Ever felt the fear of being exposed as a fraud?
If so, know that you are not alone.
This is one of the most common frustrations and challenges my clients face, especially when it comes to speaking on a platform – whether that be on stage or via video.
Feeling Like A Fraud – Imposter Syndrome
For most people, the fear of public speaking starts when they think about getting in front of a large audience and having all the eyes in the room focused on them.
- “What if I’m exposed as not being good enough?”
- “What if somebody asks me a question, and I don’t know the answer? What if I get up there and I completely humiliate myself?”
They’re afraid of being pointed out as a fraud. As an imposter. So as a result, they over-prepare like crazy.
They’ll spend weeks getting ready for a talk, but also stressing out and feeling anxious and nervous about it.
These feelings of stress and anxiety then build up, moment by moment. Day by day. Week by week. And then they get so exhausted from it all that they eventually burn out.
This is known as imposter syndrome.
It’s a psychological phenomenon that’s very well-known and well-documented. And it affects all sorts of individuals, including successful entrepreneurs and business owners.
It’s the feeling where, as you’re moving forward, there’s this fear that you’ll one day be exposed as not being good enough.
Deep down there’s this insecurity that you’ve have navigated through your career to achieve these levels of success that weren’t warranted.
5 Warning Signs You’re Suffering From Imposter Syndrome
Imposter Syndrome typically manifests itself in a couple of ways for entrepreneurs and business owners. Have a look through this checklist to see if any of these symptoms apply to you:
Manifestation #1 – Over Preparation
The first is a massive amount of over-preparation. Because of the fear of being exposed at any moment, you’re constantly over preparing and practicing.
You’re constantly running simulations in your mind with the question “What if?”, anticipating as many different questions and challenging scenarios that you’ll get as possible.
One of the most visible signs of this is perfectionistic tendencies – constant refinements and tweaks to presentation slides, and being really hard on yourself for not nailing a script word for word.
Manifestation #2 – High Level Of Stress
The second manifestation is a high level of stress.
It’s constantly exhausting to think that you’re literally one second away from being exposed as not being good enough, not being worthy of the successful position you’re currently in, or not matching up to other people’s expectations.
You’re drowned in your own negative thoughts and feelings of being caught out, and you find yourself in constant fight or flight mode.
Manifestation #3 – The Fear Of Not Being Able To Answer A Question
What we also see with the impostor syndrome is the fear of being humiliated when you’re putting yourself out there.
From the words of my clients themselves, they’ll ask me “Lucas, what if somebody asks a question, and I don’t know the answer? Then I’m going to be humiliated, and it’s going to prove that I’m not good enough.“
What happens is you have this belief inside that you’re not good enough. It’s a very common thing, but it can cause you to feel very weak and disempowered.
Manifestation #4 – Can’t Receive Compliments
Even receiving compliments or being rewarded can be a massive challenge.
Because of this negative frame of mind, when people look at you and they go, “You’re amazing!“, deep down you don’t believe it. And what often ends up happening on the surface is you deflect and minimize the compliment.
- “Oh, it wasn’t me. Other people helped out.”
- “Oh, it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
You’re avoiding taking ownership of your successes.
Manifestation #5 – You’re Very Hard On Yourself
Whereas you wouldn’t be as nitpicky about how someone else would appear on stage, you find yourself being overly harsh on yourself.
You struggle to find what you’ve achieved or done well. On the other hand, you find it very easy to point out all the things that you did wrong or you should’ve done better, and you find your mind has a tendency to lean towards negative thoughts about yourself.
4 Ways To Counter The Symptoms Of Imposter Syndrome
If you’ve looked at the 5 warning signs above and you’ve noticed you have a few traits of imposter syndrome, don’t fret.
Here are 4 actions you can start taking today to neutralize your feelings of being a fraud:
Action #1 – Take Ownership Of Your Successes
When it comes to taking ownership of your successes there are a few things you must do:
The first is to give yourself credit. And one effective way to do this is to look out for and celebrate your successes every day.
With my clients I have this activity sheet that I offer them – it’s called the 30-Day Success Sheet. And with it, I help them reinforce and build their inner confidence.
It’s a very simple sheet. It’s literally 30 spots that you fill in, Day 1 to Day 30.
And what you do is every day you go in and you ask yourself “what did I do well today?” and fill in your responses.
See, because of the way that our brains are wired, it’s easy to pick out everything that we did wrong and everything that we should’ve done differently. But it’s a challenge to write down and reinforce what we did do well.
Now it’s very easy to look at this success sheet and go – “ah it’s super simple” then proceed to not take it seriously.
But let me tell you a story about a client of mine who was a talk coach in Tony Robbin’s organization. During her training with me, this activity was one of the activities that I got her to do.
She took it and ran with it.
Her strategy was brilliant. What she did was she:
- printed it out
- placed it on her pillow so that every night, just before she goes to bed, she would write out what she did well, reinforce it, put it down then go to bed.
She created a habit.
And by the end of it she was like, “You know Lucas, this has been so transformational for me, because I’ve been committed to this practice and it’s rewiring my brain. It’s rewiring my thought process.“
One awesome thing about her strategy (which I highly recommend) is that you end your night focused on what you did well.
So all night, in your subconscious is reinforcing.
