Episode 181: Imposter Syndrome SOS
Welcome back to the show. You’re listening to Episode 181 of Live Free Creative Podcast: Imposter Syndrome SOS. I can’t wait to share todays show. I’m going to get a little bit vulnerable. And I think that that’s good. It’s nice to hear firsthand experience from other people going through things that are superhuman and that you might experience yourself sometime.
Before I dive into the episode, I have a couple of things to share. The first is that if you like this podcast about doing creative work and living a creative, adventurous, intentional lifestyle, you would probably love a new podcast that I started listening to called Create Out Loud, hosted by best-selling author, and writing coach Jen Louden.
Jen’s podcast is so great because she interviews a wide variety of creatives about how they create, how they deal with the ups and downs of a creative life, their fears, and how they make a living doing creative work. She recorded a recent episode with the beloved author, Sue Monk Kidd–I’m sure you all love her as much as I do– who wrote classics like The Secret Life of Bees and the Oprah Book Club Pick The Invention of Wings. Oh, so good.
I loved the depth of their conversation and how honest Sue was, especially when she talked about dealing with her sudden success. And there’s this one moment when Sue says to Jen, I can’t believe I’m telling you this…that made me laugh. Those are the best moments on podcasts.
There’s this other moment of conversation that I want to share with you that I think is so important about how to know when your work is serving your soul listen in:
How do you know when you’re writing that you’re serving yourself?
I don’t know. That’s very tough. And, you know, it’s a constant thing I, that we must decide, are we serving our ego or are we serving our soul?
Are we serving our work? Are we serving something larger than ourselves?
These are questions that writers need to have somewhere in their heads as we’re working, or at least on the periphery. Ask the, from time to time.”
So good. I love the idea of that question. And of course, Sue’s incredible answer. I really appreciate the diversity of Jen’s guests on her show. Create Out Loud. From app creators and singer songwriters, and Jen told me that her goal with create out loud is that every. Gives the listener at least one actionable idea to use.
If you are looking for another great podcast to listen to that will give you some practical, creative inspiration. You can listen to Create Out Loud wherever you listen to podcasts or visit Jennifer louden.com. I will link that in the show notes.
Segment: Peaks of the Week
Today’s podcast segment is going to be peaks of the week and I’m sharing three great books that I’ve read recently.
Number one is from queen goddess Brenè Brown, her latest. If you haven’t yet, indulged yourself is so good. It’s called Atlas of the Heart. We’re reading it this month and next month in the Podcast Plus self-development book club.
(Which, quick shout out for that. You can join it. patreon.com/livefreecreative and we meet online once a month to discuss a self-development book. These are life-changing books and life-changing discussions. It’s an incredible community. And I’d love to have you part of it.)
Atlas of the Heart is an interesting book for Brenè because it’s of course research-based like all her books. It’s so topical. The idea is that she’s going to give us an overview of different emotions. Her research has indicated are relevant to everyday human experience and help us understand them better.
What the definition is, what the nuances are. I have been surprised how much I’ve learned being really interested in emotion generally. And I read a lot about emotion, and I study about emotion, and I talk about emotion and I’m, as you’ll hear in this episode, hoping to study more about emotion.
I have been surprised by the intricacies of the definitions and if the stories and the relate-ability, and the cautionary instances that Brenè shares in Atlas of the Heart.
I’m listening to it. I also have it hard copy. The benefit of listening is that Brenè herself reads it. So, you get all the inflection and the personal stories. And there’s quite a few times where she goes off script and says, this is not in the book, but let me tell you a story. That’s been fun.
I also think it’s super valuable to have as a hard copy, because this is one that you’ll want to refer to. It almost reads as an encyclopedia of emotion, which is interesting. My first peak of the week is Atlas.
My second peak of the week is a book that I read last month that had come highly recommended to me because of my interest in natural indigo dying.
I’ve taught indigo dying workshops for the last six years. I have an online indigo dying workshop. I’m super interested in it as a dye in its own class and has such rich historical and cultural implications. And this story is a historical fiction based on the true life and events of a young girl named Eliza Lucas, who lived in rural South Carolina in the early 1700s.
This is her story of her, her dream of having a thriving indigo crop as a farmer, that would compete with European indigo, and the rollercoaster and ebbs and flows and twists and turns of events that surround this idea. I found it fascinating historically. I thought it was well-written. Really interesting character.
And it’s like a superpower feminist book, this young girl who takes so much responsibility and so much dream capturing into her own hands. I really liked it.
