you’re worried about what others will think of your work; you think anyone can do it; you take credit for your work.

You feel anxious, worried, stressed. Fears begin to creep in.

It stops you from moving forward and making progress with your work.

In this episode, Chris and Nic discuss how Imposter Syndrome can show up in your life and share ways to help you overcome this challenge to help you move forward.

Additional Resources:

Transcription

Chris Marr:
Welcome back to the Content Marketing Academy podcast. This week it is a little bit different. I have got Nic on the show with me here today to join me in talking about imposter syndrome. Nic, say hello to everybody.

Nic Crawford:
Hello. Hello. This is my first time on the podcast.

Chris Marr:
It is. It’s your very first time here. Hopefully this will be the first of many times, as well. I want to bring you back on and talk about some topics. Now, one of the topics obviously as imposter syndrome. You’ve been doing a bunch of study and research in the background on all of this. I’m aware of it. We talk about it, we see it all the time. Ultimately, I think it’d be good for the audience to know why we have been spending a bunch of time on this. What was it that triggered this bunch of research that we’ve been doing?

Nic Crawford:
We realised that when people are trying to produce content, that there are certain things that hold them back. It tends to be rather than the processes as such, or the personal stuff and the personal development things that hold them back, one of those things is imposter syndrome. That’s a topic that’s popped up quite a lot of times, so we figured, “Well, we better do something about that and try and help our members simply overcome that so that they can move forward and make some progress.”

Chris Marr:
That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? How can we help people to make more progress? It’s almost like you want them to get out of their own way. One of the things, like you said Nic, that we’ve been doing, all the teaching and stuff that we do, we can teach people all the content marketing stuff, all the technical staff, the structure. Everything they need to know to be successful with the content marketing, but what we started to realise was that there was things holding people back that were more things that were in their head rather than their technical ability.

Ultimately, we think that anybody is capable of the thing. Where they’ve got the ability and the capability, but there’s something else holding them back and it’s imposter syndrome. We’ve seen this in our members. We see this, like last week Nic, we ran a workshop in Dundee. We do these four free workshops during the year. People come along and they tell us stories about their problems. What’s holding them back. It was nice. It’s quite a vulnerable situation to be in, isn’t it Nic?

When someone that shares their challenges around content. The way that it manifests itself is things like, and you could add to this Nic, I guess. It’s things like a fear, it’s almost like they have a fear of putting themselves out there. To be seen. It’s almost like putting your neck out there. Whether it be, I don’t know, “I don’t like the sound of my own voice on a podcast,” or, “I don’t like the way I look on video.”

“I never really felt like I’m a good writer.” It all kind of manifests into this fear, and it stops people from … It really holds people back Nic, from doing their best work. What other things are the way that it sort of manifests itself? The reason I’m asking this is for people that are listening, so they can recognise it in their own lives and the people around them, as well. When imposter syndrome creeps up, what does it look like?

Nic Crawford:
It could come up as the fear of failing. We’ve already talked about the fear. It manifests in fear, so we make, we over-prepare for things or we make excuses for things. We over-prepare for that, so that we try and not fail at the thing. When it comes to, if you fail, people will say “I told you so,” that’s what you prepare for. But the failing’s all part of the growing and learning which is, everybody talks about that all the time.

Chris Marr:
So we make up this failure though, don’t we? We make it up in our head. We think we’re going to fail. We make up the worst case scenario, and almost use it as an excuse to, the procrastination is ultimately a result of imposter syndrome. We procrastinate through planning to avoid doing the thing and then never actually get around to doing it. It’s almost like an avoidance tactic or something, right?

Nic Crawford:
Absolutely. I did it for the workshop on Friday. Totally avoided practising for it. I knew it was coming. I knew for months it was coming, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll get the practise in eventually,” and I procrastinated and decided to do other things instead. So I left that a week before the workshop, before I decided to practise. That was the worst thing to do.

