Impostor Syndrome - Part 2 - Proteus Leadership
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Impostor Syndrome – Part 2

By Richard Dore

Impostor Syndrome – Part 2

Previously I decoded the phenomena of the Imposter Syndrome and how common it is for people to experience. We shared how we all have the potential to transform these moments with a growth mindset, by leveraging that emotional force, and transforming our current situation.

In this follow-up article, I want to share with you my Imposter Syndrome Moments (ISM) as a public speaker and how to move beyond what feels like a crippling scenario simply by flipping your thinking. Then by using the Proteus 4-Step process, redesign your work and move forward with confidence.

Life As A Public Speaker

(My Constant Imposter Syndrome Moments)

As a public presenter of leadership programs, workshops and keynotes I constantly have ISM. I can suddenly be consumed with self-doubt and have a fear that I will be ‘found out’. This happens especially when I’m presenting to senior people who are more qualified, experienced and more intelligent than me. These include academics, engineers, CEOs, clinicians, lawyers, entrepreneurs, financiers, and the list goes on…

In these moments, just before walking out ‘on stage’ or ‘going live’ in our virtual studios, I tell myself logically, that I am the subject matter expert. I have done the hard work. I have done my rehearsals. I am competent, and therefore have the confidence to deliver a great session.

Recognising that I cannot afford to become overwhelmed (in these key moments), as my personal reputation and our brand is on the line – no pressure! (haha), I tell myself that I simply don’t have time to indulge these ISM’s or allow myself to go down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and nervousness. If I do, this will result in a mediocre presentation at best, or at worst my session will completely tank with the audience.    

Reminding myself that a healthy amount of nervous energy as a public speaker is good (and okay) to have, I never try and eliminate fear completely. I understand that a healthy dose of ‘fear’ keeps me humble and stops me becoming complacent.

Plus, the trick (or hack) is to reframe my fear into ‘excitement’ which makes for a better performance. I love what Daniel Pink shared in his v-blog on how we need to ‘Get Excited’ by ‘reappraising pre-performance anxiety’ as excitement and not fear.

What’s the difference between fear and excitement? Excitement is just optimistic fear. – Daniel Pink

Our Proteus mantra is to ‘Flip Nervous to Service’ where we consciously reframe our mindset to ‘being of service’ to our audience. We ensure that we have checked our egos at the door!  The focus must be about our clients…what they need and what they want from our sessions, not about the speaker’s momentary self-doubt.

However, even after all these years, the above tips and self-talk sometimes fail me. I still can become overwhelmed by this dreaded phenomenon of the Imposter Syndrome.

My Big Imposter Syndrome Moment

Let me share a story where I suffered from a massive dose of imposter syndrome.

We decided to design and deliver a new keynote called Creating a Whole New Mindset. It was scheduled for February 2022 and to our delight, we had several hundred people book into our Proteus event – wow!

Mindset is one of my favourite subjects. It’s in my sweet spot, ‘my wheelhouse’. It’s something I’m passionate about sharing. I was confident with my years of coaching and having deep insights with our clients, that they would love hearing some great concepts and stories of the transformational power of mindset in action.

So, my initial thinking was ‘I’ve got this’! So I put together my first draft, and it was solid.

Looking for some extra inspiration,
I started exploring the work of Ben Crowe the famous Australian mindset coach, especially the years of work he had been doing with Ash Barty who was about to go on and win the 2022 Australian Open.

Rather than being inspired by Ben Crowe, I started comparing myself to him. This led to an incredible sense of self-doubt and feeling like, ‘I do not have the right’ nor the ‘psychological credentials or qualifications’ to speak on such an important topic as mindset. Crowie (as he is known) was getting so much applause and positive media attention for being one of most sought-after mindset coaches on the planet.

When Des Penny (the Proteus Founder) enquired how my preparation was going – it was at that moment I had my ISM meltdown and catastrophised the upcoming event…

‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t do this. Who am I to think I have the right to speak on this topic. I feel like a complete fraud. Have you seen some of the senior people and experts who have booked into our event. They will call me out.
My keynote is going to be rubbish and it will totally tank.’

