I can remember the first time imposter syndrome tried to stop me from taking action.
I was 20, and driving down the motorway in a rented van, with a 9ft sculpture of a vagina – yes, a vagina – on my way to the impromptu art gallery I’d created as part of my ‘V-Party’ – an after-party celebration I’d created for my university’s performance of Eve Ensler’s brilliant play, The Vagina Monologues.
This play had opened my mind and heart after a traumatising experience with sexual aggression. I longed to transform my pain into positivity and contribute to this movement for women’s empowerment.
But I wasn’t an actress.
I DID know how to throw a party though, so that’s what I decided to do, and that’s when the imposter syndrome kicked in…
In my recent Facebook Live I share what happened next, and the three lessons I learned that night about transforming imposter syndrome into grounded confidence.
So, back to the van…
I had a full samba band, a line-up of female DJs, a belly dancing troupe, massage therapists, henna artists and dozens of artists waiting for me back at the students union, ready to kick off this celebration of women’s creativity and power.
But, as I sat in the van, whizzing down the motorway, I was shitting myself. Not only was I terrified that this precious cargo, lovingly crafted by an artist friend, and now precariously roped into place, was going to fall out and be crushed my the hoards of cars behind… but I was being attacked by a viscous voice, from inside myself.
I heard myself think “What the f*** am I doing?!”.
What if nobody comes?!
“Who do I think I am?
Why am I doing this anyway?
And why am I driving down the motorway with a 9 foot vagina???”
Imposter syndrome paralyses so many of the passionate, visionary, creative changemakers I work with.
Have you experienced it? (If you have, you’re in good company – Maya Angelou, Meryl Streep and J-Lo have all confessed to experiencing this regularly).
It’s that voice that steps in when you have a bold idea, and you’re about decide to take action on it; whether that’s writing a blog, doing a Facebook Live, creating a new offering for your clients and customers, or taking another bold move to bring your work into the world, and you hear a voice inside trying to bring you down.
It’s ultimately trying to protect you, but usually ends up sabotaging your creative efforts in your life and business.
That V-Party night both introduced me to the imposter syndrome, and taught me how to transform it into confidence. Here are the three core learnings
1 Remember your vision
That night, my vision was to amplify the voices of women, to celebrate our power, and to raise money to protect and support survivors of sexual and domestic violence.
So, as I sat there in the vab, fighting this barrage of negativity, I re-called this intention. I thought of the joy this party would create, how it would educate, uplift and inspire women, maybe 10 of them, maybe 1000 – it didn’t matter – it would have exactly the impact it needed to have.
What does this look like in day-to-day life? Take a minute to remember your big picture. Why do you do what you do? Imagine it fully realised and breathe it in beauty and power of that reality. Let it infuse your cells and make space for more self-belief.
2 Surround yourself with supportive people
When I was dancing along with the 20+ samba band, all with carnival dresses and wild smiles, feeling the ground shaking with their drums, the negativity disappeared. I was part of something bigger and in that moment, it gave me the confidence to do anything.
What does this look like in day-to-day life? When the doubts come up, text a few friends and let them know you need a quick pep talk. Ask them to remind you why you’re doing this, and to tell you what they love about you. This might feel scary in itself, but remember how much people LOVE to help.
3 Feel the emotions of fear in the body and shake them through
When the belly dancing troupe started their brilliant shakes and shimmies, and my hips spontaneously joined in I began to feel how tense my body was, how locked up and stiff. I started to shake and bounce and as I did, I felt more freedom and flow come into my body.
What does this look like in day-to-day life? When you hear the imposter syndrome thoughts starting to kick in, put on one of your favourite dance tracks and start to move and lightly shake your body. Feel into places of tension and let them move. It’s amazing how quickly this can shift out state of mind into a more positive place.
Towards the end of the V-Party evening, I was sitting back and watching 100s of people dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves, and I looked over at the 9 foot vagina sculpture, safely nestled into the art gallery.
Standing in front of it was a woman holding hands with her young daughter. She was maybe 3 or 4, with curly brown hair and a cheeky smile.
I overheard the little girl say, “Mummy, what is that?”, and the mother replied, “that’s a vagina sweetheart, that’s where you came from”.
The little girls eyes grew wide. She stepped forward, and without hesitation, boldly dipped under the security rope and went and sat cross-legged in the middle of the sculpture, looking up in amazement.
I knew in that moment that we’d all created a beautiful thing that night. And I also knew in my bones that along with bold ideas comes big challenges, most of which come from within our own minds.
May you be inspired today to continue to boldly live your life with vision, despite the inner critic that – out of mis-placed concern – might try to hold you back. What we need in our world today are big-hearted people, emboldened to take loving generative action.
If you haven’t already, please watch my Facebook Live and in the comment thread below share your experiences of overcoming imposter syndrome.