Chris Marr:
That is impostor syndrome in action. You know a thing’s coming up. There’s a lot of fears and nervousness and worst case scenario planning, everything’s going on in your head. You leave it to the last possible moment that you can to practise for it, and that’s the only thing that gets you to do the thing. All of those things are signals that something’s going on around the imposter syndrome space. Is there anything else Nic, that could potentially be a manifestation of imposter syndrome or how it shows up, do you think? Do you have anything to add to that?

Nic Crawford:
Really a way is how you talk to yourself. You might compare yourself to other people. You might be degrading yourself, and just making up excuses for not doing the work, what we just talked about. Then even for your feelings. You’re stressed, you’ve got anxiety. The fear, the panic, all those feelings come up. It’s about just recognising how you’re talking to yourself and how you’re feeling in that moment so that that’s the start of overcoming it.

Chris Marr:
Yes. Which we’ll get into. Absolutely, that sort of self-awareness. The funny thing about imposter syndrome Nic, I think, is that you’re never quite … We’re not saying here, “Do these things and you’ll never suffer from imposter syndrome ever again.” I think everybody suffers from imposter syndrome throughout their life at different times when they’re doing different things.

It ultimately comes at a point when you’re really stretching yourself or pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, or trying to develop some skill set or something new for you that’s pushing you into a different place. Somewhere where you’re really stretching yourself, out of your comfort zone. Do you agree with that?

Nic Crawford:
Absolutely. It takes time to overcome it. Imposter syndrome’s not a disease. It’s just the way that we think and it’s all come down to the biases that we’ve picked up over time about our experiences, as well. It’s a mental thing that’s going on with you, it can be changed. Habits can be changed, your brain can be changed, so there’s ways that we could change that. It’s not a disease. It can be changed.

Chris Marr:
Absolutely. That’s what we were talking about, interrupting this habit and talking about methods to overcome this. Ultimately what Nic and I want from this podcast episode is for you to use this as some kind of resource so that you, every time you’re feeling like you have imposter syndrome, you could maybe stick this on, listen to it and work through this. There’s other methods as well, which we’ll talk about soon. What we want to say here is that, it affects everybody. It affects Nic. It affects me.

One of the things that we want to help you with you here is, not to prevent it from happening as such. Just to be able to recognise it faster, and therefore do something about it quicker so you can overcome it faster before it becomes a major problem. All that is really about, it’s about self-awareness, isn’t it Nic? It’s about being self aware, understanding why you feel a certain way, what triggered those feelings, and then the subsequent action that you’re going to take thereafter to help you to move forward. Ultimately to stop you holding you back so you can do your best work. Right?

Nic Crawford:
Absolutely.

Chris Marr:
The question at this stage before we move onto the next part, how are we dealing with it is next really, it’s what we want to cover next, but this point here is for those listening is to say, how is imposter syndrome affecting you? How does it show up in your life? Is it in your language, in your behaviour, in your actions? The things that we spoke about.

It’s not a complete list of actions or behaviours that come out from imposter syndrome, but certainly some of the more obvious ones there. How is it affecting you? We want you to be aware. More self-aware of when it appears, so that you can do something about it immediately. Let’s talk Nic, about things that we can do to just reduce the impact that it’s having on our behaviours and on our life, and ultimately on the work that we’re doing. What kind of things could we do? You were just getting into it.

Nic Crawford:
There’s a few things we could do. The first one is a personal favourite of mine. This is what I think about all the time. It’s to think about your purpose and what’s the thing that you’re trying to do or achieve and that it’s bigger than imposter syndrome? I always think about the bigger picture. It’s funny because I was reading a book recently. What was it called? What was that book I’ve been reading recently? Man’s Search for Meaning. That one. By Viktor Frankl. I was reading that this weekend. Viktor’s been in the camps of Auschwitz, and he is facing death.

The story’s amazing. He’s been through so much, but he is ultimately facing death. How he overcame it was by having a purpose. He was thinking about the bigger picture. He says, “I could be here.” That was the thing that drove everything. That drove his choices and eventually, he got out of the camp. He escaped the camp, so it was always thinking about, “What’s the bigger thing I’m trying to achieve here?” That is bigger, and always bigger than imposter syndrome or any fear that you have. That’s what you can do first.