So, if you’re looking for a fun, novel, that is based on historical events and, you know, has a lot of fiction woven into it. It’s a really great story.
The third peak of the week book that I want to share it this week is something that we discovered in a Paris bookshop called Shakespeare and Co. When I was in Paris with my kids and my family at Christmastime, we spent an afternoon exploring the bookshelf. Shakespeare and Co. which is, I believe the first English bookshop in Paris. It’s been around for a very long time, has so much, you know, term and historical significance.
I told each of my kids to pick out a book that could be their souvenir and they could also use it to read as we traveled and spent time, you know, heading home. Plum found a little book called Armadillo, Hare, and the Very Noisy Bear by Jeremy Strong.
He’s a British author. Created through a British publishing house. I’d never heard of these characters, never heard of this author. It just looked cute, and I love Armadillo. So, we got it and we’ve been reading it out loud.
It’s an easy reader. A simple chapter books. She could read it to herself at eight years old. We like reading things together. It has made us laugh out loud several times. They’re lovable, quirky characters, and there’s something inherently British about it as well.
The characters in their temperaments and the way that they interact is delightful. It’s part of a series of three, and we’re going to go on and acquire the other two books so that we can continue the adventures with the Armadillo, Hare, and the Very Noisy Bear.
Applying for Graduate School
I want to tell you a story about my personal experience over the last couple months with feeling like an imposter in my endeavors. This is an unusual feeling for me. And you probably can tell if you’ve listened to the podcast for any length of time, that I feel generally confident about trying things that I’ve never done before.
Giving it a go. Not seeing failure as any sort of personal implication, rather just a part of life and opportunities for growth. Yet, an experience that I’ve had over the last few months has awakened these hidden feelings of who am I that I didn’t really know were there. It’s made me curious, and I’ve been interested in investigating what’s going on.
Trying to sift out truth from falsehood and ultimately, I’m working on creating space for the discomfort of these emotions while acknowledging that they might not be completely true and building the awareness and confidence that can come through challenging some of those doubts, even if I allow the emotion.
So let me back up and tell you back in October, I hosted a fall creative camp. This is my biannual deep work weekend. It’s an incredible opportunity to come together with some other creative women and dive in, have some focused work time while we take care of all your other needs.
I like to say we take care of you, mind, body, and spirit, so you can take care of your most important work.
The work that I was doing during that camp, I was hosting camp, and I was also taking advantage of the deep work sessions to work on my graduate school essay.
If you are new here, you don’t know that I have applied for a Master of Applied Positive Psychology program through the University of Pennsylvania.
My application is complete. Now it’s in, and I’ll talk more about that. This goes back to when I was working on my essay, the essay questions were simple. They were: What is your familiarity with the field of positive psychology? How will this degree and the study impact your career? How will you use this degree to better the field of positive psychology and its goals?
Creative Camp Hot Seat
Super basic. There wasn’t anything intense about that. So, I had gone about answering those questions and during my own hot seat, my own peer review at the creative camp, I started to read my essay and was immediately met with some constructive criticism that I was treading lightly around the ideas of the impact of my career and how I could use this further study to create positive change in my own community.
And, how that would go on to better the field of positive psychology. I had been apparently timid in that. And I didn’t see that at first. And so, it was an interesting dynamic to have these incredible women who I admire and was so happy to be in community with sharing their thoughts about the things that I do as a business owner and the positive impact of those things.
At the same time, my mind is saying, I don’t know if I could say that, or I think that might be an exaggeration or do they even care about that? Like, does that even matter? As we were discussing this as a group, something that came up that I hadn’t realized was that, although I have run a business for many years. I mean, it’s had lots of different iterations over time, but I first started running a business in about 2008 concurrently while I was working as a nurse.
And in 2014 it became my, my my sole career, my blog, this podcast, my book, my course offerings, the retreats, and events that I’ve held over time.
I have, you know, anywhere, depending on how you’re quantifying anywhere between eight and twelve years of entrepreneurial experience and business experience. And I was having a really hard time accepting that this was a career.
I said, no, I run a business. It’s a small women owned business. It’s, I’m a solopreneur. I don’t have a team. I’m not endeavoring to grow this business into like this, you know, a million-dollar machine. I was playing small with my words and with my thoughts, the term career was a little bit triggering in an interesting way. I sort of rejected that idea of having a creative career. Even though I run a creative business.