You end on a positive note, and just how magical is that?
Print it out, and do it as much as you can, because this is a powerful tool to overcome that feeling that you’re an imposter.
Action #2 – Start Listing Out Your Accomplishments
The second action you can take is to look at your career and start listing out all your accomplishments.
Even if your career is too big, just look at the past six months and look at what you did well.
This is something that one of my coaches suggested for me to do during one of my sessions with him, and this is literally what happened:
PAUL: “I want you to review your year and ask yourself, ‘What successes did I have?‘”
ME: “Oh, Paul, I don’t think there’s that many.“
ME: (As I started writing them down): “Whoa, I had this win, and I had this win, and this personal win, and this business win…“
The next thing I knew, I had this massive laundry list of things I’d accomplished.
ME: “Holy shit, this is exciting. I’ve actually accomplished more than I thought.”
NOTE – This activity may seem similar to the first action of listing out your wins every day, and it is.
The main difference is that with the 30-day success confidence sheet, you are listing out your wins for the next 30 days. Whereas with this section, it’s about reflecting upon the past, finding and reveling in the accomplishments you’ve already had.
So start acknowledging your wins and successes on a daily level, and also the past 6 months to a year.
You’re going to have so many wins, and it’s going to start rewiring how you focus on yourself.
Your self-esteem is going to come up, your self-image is going to come up, and your self-confidence is going to come.
It all builds from that one action you take over and over again.
Action #3 – Be Kinder To Yourself
When it comes to speaking on a platform, a lot of your fear comes from being exposed to an audience.
But let’s dig a little deeper. What’s the mindset behind this fear?
In most cases, the mindset is that “This audience is here to judge me and I’m here all alone, just waiting to be ripped apart.”
And that could not be further from the truth.
The audience is composed of people just like you. And for the most part, they’re there to learn from you.
All they want is value. So when you show up and add value to them by giving them information and knowledge that’s going to help them in their career, they’re grateful for it.
A key thing to look at how much pressure you’re putting on yourself, and this is comprised of 2 pieces:
- Your inner critic
- Being the top expert
To address your inner critic, it is important to understand the patterns behind the conversations you have with yourself inside.
How hard are you on yourself?
Chances are, there are more than a few negative remarks that you give yourself every time you don’t meet your unrealistic expectations of yourself.
So the first step is to be kinder to yourself. Change the words you use when you speak with yourself. Even though it’s a conversation inside your mind, the choice of words and tone you use can make a big difference.
One of the first things I have my clients do when they work with me is to look in the mirror and go, “How hard are am I on myself?“
Because that’s where you’re going to find out that when you become kinder to yourself, that audience becomes a lot friendlier.
Action #4 – Be OK With Not Knowing ALL The Answers
The second internal pressure piece is all about being the top expert.
It’s this fear or this pressure that we put on ourselves where we go, “I have to know every single answer. And I have to be able to know everything about this topic and have it all prepared.”
But the reality is, information and industries change so quickly that you will never have every single answer possible.
So rather than being overly critical of yourself for not knowing everything, start giving yourself permission to not know all the answers.
And here’s the thing – part of our human psychology is the need to constantly grow and evolve. If you knew everything, you’d feel bored and eventually depressed.
So with my clients, what I often encourage them to do is, if somebody in the audience asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, you simply say:
“Yes, that’s something I’ve heard of.”
“I’m not familiar with that, but give me your information and I’ll follow-up with you once I’ve dug into it a bit more.”
It’s a very simple switch to make a change. Instead of giving that pressure where you have to know everything, you can just say, “I don’t know.“
It’s actually a lot more powerful when there are questions that come up, and you go, “Yeah, I don’t know, but let me follow-up and look into it for you.“
Not only does it take the pressure off yourself and gives you permission to open up and have more fun – it also helps people realise that you’re just here to help them.
It All Comes Down To 3 Key Principles
So when we’re looking to overcome feeling like an imposter in front of the audience, it really all just comes down to 3 key principles.
The first is to look at the audience as being friendly. They’re there to learn from you. You have valuable information that’s going to help them in their business, and you’re simply providing information in exchange for their attention.
The second step is to simply acknowledge that for any question you receive, you’re either going to have the answers to it, or you can look into it and find out.
And third and most important principle is to do the inner work. Cultivate that inner confidence, and that starts with asking yourself every single day “What did I do well today?” And then, when you’re ready to go bigger, look back six months to a year.
In no time, you’re going to feel like you belong there in front of that audience. So you speak your truth and start making a bigger impact in the world.
Level Up Living
P.S. If you’ve decided you want to live to your true potential and you’d like the fast path to get there, here are 3 ways I can help you speak with confidence:
- Grab a free copy of my ‘6 Steps To Speak With Confidence’ guide
It’s the 6-step process I use to take clients from anxious on stage to rock-solid confidence — Click Here
- Join the ‘Art Of Confident Speaking’ and connect with leaders who are improving too
It’s our new Facebook community where smart leaders learn to level up their insight, impact, and influence — Click Here
- Join my 3-day ‘Speak With Confidence Program’ and become a Case Study
It’s the fastest way to become a confident communicator… If you’d like to work with me and a small group of highly motivated leaders like yourself — Click Here