After sharing my vulnerability about not feeling worthy to deliver on this topic (along with my sense of embarrassment), we then had a laugh together at the irony of me needing to have my mindset challenged and to rewrite my internal script.

Basically, Des said, ‘you know what you need to do – flip your thinking and then rework it’. At Proteus, this is code for:

Rewrite YOUR Story and then, Get to Work on Reworking It. 

Let me summarise what that means and how you can use this for yourself when you have your next ISM. Especially when you are responsible for delivering an important piece of work.

Rewrite YOUR Story

On reflection, and taking a reality check (with grounded insights and without catastrophising the situation), the good news is that I had good solid first draft, but it was not great. But first drafts are never great. In fact they are often sketchy and that’s OK, because now I had a starting point for forward momentum.

The other key insight is to be thankful. What a privilege to be sharing my work with our clients. How grateful am I to be in this position.  Also, how lucky are we to be living in this digital global world where we have access to the best thinkers on the planet – literally at our fingertips, on our devices.

But we need to be mindful of who we are comparing ourselves with. I will never be Brené Brown or Simon Sinek, but I can be the best authentic version of me, while simultaneously being inspired by the ‘world’s best’ people and global thought leaders – how amazing!   

Another key insight is that today there is all this support out there waiting for us to access. We only need to ask. Unfortunately, my personal conditioning is that it is weak to ask for help and at my peril. I typically default to doing things solo and I’m naturally very reluctant to ask for assistance.

Ironically I know that people are by nature, incredibly generous and kind. In fact like me, people love nothing more than coaching or mentoring someone who asks for help, support, or guidance. So, go out and ask!

Rework It 

After reflection of your insights and rewriting your internal scripts, it’s time for action… reworking your work!

To achieve this, use the following 4-step Proteus approach (Structure, Substance, Style, and the Shift). I have found this to be incredibly powerful and practical to help redesign any mediocre initial work and to start moving it towards ‘great’. This way we can move from feeling like an imposter, to someone with confidence who will deliver.

1. Structure ensure the work that you have created is methodical and logical. Does it flow and is it robust with the right pace and the right timing?

2. Substance make sure the work that you have created is relevant for your audience. It needs to have both depth and breadth. Have you covered the ‘must do’ elements required to meet your objective, as a subject matter expert?

3. Style make sure that your work is compelling, authentic and you are truly engaging with your audience. You need to be congruent with your body language and have the right energy to ensure that people are coming with you emotionally. Is it from the heart and includes some evocative stories?

4. The Shift make sure that your work is believable and you present with conviction. You need to inspire, challenge, and provoke people to make the shift in their thinking with an increased desire to make change. Will they make the shift with a practical call to action?

Rehearse It

Finally, it’s vital that you rehearse your work or presentation out loud, and in real time. Never make the mistake of thinking your presentation through ‘in your head’ without speaking it out loud, and in full. What can appear to be a great presentation in your mind, will often be a disaster when you ‘go live’ if you haven’t given yourself rehearsal time.

Remember, that all great performers and leaders who appear confident and effortless ‘on stage’, do so because they rehearse many times over to ensure that they excel at their craft.

So, whether it’s your next important ‘public speaking’ event, or your next important piece of work where the stakes are high, turn your fear around and ‘get excited’. Remember to be of service!

Then if you still fall prey to having an ISM, acknowledge that this is normal (everyone has ISM). Use the four steps to ensure you Rewrite YOUR Story and then ‘rework your work’ with Structure, Substance, Style, and the Shift, Then get into the practice arena and Rehearse It out loud, before going live.

By applying this 4-step approach you can at times prevent ISM, or at least lessen the intensity of any future ISM. By reframing your stories, this will help you to move forward with proactive action so that you can be the most authentic version of yourself.

If Mr. Impostor Syndrome emerges from the shadows, just acknowledge him and keep moving in the direction of
your dreams!

– Caroline Castrillon

Richard Dore

Proteus Leadership