Now, this might not be something that you expect. Specifically, maybe you don’t have a creative career. Maybe you do have a professional career. Maybe you don’t and you don’t want one.
I’m sure that all of us thought have at one point or another bumped up against something that resoundingly and overwhelmingly others can see that we have a really hard time seeing in ourselves. That we’re unable to see clearly in ourselves; positives, benefits, strengths, and values that we either downplay or have a hard time recognizing.
This was new for me. I don’t remember another time where I felt so specifically able to recognize, wow, I don’t see that in myself and this whole room full of women sees it in me. I am going to spend a little bit of time working through what this means and what that looks like.
Fast forward a couple months. I worked on my essay. I did a little mindset work around the idea of the impact that my business has. I dug through testimonials. I looked through all the ratings and reviews on this podcast and the reviews that I’ve had on my book. The reviews that I get in surveys after people take my courses and come to my retreats.
I was able to find a place in there where I acknowledge and accept and claim and own the positive impact that the work that I have been doing. This career that I’m creating in real time is having on my community. My essay went back and forth to several friends and editors. I sent it off. I submitted my application. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago how I submitted my application and got an immediate reply that I was missing my transcript.
So, I had to send in a separate transcript. I had already submitted one, but I had to, I had to submit the other one kind of laughed at the terrible grades that I got one of my early semesters in college. It all rounded out to the end.
And then I took a deep sigh of relief thinking I will just like, I’ve done everything that I can do. Now I just wait and find out whether I’ve been accepted. They told us that we would find out about acceptance in June. The application was due the 1st of March.
So, I’m thinking I’m just going to put it in the back of my mind to go about my business and my life. I’ll wait to hear. I don’t need to like, think about it all the time.
And then exactly one week after I submitted my application, I got an email that invited me to have an interview for the program. My application had made it through the first round of the admissions process, and now I was invited to claim a time to have an interview with some of the program alumni. I had no idea that an interview was part of the process.
Grad School Interview
Those of you who are in academia may, you know, kind of laugh and say, of course it is grad school always has an interview. I didn’t know that. And it doesn’t say it anywhere on the website. So, I was just sort of sitting and waiting to hear whether I had got in and here I was invited for this interview.
I was simultaneously elated and terrified. I liked the idea of having an interview. I like, obviously like talking, I feel like I’m pretty good in person. And I also had this little twinge of if they interview me and then don’t accept me, it feels a little bit more personal.
Regardless, I chose a time. I did a little bit of background research on the women who would be interviewing me. I read through my essay. I got familiar and comfortable with my ideas, what I wanted to share, having no idea what the questions might be. And then I showed up for the interview.
It was only 30 minutes long. The first 20 minutes were questions asked of me getting to know me, getting to know what I do, how I plan to use the degree.
There were five minutes of Information about the program that they wanted to be clear was understood expectations. And then the last five minutes, I was able to ask questions of the interviewer.
Everything went well. It was fun to talk about my interest in positive psychology about the work that I’m doing currently that incorporates the research in the field of wellbeing and how people can live a more meaningful lives and flourishing. I shared how I hope to use this added depth and breadth and understanding.
I mentioned the work that I will continue to do in the future, in course creation and in books I want to write and hear on the podcast can be even more effective. As we wrapped up the interview and hung up the phone, I immediately started spinning about a couple of the answers that I had given.
What Did I Say?
That I was sort of laughing about at the same time. I was second guessing the funniest one. I still think it’s funny, even though the day after I kind of was having an intense imposter syndrome episode about this, but I’m feeling a little better now, which is why I can talk. I can talk about it a little more coherently.
One of the interviewers asked the question. This is a simple question. About what I bring as an individual to the cohort. She said, you know, in a program like this, you learn as much from the other students as you do from the professors. It’s a connective program and you share experiences and ideas.
What will you bring to the cohort?
I had all these thing’s kind of buzz through my head at once. And then what came out of my mouth was, I don’t have any experience in corporate America. I don’t have leadership positions that would be recognized on paper. I haven’t won any awards or accolades. I am a solopreneur working in my small business, hoping to reach and touch and impact a community of women who are hoping to better their lives. So, I guess what I bring to the cohort is that I’m relatable. I’m a regular person just trying to, you know, make a difference in my small way.
I’ve repeated these answers. I mean, that’s not verbatim. Of course, I’ve repeated this answer to my husband who said it was a great answer. And two friends who said, I think that’s a great answer. And I’ve had, you know, several people, a handful of people who I love, and trust revalidate to me that there’s nothing wrong with that.