Chris Marr:
So it’s that sense of purpose. Knowing what you’re here to do. What your bigger picture objectives are. What you want to achieve. I think that’s absolutely critical as to, some people might want to write that down and have it so that you can remind yourself what it is that you are here to do. The work you’re trying to do, the difference. How you add value to the world, all of that stuff. Most of us are going to be facing death however, we still need to have that sense of purpose and be able to remind ourselves of it. That’s, I love that. I’ve not read Man’s Search for Meaning. I’ve ordered it though, and I’m going to read it at the weekend.

Nic Crawford:
It’s so good. It’s amazing. Amazing.

Chris Marr:
Thanks for sharing that with me. It’s one of those books, it’s on all the top recommended book lists of all time, so we need to get that book. It’s a really short read you were saying as well, right?

Nic Crawford:
Yeah. I expect those books to be in the top recommended reading list to be quite big books, but when I got it I was surprised at how short it was. I could read it in a weekend and it was 100% worth it.

Chris Marr:
That’s awesome. We’ve got this idea of purpose. We’ve got a purpose, or something we’re trying to achieve. Ultimately, why are we doing this work in the first place? I think for all of us though Nic, there’s days where you are at work or there’s days in your life where it does feel like a grind. You do need to remind yourself what the bigger picture is. Even with a podcast or a blog, or a video or something like that it’s like, “Right. I know I need to do this work here because it leads to this,” whatever.

The purpose, the thing that you’re trying to achieve. Absolutely. So purpose, that’s the first thing. I’ve got a couple of things here I could add in as well Nic, that I do personally that help me. Like I said, I’m just like you. I’m just like everybody else. I’m just human. I’m not superhuman in any way, shape or form and things get to me too. I feel sometimes those feelings of imposter syndrome, as well. I’ve got more self-aware over time. One of the things that’s really helped me Nic, is a five-minute journal as a resource.

Because every day you take those few minutes to write down what you’re grateful for, what’s going to make today great. You write down an affirmation. Something that’s in the future tense. Like the person you want to be. You write it down like that. For example, I might say something like, “I am capable and my work is valuable to other people.” Or, “I’m the kind of person that people want to spend time with.” Something like that. Something that’s a characteristic of me, that I want to be. Or I want to be more patient and kind, or whatever.

Or I’m a patient and kind dad, or something like that. Something that’s sort of, this is who I am. Basically like you said, you’re changing the story and the words that you tell yourself. This affirmation. At the end of the day in the five-minute journal you get to say what made today great, and I love the question at the end which is, what could I have done today to make it a better day? There’s always room for improvement. I overreacted or I was stressed out or I panicked. Whatever it is, and I would like to not do that in the future, or less of that in the future. So that works.

I think if you’re doing that exercise every single day, it slowly just becomes a big part of your life. You start to look at … You start to see gratitude in everything. Again, it’s a big part of imposter syndrome is to be able to look at something. Instead of being frustrated by it, you see it as something that you can be grateful for so you can move forward. I think all of that stuff leads to more self-awareness. How else can we deal with it, Nic? I think you mentioned something, I remember when we were talking about this before, about breaking the habit. Do you remember that?

Nic Crawford:
Yeah.

Chris Marr:
Can we talk about that?

Nic Crawford:
This has come from, it’s kind of a mix between a couple of books. I have read a book called Beyond Imposter Syndrome by Margaret Collins, and I’ve read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s kind of a mixture of both. When we are making a logical decision about how we want it acting forward, this is about being logical about the whole process rather than allowing your emotions to take over and allowing your emotions to drive you. Because imposter syndrome is all surrounding your emotions. A statement you can make to yourself is, “When situation x arises, I will most likely feel like y, so what I’m going to do is z.”

You’re recognising the situation, which is x. You’re accepting how you’ll feel, which is y, because it won’t disappear straight away. It’s going to be there. Then you’re interrupting the bad habit with a good one, which is z. So every time you’re acting on this exercise or this statement, you’re showing your brain a new way of doing things. You’re forming a new belief in your head, and the most important thing is, it takes time and it takes patience to change this way of thinking, as well. Every time that you’re telling your brain that, you’re showing the brain the right way and it’s putting a stop to your emotions in that moment every single time.

