how I handled Impostor Syndrome

Dearest Sugar Shells,

Last week I referred to a "Major Unnamed SF Bay Area Tech Company" and today I'll just say Yelp, which is where I taught a marvelous group of engineers some basic tools for building confidence authentically. And what's hilarious to me about this endeavor is that, in preparing for the workshop, I experienced several moments of being in a confidence-free state. Ha!

At the end of last week, this lack of confidence quickly spiraled into full-on Impostor Syndrome. Ha (again)! I had titled the workshop series "Are You Really an Impostor?" and then somehow decided to go play in that swamp for a while.

But you know what? During the workshop, I did not feel like an impostor. I felt self-assured, delighted even; my words flowed easily, disaster did not strike, and some of my lame jokes even provoked light laughter. Which is all to say: I conquered my own crazy!!! (Well, at least last week. This week is TBD.)

So today I want to take you on a budget tour of my trip from swamp-dwelling to confidence...and not because navel-gazing is good clean fun but because you might glean a useful nugget from my messy, unattractive process. And to me, that's what coaching is all about: I can excavate my own piles of crap and then help others do the same.

If YOU are feeling not confident (in general or in a specific circumstance); if you are thinking that you don't belong in a work position that you've supposedly earned; if you are feeling like someone is going to eventually find out that you aren't as smart as you seem; I get it. This letter is especially for you, with much love.

STEP 1: Last Friday, I noticed that I felt in, tense, anxious, restless, with hunched shoulders, more than just a little nausea, and an overwhelming desire to run far, far away from my computer. Unkindly, I forced myself to work anyway.

STEP 2: After much pacing, email, housework, and other distractions, I recognized that I was acting crazy.

STEP 3: In the pause, I remembered that teaching the workshop was something I wanted to do. So I double-checked that with my wiser self: I got quiet and still, and envisioned the scene. I imagined myself explaining rad concepts, teaching valuable tools, answering questions, making lame jokes, etc...and as I sat with this movie playing in my head, I felt relaxed and happy.

(In other words, BINGO!!! It's true! I really do want to teach this workshop! Because relaxed + happy = YES.)

STEP 4: So if the workshop itself was not the obstacle, what could be causing me trouble???! Oh yeah - my favorite: the thinking in my head. I had found myself in a moment of thinking some painful thoughts...and believing them. Which meant my new task was to identify the perpetrators and then subject those suckers to inquiry.

For example, I thought: I have no business teaching a workshop to 55 strangers.

STEP 5: A-ha! As a certified ninja hippie, I totally know how to work with thoughts that are causing me to suffer. So I got even more quiet and still, took a deep breath, and asked my wiser self, "Is it TRUE? Is it actually true that I have no business teaching a workshop to strangers?"

Okay, no. That's not true. In fact, it's really not true. I definitely have business teaching (hello, 13 years of raw experience), plus I love leading workshops (duh), and for goodness' sake, I was INVITED to teach these strangers. And, P.S. 55 strangers registered!! So the truth is that I do indeed have business teaching this workshop to strangers.

STEP 6: Inquiry completed, I sat back down to work, feeling more in control, more calm, more confident in my experience, ability, and purpose. I wasn't skipping and singing with bluebirds down a golden sunset pathway, but I was a hell of a lot less crazy. Which enabled me to get my work done and the workshop taught.

So. Over the next few weeks, I will be teaching the Yelp engineers a prettier, less fraught version of this same process. And guess what? I don't feel less capable of doing so because I hung out in the swamp last week; I actually feel more capable because I get it.

As a coach, I live it to give it. Working through my own crap eminently qualifies me to help others with their crap. Hence, teaching a workshop on conquering Impostor Syndrome is literally a perfect fit!