Yet in the moments right after the interview, I was spiraling. I thought about it all night and I woke up the next day and came up with like a dozen different things that I might’ve said that.
Things that felt more important or that felt more impactful or that felt more interesting or that would set me apart in a different way. And of course, I can’t change any of that. And I, again, I’m, I’m laughing about it now because I can see now how that’s a fine answer. And it was honest and came from my heart and it also subtly expresses the imposter syndrome that I had been feeling ever since I started writing my essay.
Feeling Like I Haven’t Done Enough
This idea that I haven’t done anything that matters enough to validate my acceptance into this program. This is such an interesting idea. This is really sort of the classic definition of imposter syndrome, believing that you are not as important or competent as other people can see that you are.
Believing that you are going to be found out, or that you don’t belong in each space that your achievements, or even your intelligence or skillset are a mismatch for what you’re striving to accomplish or the community that you’re striving to belong.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
The words, imposter syndrome, and the idea of this syndrome itself emerged in research in the 1970s and has been mostly attributed to high achieving women. Although a study done in 2019 shows that up to 82% of people have had experiences that could be qualified as imposter syndrome, based on some of the qualities, it can affect anyone.
This idea that I don’t belong, or I’m not good at. Imposter syndrome usually represents a mismatch between your own self-identification and the perception of others. While other people may praise the work you’re doing or tell you that you’re doing great or invite you to participate in groups or organizations, or even in specific roles within like a work environment that you don’t feel fit for, despite others recognizing your fitness for them.
Imposter syndrome is talked about widely in the creative community, as well as people are getting started in creative endeavors, learning new things, and feeling unable to call themselves a creative. Unable to say, I’m a writer, even though they’re writing. Unable to say I’m a painter, even though they’re painting.
I love a quote from James Clear that says, “Identity is literally your repeated beingness.” He goes on to say that as you are writing, you are a writer as you’re painting your, a painter, as you go on a walk, you’re a walker.
Sometimes imposter syndrome tells us that we must hit a certain mark or have a certain amount of suffering or reach some level of leadership or climb the ladder to a certain point to earn the identity that we’re having a hard time accessing. Even when it’s widely recognized by others.
It was interesting diving into some research to share this episode, to find out that there are a couple of different scenarios in which imposter syndrome tend to show up more than others.
When Does Imposter Syndrome Show Up?
One is in general family dynamics. You’re parenting and childhood environment. If you were really pressured to do well in school or compared to your siblings. If your family emphasized natural intelligence over learning and kind of that fixed mindset, that can be a potential underlying cause of some of the feelings of imposter syndrome.
Second, some general personality traits, people who tend to be more perfectionistic, tend to have high feelings of imposter syndrome. Also, if you’re a little bit more neurotic, if you like rate highly on a neuroticism scale, you tend to be more likely to feel like an imposter in certain situations.
Of course, other mental health symptoms as well, depression or anxiety, just general mindset of feeling less than can reinforce this idea that you don’t really believe in your environment.
Fourth, new responsibilities or opportunities. This is the one where I think my bout with imposter syndrome has flourished because I’m trying something new, a new role of applying for a graduate program that’s difficult to get into at a great university where I’m not sure what all the other applicants look like, but from, you know, the reading and research that I’ve done, they’re all highly qualified.
And so, it results in an opportunity to create this unhealthy, direct comparison with perceived applicants. That is all false. I was kind of laughing, thinking about this as I was telling Dave about my interview which overwhelmingly was positive. There was nothing looking back on it now with a clearer perspective that went wrong.
Imposter Syndrome Springs from Comparison
And yet I was talking to him and saying, what about all the other people who are applying and who have these dynamic, impressive answers? Which at the end of the day is fantastic because above anything, I was honest and being relatable is not a terrible thing to be.
When I stepped back with a lens of perspective, I can recognize that I really believe that the universe conspires in my favor. If I am right for the program at this time, that’s out of my hands– it will happen as it is supposed to.
I love the idea that things are always working out for my benefit. It’s up to me to find the reasons why, and I don’t know yet. Maybe I will get in. Maybe I won’t.
Either way I’m going to do great things in my life. I also plan to reapply if I’m not accepted this time around which, you know, we can try again. There’s always a second chance.
It has also been interesting to have some of these feelings come up for me when it’s unusual. I’m not much of a perfectionist and I really try to focus on feelings of inherent worth. And I share those with you in this show, you deserve space and time and care, and I get enough sleep and I do my meditation practice and I exercise and I really believe that the work that I’m doing is worthwhile, even though it can be hard to quantify.