Chris Marr:
Basically, you’re going through this exercise of self-awareness. This is what it feels like to me. It’s like an ultimate self-awareness exercise. It’s like, “When I … ” Take me through the x, y, z again? Slowly?

Nic Crawford:
When situation x arises, I will most likely feel like y. So what I’m going to do is z.

Chris Marr:
Right. So when this situation comes up, I normally feel like this. In order to overcome it, I’m going to do z. Self-awareness is like I feel like … You want to get to the point where you recognise the feeling immediately and you jump straight to z and you’re reacting in a positive way to overcome the thing, right?

Nic Crawford:
Yeah.

Chris Marr:
It’s like you said. Breaking the habit, changing the narrative, and ultimately that’s the self-awareness piece, isn’t it? Being able to recognise it really, really quickly. Part of this though Nic, I think, comes down to and there are a couple of things, as well, is just reflection. Being able to sit down and reflect on your behaviour. At the end of the day for example, being able to go, “I definitely struggled with that. Why was that?”

“Why did I shout at that person? Why did I overreact?” All those things. I think that’s part of self-awareness is being able to be vulnerable with yourself and say, “I would like to do less … Feel less like that, act less like that, and improve my behaviour some way.” Because that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s like this behaviour change, a behavioural change?

Nic Crawford:
I want to add to that as well, is that when you’re reflecting on, any imposter syndrome situation is that, when you’re reflecting on the situation, you ask yourself why you’re feeling like that? Try and dig deeper into the like, “Where did these biases come from in the first place?

What’s driving your behaviours right now? What is the past behaviours or the past experiences that’s making you think how you are now? Once you can recognise that, you can start to maybe see how silly it is, or that you’ve changed and actually you don’t believe that at all. So yes, recognising those things as well, so that you can understand your own behaviour so that you can change it.

Chris Marr:
I think this is really a good point. I think a lot of our biases, and this is maybe for a different podcast, come from our childhoods or the way we were actually parented, as well. Maybe something we could dig into in the future is to try to figure out where those come from, but I think that is a big part of reflection. Like you said, it’s not just stopping at the surface level questions, but going a little bit deeper. Like, “Why am I reacting like this? What’s the root cause?” Because ultimately if you want to change your behaviour permanently, then you have to go to that level, don’t we? We have to go a little bit deeper.

Nic Crawford:
Absolutely.

Chris Marr:
I want to just share this with you as well, the whole thinking rationally and logically. This is, like you say, strip emotion from it. Easy to say. Not so easy to do when you’re in the thick of it. One of the things that I think’s important Nic, and it’s not easy to find people that you can ultimately trust to be vulnerable in front of. We need to find the right people for us.

We do have to have good people around us that can support us and believe in us, as well. So that when you feel, for example, if you do become self-aware or you’re self aware that there’s something holding you back but you can’t, you’re not, for whatever reason, capable of stripping the emotion and being rational and logical about it. You’re completely irrational.

Perhaps one of the best ways to do that is to go to someone that you trust and say, “I’m really struggling getting over this thing. Help me see it from a logical perspective.” Get them to ask you questions about the thing so that ultimately you can move forward. Having good people around you I think is an asset, as well. It’s always nice, Nic. I’m not saying you should rely on it, but it’s always nice to have people around you that can support you and tell you that you’re good at something.

Chris Marr:
Cara does that for me. When I need it, she’ll say to me, “You are a great teacher.” Just the boost that I need sometimes to say, “Right. Let’s do this.”

Nic Crawford:
You guys give me that, too. Even for the workshop, if I didn’t have you guys really pushing me and believing that I could do it, there’s no way I would’ve done it. No way. You guys just continued to support me through it, and also made me realise that I have to do the work myself in terms of, I reflect on it and realise my own behaviours, and stuff like that.

I think that in the small business world, a lot of people feel that they have to do those things by themselves and there’s a lot of people out in the, I suppose personal development world really, really pushing people to be their best. I think that’s good. I think that we need that, but there’s not enough people pushing being surrounded by people that will encourage us. We have to have that. We need it.

Chris Marr:
Absolutely. That’s what CMA’s built on. Really. Let’s try and wrap this up, bring it to a close. I think the key here is the self-awareness piece. It’s really becoming more self-aware of your own behaviours, your own feelings and be able to get to the root cause so you can break the habit. There’s many ways to do that. We talked about some of them. We’ll make sure there’s links to the resources in the show notes for you so you can go ahead and get some of these books.

Chris Marr:
Perhaps start journaling, writing, and thinking and stuff like that. I mean, you and I both do this every day. We try to think a little bit every day, try to write a little bit every day, we try to read a little bit every day. It’s just that, just chipping away at, just try to get better at this thing called life.

Nic Crawford:
Progress. Progress.

Chris Marr:
Progress, exactly. It’s all about progress. The ultimate question I have Nic here is, what if you don’t do something about it? You’re sitting here and you’re thinking, “Yeah, absolutely. I have imposter syndrome all the time.” Doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, a freelancer, a consultant, a marketer, a leader. We’re all in this space. We’re all trying to deal with it, but ultimately we’ve had this conversation with people before as well is, “Right, okay. I can tell you’re struggling.”

Part of the questions that we have with people is, “But what if nothing changes? What if you decide just not to go there?” You’re too afraid or whatever. What is the end result? Nothing changes. There’s no change in your life at all. I think the positive spin on this is that, we want you to see what’s on the other side of this imposter syndrome that you’re feeling just now. On the other side of imposter syndrome is a better you. Everybody benefits from you being better. Better, stronger, more capable. Happier, right?

Happier in your life, as well. That isn’t even just for you at work or in your content, that’s for you at home, as well. Your kids, your family, your mom, your dad, your brothers, your sisters. Everybody benefits from you being better, stronger, and happier and feeling much more capable at what you do. Everybody benefits from that. Do it for you, because you know that on the other side of imposter syndrome is a stronger, better you, but do it for the people that you love as well.

Because they want you to be happy at what you do, as well. Don’t just believe in your capability, but have, like Nic said, that sense of purpose. That belief in the work that you’re doing, that not only do you benefit from that work, but there’s other people in the world, your work’s valuable. People want to hear your voice, they want to see you and that you are ultimately helping others through the work that you do. That’s how we want you to move on. It’s about recognising like the title of this podcast, is it imposter syndrome holding you back from doing your best work?

Let’s not have that as a thing. What do we want for people, Nic? They’ve listened to this podcast, we want them to get in touch with us. You can email Nic at Nic@CMAuk.co.uk. You can email me, chris@CMAuk.co.uk. We would love to hear from you. Your challenges and I think really, how you overcome imposter syndrome in your life? What you’ve done. We could share those resources with other people. You can tweet me Chris @chrismarr101. Nic, what’s your Twitter handle?

Nic Crawford:
Oh, I’ve never been asked that before. @NicCrawford09.

Chris Marr:
@NicCrawford09. You’ve obviously got HelloCMA on Twitter, as well. You can tweet us there too. We’d love to know thoughts, ideas, questions, resources, anything like that at all. You know where we are, and if you’re … what platform you listen to a lot, you can also probably comment somewhere, as well. We’d love to hear from you. We think it’s a really serious topic.

We truly understand how it can affect people. It can destroy people. We want to actively do something that’s going to help people to do their best work. Thanks very much for joining me, Nic. It was fun.

Nic Crawford:
No worries. I had imposter syndrome coming on this podcast.

Chris Marr:
Exactly. Put you right on the spot.

Nic Crawford:
Yes.

Chris Marr:
Well, we did great. Great show. Okay. We’ll catch up with you on the podcast next time. Don’t forget to be awesome. Thanks very much for joining me on the CMA podcast today. If you found today’s episode interesting and intriguing, and you want to get better results from your content marketing, then join the CMA membership today at CMAmembership.co.uk.

About Nicola Crawford

Marketing PA at the Content Marketing Academy.
In business, I believe in people first.
Mum to two crazy kids, Alaina and Morgan.
Green belt in Shotokan Karate.
Always learning, always growing.