Have You Ever Felt Like an Imposter?
If you have ever felt like an imposter, whether you’re starting something new or you have a generalized feeling of “people are going to find me out these things that I’m doing, I don’t truly deserve it. I need to work harder. I need to do more. I need to strive more. I am falling short and no one’s noticing.”
How To Cope With Imposter Syndrome
I want to offer for ideas for how to help assimilate and work through when you have these feelings of imposter syndrome creep up. These come from Susan Albert-Bolling, who is a psychologist at the Cleveland clinic.
- Separate Feelings From Facts
The first one is to separate feelings from facts. It’s okay to have the feelings, to observe them, to be mindful of them and then be ready with a response. Separate the thought that you have from the idea of its truthfulness.
If your mind says, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Remind yourself of the times that you have known or have the knowledge that you do have not only that you have now, but that you are capable of continued learning growth and progress.
- Take Note Of Your Accomplishments
The second is to take note of your accomplishments. She says that it can be helpful to have a tangible reminder of your successes. I think this is so important. If someone sends you an email and tells you, you did a great job or in your daily life, if someone gives you a thank you card or sends you a text that says you’re doing a great job, I love you.
Having some of those things on hand, like saved in a file or somewhere where you can just buoy yourself up with the understanding and recognition of your accomplishments can be helpful. I noticed in my own process, these last few months that I automatically was like, okay, what am I doing that makes an impact?
Turning to the reviews of this show, where it was so impactful. Recognizing that like that, if there’s some small thing that touches someone’s life and makes a difference, and I can see that it’s outside of me, that acknowledgement of meaning. If you don’t have a lot of that happening, you can’t think of where that’s coming from. Even something like a child making you a card that says, I love you.
Hang it on your fridge where you can see it or tuck it into a drawer where you can pull it out when things don’t feel like they’re going right to remind you that you are doing a good job, that you’re doing important work. Even if it’s just at home.
- Talk To Someone About Your Feelings
The third one is to talk to other people about it. I was able to talk about this with my husband, with some friends, sometimes just getting the words out there and like identifying them, make such a difference.
In that mastermind group at my creative retreat, as I was talking through the way I had answered the questions and the essay, and kind of trying to meet some of the questions and challenges coming at me from the group, I was able for the first time to identify that I had a discomfort with the idea of having a career.
Because I downplay the things that I’ve done in my business. It doesn’t feel like career. It feels like, like running a small business. Being able to recognize that in talking through it and then start to assimilate my understanding of what a career is and what that looks like and redefining it for myself so that I could claim it in a way that’s meaningful for me was helpful.
- Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
And the fourth one is to stop comparing. So much of imposter syndrome comes from what we think other people who are in this same situation have that we don’t. Comparing our lives to other people’s lives on social media. Often ends up in, instead of us finding acknowledgement and validation for feeling great, we often end up finding all the reasons that we don’t measure up. Stop comparing your life to others.
Apply This Experience To Your Own Life
I know the example I shared today was specific and personal to me. And hopefully in listening to my real experience, you’ve been able to identify areas of your life or situations in your past or current circumstances where you feel this little tug of maybe I’m not doing enough, or maybe I don’t fit in, or maybe I don’t measure up.
I want you to look at that and to understand that it’s okay to have a space between who you are now and where you want to be in the future. We all have room to grow and progress. We can learn more, we can develop more skill. We can check boxes if we need to. And a lot of times that feeling of not enough, isn’t true and real, it’s a perception.
And we can shift our perspective to acknowledge the inherent worthiness that we all have.
I hope this episode has been interesting and impactful for you. Thank you so much for listening as always. I want to invite you to leave a rating or review. I talked about how meaningful those were in these last few months to me, personally.
I also love the way that they can show other people how Live Free Podcast can make an impact on their lives. If you have been loving the show or you’ve listened to an episode that resonated with you, please take a couple of minutes, and leave that written review on iTunes.
It makes a huge impact, both for me and for others, looking for podcasts to enjoy.
If you know, someone who has been struggling with imposter syndrome or who you feel might benefit from listening to this show and the experience that I shared, I would love for you to just text it to them, email it to them, take a screenshot and send it to them on social media.
I appreciate this show going to the people who need it most. And I want to thank you again for listening in. I will catch up with you again. Same time, same place. Have a great one. Bye. Bye.